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By Clementene Coates, Jan 18 2015 01:35PM

I very recently launched my new business, Clementene Coates, selling hand painted antique and vintage furniture. If you’ve read ‘My Very First Blog’ you’ll know that this is a complete change of career for me.

Up until a year ago I was a solicitor working in a large law firm in the city. Over the years I’d become disillusioned by the law and I desperately craved a change of direction. The last 10 years had flown by; I was in my early 30s and that infamous Mark Twain quote “Life is short…” felt all the more pertinent!

For a number of years I’ve been passionate about interior design and particularly restoring furniture, but I never believed back then that I could build a career out of it. It wasn’t until people wanted to buy my pieces that I realised the idea of me turning my love for painting furniture into a full time career may not just be a pipe dream.

Excluding the time I spend with my loved ones (especially my fiancé Pete and our two gorgeous greyhounds), I’m at my happiest and most content when I have a paint brush in my hand and a piece of furniture before me, ready to be transformed into something completely new and beautiful.

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to draw, paint and be creative. Both of my parents are artistic; my sister’s a clothes designer and my brother’s a writer. So, I suppose you could say I inherited a creative gene or two.

I get such a sense of satisfaction if I can save an old, tired looking piece of furniture from ending up on the scrap heap. This, combined with my love for painting, is wonderfully cathartic. But could I really make this my livelihood?

Although I had the support and encouragement of my family and friends (to whom I will forever be grateful), I was still reluctant to take that big step and leave the law behind me. After all, I would be ending a career which I had studied many, many years for and worked so very hard at. And I was rather good at it!

Embarking on a completely new career was a very daunting thought and one which took up most of the space in my head for some time. I began to draw up a list of the pros and cons of leaving:

- If I remain a solicitor I’ll be financially secure and I won’t have to worry about where the next pay cheque comes from.

- Starting a new business is a huge risk and there’s no guarantee it will be a success.

- If I fail, I’ll feel terrible. What will I do then?

- If I remain a solicitor I’ll be miserable and in years to come I’ll look back at my life and think what a waste.

- I want to start a family. What kind of example will I be setting to my children doing something that doesn’t make me happy?

- What will make me happy is to be able to wake up every morning looking forward to what lies ahead, rather than dreading it.

Whilst I became convinced that I needed to leave the law, I was still searching for some other source of inspiration (and courage!) to give me that final push to go in the direction I so greatly wanted to go in.

As if it was a sign, one weekend, I came across a series of videos on YouTube posted by the endearing and very talented Christen Bensten. Christen runs an interior design business in the U.S. called ‘Blue Egg, Brown Nest’ in which she sells her own hand painted furniture.

I watched Christen’s videos with great interest and I immediately fell in love with her passion for painting furniture. Like me, she started out painting furniture to fill her home; buying pieces on a budget and using her creativity and skills to transform them into beautiful works of art. Eventually people started to buy her furniture and so her hobby turned into a business.

What was most exciting about finding Christen was that she came across as such a positive, genuine and down to earth person with a great sense of humour. She talked so fondly about her children and husband and I could tell that she loved what she was doing as it translated into her beautiful furniture.

The next few hours flew by as I studied her wonderful website, which showcases her stunning home and the pieces she has painted over the years, as well as reading her blog, which I later discovered is one of the most popular interior design blogs in the U.S.

It was as if a switch had turned on in my head. The more I read about Christen and her journey, the more I felt inspired. Suffice to say, that following week I handed in my notice and I left the law to embark on a new career painting furniture. I’m delighted to say that I haven’t looked back – not even once!

Although my business is still in its very early days (6 weeks since it launched!), I’ve already sold some of my furniture and received commission work too. And, whilst I’m sure that I would’ve eventually left the law to pursue my dream, it may have taken me a while longer to make the jump. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t waste any more time, as time is such a precious thing. I now wake up in the morning with a smile on my face and a spring in my step!

So, to the point of this tale. Too often people aren’t recognised for the difference they make in people’s lives, when all it can take is a simple ‘thank you’. I’d just like to say thank you to Christen, from the bottom of my heart, for inspiring me and giving me the courage to realise my dream. I’ll never forget the contribution you made to my decision to change my life for the better (even if it was an unconscious one!).

As Christen did for me, I hope that my story can inspire at least one person to have the courage to do what they really want to do in their life, whether that be a painter, a cook, a writer or even a golf ball diver (yes, that last profession really does exist!!!).

By Clementene Coates, Nov 23 2014 12:47PM

It feels like this has been a long time coming. At last my dream of owning my very own business up-cycling antique and vintage furniture has become a reality. I’m absolutely thrilled! Over a year in the planning and I’m ready to show you my hand painted furniture. I thought I’d feel nervous, and whilst I do have a few butterflies in my tummy, I’m mostly very excited! How could I not be? I’m doing what I love and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I may be a little bit biased, but I think my furniture’s beautiful - I hope you do too!

A New Beginning

Just over a year ago I was working as a solicitor in a successful law firm. I won’t bore you with the specific ins and outs of why I chose to leave (I‘m saving that story for another blog entitled ‘There’s More to Law!’). In a nutshell, after seven years of practising law I realised that I needed a change of scene. With the support of my family and friends, but particularly my wonderful and lovely fiancé Pete, I made a decision to leave that world behind me to do something that I really want to do - something that makes me jump out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

It's In The Blood!

Both my Mum and Dad are very artistic and they’ve always encouraged my sister, brother and me to use our imaginations. I suppose you could say that their creative genes rubbed off on all of us: my sister Becs is a clothes designer and my brother John is a writer. As for me, from a very young age I whiled away many hours drawing, painting and crafting random things out of bits and pieces I found lying around at home. Twenty years or so later and I’m still at it!

I’ve been up-cycling one way or another for as long as I can remember, although it did start on a much smaller scale. I’ve very fond memories of ‘blowing out’ eggs to dress them up with cuts of fabric and brightly coloured feathers for Easter decorations. I was about five years old at the time and I grabbed hold of a huge pair of Mum’s fabric scissors, and in my haste I managed to cut a chunk of skin from the palm of my hand. Suffice to say there was quite a lot of blood, but once Mum had got over the shock and the bleeding had stopped she simply stuck the flap of skin back on with a plaster (health and safety in the mid eighties wasn’t quite what it is today!) and all was well again. According to Mum, I wasn’t fazed by the episode at all as I was more concerned about cracking (pardon the pun!) on with decorating my eggs. I still bear the scar of my early and eager efforts to this day!

A Bit About Me

I was born and grew up in the idyllic county of Yorkshire, which we folk fondly refer to as “God’s Own Country”. Excluding the five years I spent in Newcastle at university, I’ve always lived in Yorkshire. I currently live in a lovely home by the beautiful countryside with Pete and our two gorgeous greyhounds, Oscar and Aoife (our dogs are thinking of doing their own blog if they can squeeze it into their busy sleeping schedules!).

For as long as I can recall I’ve loved interior design. I’ve been utterly spoilt growing up by the picturesque countryside, which has influenced my love of all things rural. I love nothing more than quaint English cottages with their pretty cottage gardens and big, old rustic farmhouses with exposed beams, well-worn furniture, stone flooring and a large toasty-warm range. Family holidays spent in France opened my eyes to not only their delicious cuisine, but also to their unmistakeable, shabby chic and elaborate Rococo styling, which we’ve grown to love in the U.K. Trips to cool Scandinavia with Dad’s work exposed me not only to the wonderful people, but also their unmistakeable, minimalist sense of design with its elegant, clean lines and neutral colour tones.

Before doing a degree in law I studied Classics for three years at university. I learnt about Greek and Roman art and architecture and how it played an essential role in the history of Western Art, establishing numerous techniques and styles which have had a lasting influence. It really opened my eyes to the world of art and I’m fascinated how those early styles are still being replicated today.

Why I Love To Do What I Do

When Pete and I bought our first home together (a beautiful, mid-terrace Victorian house) we needed to fill it with new furniture. We didn’t want to spend a fortune, but we still wanted to achieve a stunning, new look. Influenced by the original Victorian features in our home, we set about hunting out pieces of furniture to fill it with.

We avoided all of the mass-manufactured furniture, which has no individuality, character or charm and is often very poorly constructed and expensive. Instead we hit the auction rooms. We were also lucky to inherit some pieces of furniture too. One particular piece was an old, vintage chest of drawers that my parents gave to us. Whilst it was very old and worn, it had beautiful curves and lines with ornate handles on each drawer. I couldn’t wait to whip out my brushes and get painting it. In fact, I remember starting the painting process in our garage in the early hours of a Saturday morning! I painted it with a combination of Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint in Paris Grey and Old White. I painted the handles too. Once the paint had dried I ‘distressed’ it with sandpaper as it suited the already weathered look of the piece. I followed this with a dark wax glaze to create an aged patina and then finished it off with clear soft wax for extra protection.

I feel a great sense of satisfaction if I can prevent good quality furniture ending up on the scrap heap. Not only am I doing my little bit for the environment, but I’m giving the furniture a new lease of life and creating something entirely unique too. So, here I am with my paint brushes at the ready. A new start in life for me as well as the furniture! I think I’ve gone on long enough and I’ve a beautiful nest of tables waiting to be cleaned down and dusted off. My creative juices are flowing already. Hmm, what colour should I paint them???

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Here's the place to find out what Clementene's been up to. She'll post updates on new projects; features she's written for Country Living Magazine UK; design tips and tricks; and 'how to' guides for ways to paint your own furniture. Clementene's blog is regularly updated so make sure you keep coming back. You can follow Clementene on social media too (check out the links above) and don’t forget to post your comments - Clementene would love to hear from you. And, for those wanting the latest news, sign up for Clementene's Newletter...

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