Debbie Travis: Stylish solutions for three common problems

Creating a home that nurtures, one that looks and feels right, comes with many of the same challenges wherever you live.

Over time, we have covered dozens of topics and answered hundreds of your questions in this column, many based on your feedback.

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Decorating ideas come not just from what is new and trendy, but — just as important — from solutions to the challenges of keeping up our homes so they work well and energize us in our daily lives, whatever the budget.

Today, I would like to focus on three common questions. We are not able to answer every query we receive personally, so I hope these general ideas and instructions are helpful to those who share similar challenges.

Dear Debbie: We have just moved into an old house and want to change everything, but can’t afford to start renovations for at least a year. Help.


Some fresh paint will give you an instant lift. But have some fun along the way. This may be the perfect time to experiment with a colour or pattern that you might not choose after the reno.

Start with the living or dining room. These spaces are more public, entertaining areas and should be fun and filled with energy.

You may have seen the living room vignette shown here. It’s one of my favourites, for a couple of reasons. Navy blue is a popular colour on all fronts, and has many effects, depending on the shade and the colours you put with it.

Navy is as dramatic as a midnight sky alongside pure white, and the stark contrast emphasizes shapes and patterns.

The fat stripes on the wall really kick it up. Have you noticed stripes are hugely popular in the fashion market right now, in every width and colour combination?

Stripe up a focal wall, buy a few striped cushions or throw for the couch and you’ll be sitting pretty till it’s time to wield the hammer.

Dear Debbie: We are helping our parents redecorate the home they have lived in for 35 years. Some of the rooms have two or three layers of wallpaper. What’s your advice on painting over the wallpaper?


Whenever I get this question, I know what the reader wants to hear … they want me to say go ahead and slap on a coat or two of paint and be done with it.

However tempting that is in the short run, it will only make more work for you in the end, and it won’t even look very nice.

Over the years, the wallpaper will have loosened and peeled in spots, the walls may have small cracks in them and the seams will show — not a good base for paint.

You will have to scrape away the loose bits, which will leave the surface patchy.

So my advice is to take the time to strip the walls properly, which is not so bad with many hands helping. That’s a wonderful gift for your parents.

Dear Debbie: We decided to paint our wood interior doors black. We didn’t use a dark primer (no one suggested it before you), and the doors look splotchy now, as if the first finish leeched through.

Any ideas on how to correct this problem without removing all the paint or sanding the entire door?


It is frustrating to learn about tips such as tinted primer after the fact, and I sympathize with your challenge.

All dark or saturated colours require a tinted primer as a base coat so that you don’t need more than two coats to get good coverage.

Roll a tinted primer over the doors that you have painted. Then paint them black. That should even things up.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Follow Debbie at,,

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