Project of the Month – April 2019

Hidden surprises rooted in Preston’s Historical past

Conservation, restoration and redevelopment of the “Plau” uncovers hidden surprises rooted in Preston’s Historical past.

When Stewart Ralston, Owner of On-Trend Decorating Services met with Jeremy Rowlands and Rebecca Scott, Directors of Meat and Drink Group, to discuss a concept project they were working on in Preston, his first impression from the front was that the place looked relatively small.

The Plau was initially purchased to be a Micro Pub, on the ground floor of what was formally a Piercing Studio, on Friargate in Preston. However, opportunities to purchase additional parts of the building, former Student accommodation, grew the size of the premises, plus the discoveries of what lay beneath, unearthed the buildings deep roots to Prestons’ Historical past.

Exposed during the project were the many varying uses, different features, some good, some bad, but at every point, there were nods to the past use and occupation. This posed a challenge of how to incorporate its past in to a building which has form and function in the 21stCentury.

The building spans four floors; The Vaults and Cellar; Ground floor main Bar, Snug and Toilets; first floor, Dining Room, Kitchens and Sitting Room and the Top Floor with office and Toilets, with additional planning for a Glazed Roof Top Terrace (to be undertaken soon). These areas are linked by a maze of corridors and stairwells, which can be somewhat discombobulating after a few tipples.

Due to the size of the project and the extent of the design brief, Stewart had to assemble a team of self-employed decorators, an artist and a polisher to form what was known as Team Décor. This enabled them to cross skill, to not only develop their knowledge, but to deliver this fastidious brief.

The entrance and Main Bar, have been converted over the centuries to best fit the businesses prior to the refurbishment, however it presented many features, pitch pine cladding and a Lincrusta ceiling circa 1900’s.

In the entrance, initial thoughts were to preserve as much of the panelling, stripping it back to bare wood using Peelaway, coupled with the replacement of sections due to the electrical installation. However, it would have proved too costly and time inhibitive and it was decided these would be painted with Farrow and Ball Eggshell to provide a consistent tone and colour to the panels and the walls of the main bar area.

The ceiling was papered with an unobtainable Lincrusta Paper, so Hannah, a local artist, was put to task, painfully recreating profiles of the paper, to create moulds so sections could be repaired and finished in Little Greene Matt. Cole and Sons Fornasetti Nuvolette paper was used in the Alcoves.

The discovery of the Wines and Spirits sign, harps back to the early 1900’s and was sympathetically cleaned and protected with a light coat of Danish Oil, to preserve the original patina.

The snug was papered in Farrow and Ball Lotus and the panelling, seating and tables were stained and lacquered in Morrells.

The bar area was created from reclaimed timber; a church lectern, pughs and new wood.

Stewart said “This is where Alistair, of New Leaf Restorations, and his infamous dedication to detail and wood working witchcraft deserves plaudit!”

Allister has over Thirty Years’ experience in furniture restoration and polishing and is keen to ensure that he can pass on his knowledge. This presented Stewart with a unique learning opportunity.

He said,  “I started a bit of a brief “apprenticeship” and quizzed him a lot, as I am a firm believer in continuous development, and opportunities don’t present themselves very often to delve further into this fascinating area”

Stewart’s key areas of learning were:- Paramose, Morrells, thinners, potion mixing (make your own colours), how to get more use out his compressor and preservation.

All the furniture in the Plau has also been made by Alistair from reclaimed furniture and produced bespoke for this project.

The preparation of the bar and furniture involved removal of old lacquer using Paramose or Meths and Wire wool.

Stewart said, “Meths is more gentile paint stripper and will break down lacquer, the Paramose is better on varnished surfaces. Just make sure you wear the appropriate PPE, as its nasty stuff and remember to neutralise!”

Paramose removed coatings down to the bare timber. To blend the different types of timber a variety of different coloured stains, thinners and test cuts or patches of the timber were needed, as they had to blend by eye. Tones were blended for the orangey and red woods with the introduction of a green stain to make a browner tone. New timbers were darkened but layered up in thinned down coats. Final protection was built up in layers of lacquer, in this instant Morrells AC 20% was used, via conventional spray application, working down to a 320 grit between coats. Thinned down first and second coats were applied, followed by a dry coat to finish.

The Vaults are probably the biggest draw to this venue, and an accidental discovery. A bricked-up section to the rear of the property exposed the rubble filled bricked vaults, and it was only when this was partially cleared and the curiosity of why water drained away from this area, the Medieval well was discovered. This was dug out until the water table was reached, with artefacts displayed in the stairwell leading up to the first-floor dining room. Sadly no treasure was uncovered, much to the dismay of the owners. To create a feature, the well has been illuminated with changeable coloured LEDs and capped with a 3.5 Inch Glass top. The brickwork and flooring were sealed in a matt clear coat, furniture and bar blended, stained and AC Lacquered in Morrells for durability and finished with a brass top.

The main toilet area was finished in Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt, Satinwood and papered in William Morris Acanuths.

The linking corridors were misted via airless spray, then rollered with Dulux Trade Durable Matt. Radiators were conventionally sprayed with Dulux Trade Eggshell after priming with Zinsser 123.

The first floor dining room, has an exposed timber ceiling, incorporating oak trusses and finished in the reclaimed timber cladding, reclaimed pitch pine flooring and new plywood and softwood panelling.

The first stage was to deal with the cleaning of the timbers, this was a labour-intensive process, with wire wool and meths to remove the build-up of dust and stains. Oxalic Acid was used to remove water staining and a colour blending of new timber to age. The new wooden panelling was knotted using Zinser BIN, then primed with Armstead Quick drying Wood Primer Undercoat, via airless spray, and the 1,000’s plus nail and screw holes filled with a 2-pack filler. This first coat was first mechanically sanded using a Mirka dustless sanding system, followed by a second application of the primer.

One of the specifications in the brief was that the panelling needed to look authentic. To achieve this, Stewart built up the layers of paint, which were airless sprayed. Two coats of Dulux Trade quick drying undercoat were applied, de-nibbing by hand to build the layers up, followed by two further coats of Little Greene Intellegent Matt, before finishing the panelling in an Environgraf clear Fire Protection Coating (primer, two coats of intumescent coating and clear top coat).

The flooring was made from reclaimed pitch pine, with the designer requiring a light-coloured coating, almost a lime wash, with a low sheen level. The floor was mechanically sanded, screw holes plugged with 2-pack filler and blended with Morrells graining pens, before a thinned-out stain was applied with a rag and wiped off, to leave a very subtle wash finish to the boards. This was then protected with 3 coats of Morrells 2 pack AC Lacquer 10% Sheen, working up the grits by hand between coats.

The sitting room flooring was continued in the same manner. The walls were papered in Cole and Sons Fornasetti Nuvolette paper, the bar fronts were sprayed in Little Greene Intelligent Matt and behind the bar; Farrow and Ballwith the ceilings in Dulux Trade Vinyl Matt.

On the second floor, it was discovered that the ceiling was made from a reed and lime plaster. English Heritage inspected it, and in order to preserve the ceiling, a Farrow and Ball limewash was used, which created an interesting toned finish to this ceiling.

The toilets were papered with WilliamMorris Acanthus, with stairwell painted in Dulux Trade Durable Flat Matt, Dulux Trade Satinwood with an airless spray application to spindles and hand rail.

Stewart says, “This has been without a doubt the most challenging project I have undertaken, pushing me to the limits of my experience and beyond, however I have learned more from this project, not just in terms of decorating and finishing, but the considerations of working with other professional trades and the importance of scheduling and open and honest co-operative communication. It is only fair that these professionals are recognised”. 

The Electrical Installation has a critical part to play in the creation of the atmosphere as much as the decoration, and the team from Beck Electrical, especially Andy, with his understanding of lighting and effects, has added so much to the ambience of the venue. Coupled with the restoration of the Chandeliers by Rebecca make a stunning feature of the rooms.

Interior Designer, Rose Peploe, who had the hardest job, co-ordinating the trades and being dogged in her determination to deliver her brief in detail.

Team Décor:
on-trend decorating services


Joe Millican: Self Employed Decorator and Photographer

Hannah Browne: Self Employed Decorator and Artist

Alistair Boswell: Owner New Leaf Restorations, Polisher and Furniture Restorer –

Stewart Rowlinson: Director Rodec Ltd, Decorator

Stewart Ralston: Owner On-Trend Decorating Services


*  All images supplied by Stewart Ralston, Owner of On-Trend Decorating Services



If you would like to submit a project to be considered for May’s Project of the Month submit your project using the button below by the 18th May, when we will make our selection.

By entering this competition you irrevocably agree that you have obtained the homeowner/ developers permission and furthermore undertake that you indemnify Trade Decorator should this not be true.

If you have any problems submitting your project please email your project details to us including your name and company name to:


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