Home & Garden

Sharing your time, energy makes a wonderful gift

Use IdeaPaint to surprise a child with a tabletop that he or she can personalize every day.
Use IdeaPaint to surprise a child with a tabletop that he or she can personalize every day. DEBBIE TRAVIS

Having produced hundreds of television shows on decorating, I've experienced firsthand how grateful people are to be offered a helping hand. The DIY market has exploded during the past two decades, which has made the decorative arts more accessible, easier and more fun for anyone who has the interest.

When I first began teaching paint techniques, I would always suggest that you get a friend to help. Yes, two people would make the job go quicker, but the time spent and moral support were the priceless gifts.

In my latest series, “All for One With Debbie Travis,” I ask an entire community to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to renovate the home of a local hero.

Once the group recovered from the initial shock of being asked to volunteer their free time to work outside their comfort zone, they all happily agreed. People love to give.

If you are searching for a new gift idea for someone special on your holiday list this year, why not give them your time and expertise, all rolled up in a DIY package? Develop the gift to suit the individual’s needs, but make it flexible enough so the recipient will have some input into the project.


I discovered a new paint product called IdeaPaint that I can imagine fitting into this scenario perfectly. IdeaPaint can turn virtually anything you can paint into a dry-erase surface.

It’s a natural for kids’ rooms, either on a table or desk surface, or on a creative patch of wall space. It fits into the kitchen and home office as a list keeper, calendar and note-taker. The paint is available online at www. IdeaPaint.com. As a gift, include a note with the paint, explaining that your labor is part of the present.

Once you start thinking about what you can offer in time and talent, you’ll have your list completed, and I promise you heartfelt hugs from the recipients.

Dear Debbie: Our Shaker Style solid maple bedroom suite is stained green; the tops of the dressers and bedside tables and the bed posts are all natural stain. We would like to strip down the green and stain it white, leaving the natural tops and posts alone. We’ve been told we won’t be able to get all the green stain out and we should simply paint it white. However, I would like to see the brown wood grain through the white stain. Can I do this? What do you suggest? – Kelly

Dear Kelly: Stain soaks into wood rather than sitting on top, which is what paint does. In order for the new (white) stain to be absorbed by the wood, you will have to sand the surface to remove the sealer and open up the wood’s pores. To completely remove the green stain will require a lot of careful sanding – a messy and time-consuming job.

As a halfway measure, paint the furniture with a semi-opaque paint (add some glaze to the white paint) so that some of the graining will be visible.

If the original (green) finish was water-based, then you can use a latex paint.

Otherwise, you must use oil-based paint, unless you apply a high-adhesive primer. However, this will give you solid coverage.

Please e-mail your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com.