Who is Annie Sloan? Everything you need to know about the chalk paint queen

Find out all about Annie Sloan, the woman who created the chalk paints that revolutionised upcycling and can now be seen in homes around the world

Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Here at YourHomeStyle, we’re big fans of Annie Sloan products – we’ve previously shared our tutorial for using Annie Sloan paints to upcycle a dresser – but we started to get curious about the woman herself. Annie Sloan is a household name for any interiors enthusiast, but who is she? How did she create her chalk paint range, and how has she grown her business empire to include 50 countries around the world?

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Read on to find out all about Annie Sloan, including how to use her products and where to find your local stockist.

Who is Annie Sloan?

Annie Sloan has become one of the leading names in British decor, but did you know she was actually born in Australia? Although she now lives and works in Oxford, she was born in Sydney in 1949 to a Scottish father and a Fijian mother, and spent part of her childhood in South Africa. When she was 10, the family moved to England and eventually settled in Kent, where her journalist father tried his hand at farming.

Sloan studied at Croydon Art School and then Reading University, where she was also a member of a female-led rock band called The Moodies, who became so successful they were offered a record contract and a chance to tour the US with Pink Floyd. However, by this time Sloan knew that painting was her real passion. While working for Time Out magazine as a theatre and events critic, she continued to paint and develop her unique eye for colour

She met her future husband, David Manuel in 1978, and the couple married the following year and settled in Oxford, where they still live. David, a former Shell executive, has been co-director of the Annie Sloan brand since 1997.

The couple have three sons: Henry, Felix – who works for the business as a creative director – and Hugo. They also own a farmhouse near Granville, Normandy.

How did she found Annie Sloan chalk paints?

In the mid-80s, Sloan teamed up with fellow artist Kate Gwynn to write a book about decorative uses for paint, such as stencilling and upcycling furniture. Published in 1987, the Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques was a smash hit, selling two million copies and making Sloan a sought-after expert on paint and colour.

The success of the book prompted Sloan to develop her own range of chalk paints, then a novelty on the market. Consumers were not familiar with the product, and retailers were sceptical of her claims that it could be applied even without sanding or priming. “The paint ended up at the back of the shop and just didn’t sell,” she told the Belfast Telegraph in 2014.

Annie Sloan paints finally found a home in a handful of independent interiors boutiques, where customers fell in love with their period-inspired colours and aged finish.

This reliance on a network of trusted independent stockists continues to be at the heart of the business, which has only become more successful over the last decade with the popularity of ‘shabby-chic’ decor and the growing interest in reusing and recycling furniture.

As well as continuing to run her paint empire, Sloan leads workshops and has written more than two dozen books, covering subjects such as paint blending, French decor, and decoupage.

How do you use Annie Sloan chalk paint?

If you’re a DIY novice or new to upcycling, you may not be familiar with chalk paint. But it’s not only amazingly versatile – with just a few guidelines to bear in mind, chalk paint is really easy to use. In fact, we’ve written a whole guide explaining how to use chalk paint, with everything you need to know plus some project ideas to get you started.

Where can I buy Annie Sloan paint?

Annie Sloan products are not sold in retail chains, but through a network of selected independent stores around the UK and beyond. Every authorised stockist undergoes training to ensure they can provide expert advice on using Annie Sloan products, and many go on to run their own in-store workshops.

There are now around 1,000 stockists in 50 countries around the world. Find your nearest stockist here.

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If you enjoyed learning more about Annie Sloan, we think you’ll love our profile of Emma Bridgewater. And if you’re passionate about chalk paint, check out our ultimate guide to Frenchic paints.