I’ve long been a fan of color. While I know that an all-white room, a set of stark white dinnerware or even a simple white T-shirt appeals to many, it has never been my cup of tea (no pun intended). When my family vacationed in Florida two summers ago and my Pop wanted a family photo of us in jeans and white shirts, I had to borrow one from my younger sister. A high-school friend’s father used to joke that I always looked like I was headed to a funeral (although, in my defense, those were the days when I, along with many others, was deeply entrenched in all things Anne Rice and Robert Smith). Heck, even my wedding dress, which I had custom-made by local Asheville designer R. Brooke Priddy, was a deep red. To date, the only white apparel I own is a pair of ankle socks that, worn with my black Dansko clogs all summer long to keep my feet nice and dry, remain squarely out of sight.
You can imagine my relief, then, when I met my husband and found he shared my color predilections. Not only did he vibe-out on a similar color palette (think autumn and winter hues), he’s a professional color consultant, having earned his MFA from Penn with a concentration in color theory and painting. Our home is rife with color: pumpkin in the kitchen, merlot in the dining room, deep olive in the bathroom, espresso in the living room, mustard in our bedroom, moss and mushroom in Nugget’s room, battleship gray in the hall leading upstairs, sage in the guest bedroom/office, and more mushroom in the guest bathroom. Most of our decorations aren’t white, either. Occasionally, we come across something in the palest of shades that’s just too good to pass up. This was the case with our recent lampshade find.
We needed another lamp in our living room to balance the lighting across the space. Hubs found a gorgeous specimen with a wooden base, but a white shade. Our solution? A tea-stained dye. We try to keep toxic chemicals out of our abode as much as possible, so a light tea stain seemed like the perfect remedy. It not only modified the color to something more to our liking, it warmed the overall light emitted from the lamp. In today’s Small Measures, I’ll explain our process and how you too can bring a deeper degree of color to some objects in your home.
While the process is quite straightforward, I would like to offer up the disclaimer that not all fabrics will take to tea staining. For the most part, cotton and linen are your best bets, as well as paper. If you’re wondering whether or not your chosen cloth will work, try staining a small, out-of-direct-view patch first. Otherwise, you should be all set.
CLICK HERE for the how-to steps after the jump!
1. Boil 4 cups of water in a medium-sized pot.
2. Add 4 or more bags of strong black tea (we used Prince of Wales) to the boiling water, depending how dark you want your stain.
3. Continue to boil until the water is reduced by about half, around 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and allow tea to cool for about 10 minutes.
5. Place a towel underneath the object to be stained to absorb drips.
6. If you are staining a lampshade, like we did, perch the center of it on a vase or similar object to keep it raised above the towel (for drying).
7. Paint the tea on with a foam brush (that’s the route we chose), a regular brush, a rag or whatever works for you.
8. Be sure to brush out any streaks, unless you want them.
9. Use a lint-free towel to remove any drips, if necessary.
10. Let dry before handling.
And there you have it! Easy peasy. Several years ago, we picked up the framed vintage Japanese cloth above at Anthropologie. Originally, the matting on top of the fabric was stark white and, per my explanation above, it just didn’t suit us. So we used a tea stain for the matting, following the same process. We simply brushed the tea stain on with a paint brush and allowed it to dry thoroughly before placing it back over the cloth.
What about you? Do you have any experiences with tea staining or using any other natural material to create a stain or dye? I’d love hear about it! — Ashley