Design Lesson

Decorating with Debbie Travis

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Design Lesson

Decorating with Debbie Travis

Debbie Travis knows paint and she knows how to use it. In her new book, Living & Dining Rooms: 60 Stylish Projects to Transform Your Home (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2001) Travis demonstrates how a few simple colours and techniques can create a major impact.

“People are trying to solve the problems of their homes through clever decorating that doesn't cost an awful lot of money,” says the host of WTN's Painted House. “You can create something that looks more expensive and luscious with paint.” We caught up with Travis during a recent visit to Toronto.

Why do people love their white or beige walls?
I don't think they love them, I think they are afraid to make a mistake. Our philosophy is “It's only paint.” A can of paint costs less than the price of a meal. It takes four hours to paint a room. Why not change it? Colour has a life to it. Beige has no life. The reason people choose it is there is no fear that it's not going to match anything. Your walls are your canvas, you can do whatever you want.

What are your biggest obstacles in introducing colour?
All I can do is show the opportunities and the possibilities. It's fun, it's going to make the room look better, it's going to solve problems. What's hard for people is that there is so much choice out there. You have to try to help them wade through that. I know that if people are just a little more adventurous, it can make them smile.

What is the easiest way to insert colour?
Start in a bathroom, the smallest room in the house. If you hate it, it takes five minutes to paint it back. Or, do your bedroom or a kid's room—you wouldn't give a child a beige bedroom.

Are there different rules for different rooms?
Look at how you use your room. People are buying smaller homes and they are utilizing every bit of space. The living room—Is it a place you're going to cuddle up at night in, in front of the television? Is it a place the children are going to be in? For a bedroom, do you eat in bed? Do you want something calming? A bathroom is the first place you see in the morning, so you don't put fuchsia in a bathroom, neither do you want to put green, which gives you a green glow. Children's rooms can be alive, vibrant and they have to be stimulating. Your dining room should increase conversation.

What are your decorating tips?
Don't panic; Enjoy the process, make it fun; Build a portfolio of what you'd like to do. Collect magazines, rip out pages, stick them in the room so you don't forget; Work on a budget. If you're stuck with furniture, can you slipcover it and just paint the walls? If you've got a bit of money to spend, maybe you can go with lower-end pieces and buy one good piece—you'll have it forever; Get proper lighting. You can have a white room that looks sensational and a white room that looks hideous. Lighting can diminish ugly areas and can create nooks that become your focal point.
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Design Lesson

Decorating with Debbie Travis