December 17, 2017
These elegant shelves are decorated with carpenter’s trim and an antique paint finish. Upholstery tacks mimic the look of fine furniture.

For those who crave a custom approach to decorating, there are plenty of opportunities for creating something as simple as a unique shelving system. If you have a spot that would benefit from some extra display space, why not design your own version? Dress up laminate boards or use MDF cut to size for the shelves. You’ll find a fascinating array of architectural trims, mouldings, corbels and sconces at your lumber store to build up detail. Upholstery tacks used as detail for fine furnishings add a touch of elegance to these shelves.

I was building up interest in a Georgian-inspired library, when I designed the display shown here. The boards are 12 inches deep, and varying lengths. Two coats of acrylic black paint make up the base coat. Then the brush is dipped into dark brown water-based stain and dry brushed over the black, just skimming the surface. This produces an ebony-like appearance, very elegant. The dentil trim is painted and stained in the same manner. Once dry, the dentil trim is nailed onto the edge of the boards, making sure the nails are slightly offset. The upholstery tacks are hammered on covering the nail heads.

In keeping with the traditional style of the room, I chose corbels to hold up the shelves. Layers of paint are applied to build up an antiqued finish. Start with turquoise paint, then bronze, and next some burnt umber. Use a soft cloth to rub the surface making sure to get into all the crevices. Finish with small dabs of ocher paint on high spots for sheen.

For those who enjoy handmade projects and are looking for gift ideas, you can utilize trim to enhance any flat surface. Build your own picture frames with ceiling moulding. Plain boxes become treasured containers for keepsakes and jewelry. Look for small wood or plastic medallions and center the motif on the top or front of the box. Add trim as a frame around the top. Apply two layers of base coat, covering the box and trim. You can then choose to highlight the details with metallic paint rubbed on with a soft cloth. Play around with different effects and small contrasts in colour.

Once you discover how easy it is to add readymade trims, think about transforming larger items, such as a plain dresser with cabinet trim, mouldings and furniture medallions. These details are available in wood and plastic. Apply with nails or glue. They can be painted or stained to blend seamlessly with existing doors, drawers and edges. The transformation is exciting, and opens up your imagination to try other projects.

Dear Debbie,
I always make homemade gifts to give to family, but this year I’ve run out of time and ideas. Any ideas how I can pull off some personalized presents at the last minute?

Dear Maureen,
The gift of your time is the most precious present you can offer. Write a card and say that this year you would like a suggestion from each member of your family. It can be helping to do a project around the house, assisting on a school assignment, taking someone shopping or out to a show. Teaching a new skill such as carpentry, sewing or baking is a wonderful way to pass along your talent for hand work. I love this idea.

Written by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email decorating questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. Follow Debbie at Instagram: @debbie_travis, Facebook: @thedebbietravis, www.debbietravis.com, www.tuscangetaway.com.