Marianne Shillingford on how paint can make you feel good


Marianne Shillingford’s approach to colour is how it makes her feel

Marianne Shillingford is like a double espresso. Even at 9am the creative director at Dulux is bursting with infectious enthusiasm. ‘I’m a Tigger because I’m always bouncing,’ she smiles. A large part of Marianne’s job is understanding what colours do to a space, how they make us feel, how they improve our lives and the emotions they give us.

It is no surprise, then, that her home in west London is packed with vibrant hues, one-off pieces, plants, bowls of fruit and murals.

It is at times a jungle, a curio shop, a miniature world and a place where colour inspires creativity and gives energy.

‘I love colour,’ says Marianne. ‘It is important to choose the colours that make us happy. One of biggest joys of decorating is the way colour affects the space and makes us feel. I have recently started using extraordinarily powerful colours.

‘We need feel-good colours right now and paint is the best way to get it.’

Marianne was, in a sense, born to her job. Hailing from Nottingham, she grew up on a rose nursery. ‘The experience of colour, the feeling of colour, the theatre and experience was there from the beginning,’ she says.

Marianne reupholstered the orange benches that were being thrown out (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
Marianne’s middle bedroom has a mural of snakes and birds created with leftover Dulux sample pots (Picture: Miroslav Cik)

At the age of 20 she went to a fairground to buy her husband, Ted, a dodgem car as a gift – as you do – and by chance she met a man who painted rides.

Fresh out of art college, she ended up working there for five years – painting panels for rides in cosmic colours and gold leaf.

The giant fan-looking piece on the wall of her flat is from a hoopla stall – it was given to her as payment once when the fairground didn’t have enough money to pay her.

It is just one of the many things that has brought life and colour to her home, which was originally a photo studio for cookery books by foodie royalty such as Jamie Oliver.

When purchased, it was an empty warehouse, as devoid of interest as imaginable, but it was bright and it was affordable.

Marianne’s clock comes from Derby station (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
The giant fan piece came from a hoopla stall (Picture: Miroslav Cik)

‘The light is awesome,’ Marianne says. ‘We couldn’t afford anywhere like it. We bought it as a unit and converted it into a flat.’

When they got the keys six years ago, Marianne carved it up into an open-plan space and three bedrooms. The spaces are filled with things that have been collected over the years.

The large clock that hangs in the living space came from Derby station and is one of the first things the couple bought together.

‘We found it in an architectural salvage yard. Still works perfectly,’ she says. Other things are upcycled – ‘the bench was being chucked out because it was broken so I mended, painted and reupholstered it’ – while other things are upcycled… and then upcycled again.

‘Everything gets painted over and over again, especially the furniture,’ says Marianne. ‘Most of it is stuff we bought or found when Ted and I first got together and has travelled with us ever since, changing and adapting to meet our needs and saving us a fortune along the way.’

Partly as a result of this desire to cherish, reuse and refresh existing items, Marianne and the Dulux Simply Refresh Multi Surface range have teamed up with eBay to create a one-stop shop for savvy shoppers looking to revamp their home, with pre-loved furniture from eBay.

Marianne’s gramophone (left) was acquired from a relative and jukebox (right) was salvaged (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
Marianne says the plants fill that space with clean air and rustle when you walk past (Picture: Miroslav Cik)

The new paint, in 18 ready-mix colours can be painted directly on to wood, MDF, metal and melamine.

Marianne used the Ink Well colour on her wardrobes, a big storage cupboard and dining table.

Her almost Dali-esque travel gramophone, meanwhile, came from a relative, and the jukebox was rescued from a barn and brought back to life. ‘It’s got all the songs from our life, it’s the story of our life in a jukebox.’

The grey wire beehive pendant lights are a nod to the insects Marianne keeps in Devon and 
the Tudor house on the floor in the 
middle bedroom was a gift from her sister.

‘I might live in a warehouse but I do have a little Tudor cottage on the floor,’ she says.

When Marianne purchased the three bedroom warehouse it was empty and devoid of interest (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
The colbalt blue paint transitions from day to night (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
Marianne says the kitchen needs to be calm (Picture: Miroslav Cik)

Of the 150 or so plants in the property many are in terrariums, living with toy monkeys and snakes. ‘I love a little world. It does its own thing and has it’s own ecosystem. I love plants. In the city and not really having an outdoor space I love the way the plants fill that space with clean air and rustle when you walk past.’

Snakes and birds also live on the wall in the middle bedroom as part of a mural that has been painted with leftover Dulux sample pots.

‘Not a drop of paint gets wasted in my world, so all the hand-painted murals and artworks have been created using tester pots of colours from our latest collections.

‘The one in the bedroom used up pretty well every colour in the new Easycare range. I love plants and so all shades of green are special. It’s the way this unique colour family can reconnect us with the outdoors when we are feeling stressed and hemmed in. I’ve just painted a storage cupboard in Rainforest Canopy to match one of the sofas. Totally lush.’

The kitchen is quite serene in comparison. It’s a slinky John Lewis of Hungerford example of restrained order, and Marianne jokes that it cost more than the first home she bought.

Painted in Dulux Cobalt Night, it looks almost black at night but has an inky blue colour by day.

‘It has a sense of calm about it. The kitchen needs to be calm and I find it really calming. In the day you can really see that blue,’ says Marianne.

Marianne’s most important piece of advice is to not stop experimenting, creating and changing your living environment (Picture: Miroslav Cik)
Marianne is a fan of ‘cluttercore’ (Picture: Miroslav Cik)

She is also a fan of cluttercore – surrounding ourselves with things we love. ‘I love stuff, things that remind me of life. I like storytelling. The same goes for colours,’ she says.

Her most important piece of advice, however, is to not stop experimenting, creating and changing your living environment. Just like our lives, nothing stays still – and the home should reflect that.

‘It feels like my flat is organic,’ she says. ‘As our lives change, we want and need different things. Who knows what I’ll do when I finish the flat – I’ll be so bored.’

MORE : How to pull off ‘cluttercore’ at home – without it looking like a junk shop

MORE : Annie Sloan shows how to transform dull furniture on a budget with chalk paint