Debbie & Design

Read about Debbie’s exciting discoveries — today’s stylemakers, iconic products for the home, and irresistible decorating tips and trends. Debbie gathers news of great design from around the world and shows you how easy it is to bring your favourite looks home.

House to Home appears weekly in newspapers across North America. Produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle, the column is syndicated by Torstar in Canada and King Features/Hearst in the United States.

Board-and-batten style

Dear Debbie;

We are designing a home along a modern architectural aesthetic but are situated in a neighbourhood that has more traditional brick and stone houses. What would you suggest as an exterior cladding that would help to connect these two styles?
— Andrew

Dear Andrew;

I am pleased to hear that you are mindful of your new home fitting into the existing neighbourhood.


Sea breeze decor

When your favourite sight is watching waves roll in along a sandy beach and you enjoy listening to the music of the water and the soaring birdsongs, and breathing in the sweet, salty sea air, a home along the coast is your bliss. Life by the water has its own special aura, colours and textures, and homes situated in this sublime environment share a love for these nautical elements.


Moving out

Dear Debbie;

My niece and nephew are both heading out to college and I’d like to give them each a gift that will help them set up. They’ll be renting part of a house with two other students. Thanks for your ideas.
— Aunt Martha

Dear Aunt Martha;

Teens are always hungry so why not focus on kitchen stuff.


Take a step back

It is a puzzling truth that sometimes we need to take a few steps backward in order to move forward. We are experiencing just that today as we endeavor to undo the damage that an extreme overload of plastic products has created. At this point it is difficult to imagine life without plastic bags, containers, toys, furniture … the list is endless.



Dear Debbie;

I was debating with a friend what was an ‘extra’ piece of furniture she couldn’t do without. We agreed that a bed, a table and a light were givens. As I have an entire room lined with bookshelves, that was my choice. What would you choose?
— Anna

Dear Anna;


View point

There is much talk of mindfulness today, an energizing, freeing state where you listen only to the quiet that is around you, blocking out negative thoughts, past or future concerns. Being in the moment in a non-judgmental way allows us to release the daily stress, but it does not come easily to many of us. The pursuit of a mindful life takes time and thought and planning.


Screen room

Dear Debbie;

I’ve heard that a decorator’s screen would give us some privacy (and hide some storage). However, our condo is tiny and I imagine it will make the space even smaller. Any ideas?
— Francois

Dear Francois;

When you are faced with an open space, it is not always ideal to be able to see the whole picture.


Light up the night

When I was renovating our centuries-old farmhouse in Italy, there was so much to do and so many bylaws to follow I was at first overwhelmed. As the rebuilding and decorating of the interiors neared completion the exterior spaces demanded my attention. The entranceway had to be exciting. My dreams of sharing this piece of heaven with family and guests had become a reality.


Outdoor style

Dear Debbie;

I am an amateur seamstress and decorator and enjoy making my own upholstery and fabric pieces. We have a backyard for the first time and I want to “furnish” the patio with style. What do you recommend that can withstand lots of sun and the occasional rain? Colour is my passion.
— MaryLynn

Dear MaryLynn;


Creating contrast

There are many paths you can take when decorating a room. It often starts with the furniture that you have on hand and walls that have been painted by the latest tenant or owner. When it’s time to put your personal stamp on your surroundings what direction is best followed to get that extra pizzazz, that fuller picture of a home that beckons you?