Currently you specialise in kitchen renovations. You’ve said before you don’t class yourself as an out and out decorator, but there is clearly some overlap in skills. How did you enter the trade and how did you get to where you are now?
I started in the building trade as an apprentice carpenter, working for a builder. I was then made redundant in 2009 and was advised by my boss to go self-employed so I stuck to what I was best at.. decorating. I lived with my parents in a large yard of 12 houses which was an old grammar school so they were all period properties with rotten windows. I restored lots of woodwork for my neighbours, one after the other and things took off from there. I now realise just how cheap I was for them, when I was only 19. Things are quite different now. I got quite fed up of just decorating (and being weather dependant) so I decided to specialise in kitchen makeovers.
What advice would you offer to anyone looking to get away from domestic decorating work and into something more specialised like you have?
Think about it…. Really think hard and take your time before you start to turn your old work away. Research whether or not you ‘re on to something good by creating a market research questionnaire and get them completed. You will probably have to offer something in return for a completed questionnaire but that research is invaluable. Also really try to come up with a good old pro’s and con’s list. Sometimes though you just don’t (or can’t possibly) know what something will be like until you have had a go.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I love being in business, trading, being professional.
What’s your least favourite part of the job?
People (mainly arseholes)
What’s your favourite decorating tool / piece of kit?
I honestly haven’t got one. I think I look at it all as more of a business than just a job and I honestly haven’t got the love for tools like a lot of people have. I get it and yes I do enjoy the endorphins of an expensive new tool arriving but I’m more excited about earning profit with it.
Tell us a funny/memorable story about a job:
Working on the top story of a large house. My mate popped in to see what I had been working on and another one of our mates lived in the house opposite. He had a nerdy little teenage neighbour and we saw him go through our mates garden and into his house. We knew our mate was out at work so we ran down as quickly as possible and knocked on the front door to see what he would do. We looked through the window and could see the frame of his glasses peeking through the door from the living room. The front door was locked so we ran round the back and caught the little weirdo running out of his house with some x box games. I said WTF are you doing? He nearly started to cry and said they were his games he had let our mate borrow while his x box was being repaired which he had just got back. We let him on his way, phoned our mate and he said they were his games but he wasn’t happy about him letting himself in. I felt a bit bad he was nearly crying but we had no idea what the hell he was doing in our mates house. He was obviosly just so excited to have his x box back.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made on a job? How did you resolve it?
Loads. Don’t know where to start. Off the top of my head, spilled 5 litres of a mixed colour onto a brand new tar and stone expensive drive way. Colour was very very bright purple for a salon. Also spilled black tar varnish on a block paved driveway. Got over both with lots and lots and lots of cleaning.
If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would be the first 3 things you’d do with the money?
Depends how much. If it was the euro millions. I’d pay the mortgage off and go to north, middle and south America for a couple of months. I certainly wouldn’t go too mad and blow it. I’d invest it wisely to make sure me and the kids will always be wealthy.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
To live forever at the age I am right now. I’m only 32 but life is starting to go waaaay to fast.
If you weren’t a decorator, what would you be?
Probably a care worker or working with children
If you could change one thing about the industry to improve it, what would it be?
To invent some kind of laser machine to key timber instead of sanding
What do you get up to when you’re not on the brush? Any hobbies?
Not much. 2 kids under the age of 4 doesn’t really leave much time for anything else. When I can get out- pub!
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice to make you a better decorator, what would it be?
Get good at recognising bullys and wankers. They come in all sorts of packages and sometimes you don’t realise your working for one until it’s too late.
Thanks again to Mike for answering my questions. I think it’s great to see the different paths decorating skills can take you on.
I am looking to talk to as many decorators as possible over the coming months so we can share knowledge and hopefully raise the profile of the industry as a whole.
If you would like to feature in ‘An interview with a decorator’ please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org , DM me on social media or via the contact page on my website.