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The most poignant lines of the author David Neff’s dedication in the book that he and his wife Chelle Neff have so lovingly created are their mission statement that “the book is dedicated to all the affordable housing groups/nonprofits we invest in”. Their story is laudable. The Neffs, who are co-founders of Weird Home Tours in Austin Texas, embarked on a journey to look inside weird houses to satisfy their curiosity, and then organized a house tour so that the public could join in. Part of the profits from the tours is directed to community improvements.


Does this sound familiar? You have had a hectic day, too many items on your to-do list. You arrive home wanting nothing more than to sit and unwind. However, the general clutter in the living room, the breakfast dishes in the sink, the unmade bed, clothes on the floor, transform your dream of a few quiet moments into a nightmare of here we go again. More stuff to do. Perhaps you are not bothered by mess, or you think you’re not. But it is a proven stresser. Unorganized, overstuffed surroundings are difficult to navigate.


I was asked by a friend for some help fixing up her tiny country cabin. Its location was glorious, sitting by a pristine lake. However, the cabin was dreary, dark and dull. We transformed it all, including second-hand furniture from the thrift store, mostly using white paint. The kitchen wall came alive with a cheerful coat of new leaf green, which connected the indoors to the natural wooded surroundings. My friend had purchased a glass-topped oak candy counter salvaged from an old general store.


One of my very favourite pastimes is repurposing. I’m a scavenger; I wander with eyes wide open through a yard or a field filled with people’s discarded furniture, odd lengths of cast-off wood, piles of stone salvaged from centuries-old buildings, used windows, homeless doors. I’m looking for items that can be brought back to life with a little TLC and imagination. My mind races with possibilities. Those wide barn wood planks would make great benches for the garden. The window frame with layers of peeling paint can be transformed into a picture frame for a collage of nature photographs.


If you are searching for a novel technique that will add a personal touch to your room, why not look to the artists and one of their many inspiring styles. Bas relief, is a form of decoration that rises slightly off the surface. Cut-out cardboard shapes, string or yarn, anything you can glue onto your background surface can be used to produce a design, pattern or picture that is in relief. Fat globs of paint rise above the surface as well and can be interspersed throughout the design. Note that thick layers of paint take extra time to dry.


Dear Debbie;
I took advantage of an amazing sale on a porch swing that I couldn’t afford when I first saw it back in May. I’d like to paint it even though it’s new. Is that crazy?

Dear Robin;


Dear Debbie;
My partner and I are redoing an old table and wood back chair. We enjoy the rich patinas in the style of Japanese furniture lacquer. Have you any tips on how to create the look? Thank you.

Dear Akiko;


Anyone who enjoys paint projects knows how handy good painter’s tape can be. It helps you paint straight lines and into tricky corners, and protects areas not to be painted. Painter’s tape is not as sticky as masking tape, so it is easier to remove. You’ll find different widths for a variety of projects. Remove tape with care, pulling it off toward the fresh paint. Here are two projects that were made possible with the aid of painter’s tape.


Dear Debbie;
When shopping for a sofa, I saw a beautiful love seat that was upholstered in blue velvet. Would it be a mistake to choose a winter fabric for a piece that will be in my living room all year round?

Dear Andrea;


When there is a specific style that you want to achieve, a good starting point is to investigate the materials and colours that are synonymous with that look. Traditional interiors call to mind the warm hues of polished wood, inviting sofas and chairs covered in classic stripes and paisley prints, wallpapered walls and lots of family photos on tables and shelves. A chic city loft style would show off sleek furniture lines, a mix of metal meets wood or plastic for furniture, white walls with a shock of accent colour such as navy blue or acid yellow for a surprising contrast.

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