Dear Debbie: We live in a townhouse with a small back deck that gets lots of sun. We enjoy it all summer long as a quiet spot to relax. It's just big enough to have a few friends drop by for a barbeque. Have you any ideas for making the space look bigger? - Ben
Dear Ben: I discovered a brilliant idea a few weeks ago when I peeked into my neighbor's garden. He obviously has a great sense of style - my kind of guy. Mirrors have always been one of the best solutions for making small spaces look larger. My friend has mirrored one garden wall. (You can use exterior-grade mirrored glass or plastic-backed mirror.) Lattice panels sit in front of the mirror, giving the impression that you are looking through the lattice into more garden. It doubles the space. Very clever!
Old ladders rest against the walls; flower boxes and ivy decorate the lattice; and metal flower pots are stacked up on the ladders. The table is also an easy project - a piece of plywood covered in a sheet of bendable metal rests on two wrought iron bases that have been spray-painted red. Benches are space-savers, too, and suit the casual nature of the garden. Try the magic mirror trick, and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Dear Debbie: We have bought a 30-year-old condo for retirement and plan to fix it up nicely, but do not want to put so much of our budget into tearing out the popcorn ceilings. Is there an alternative? The ceilings are low except for the cathedral ceiling in the living room. - Ann
Dear Ann: Popcorn ceilings have haunted decorators and homeowners ever since they were blasted on as an inexpensive way to cover up a ceiling, especially when there were cracks and imperfections to hide. Removing the popcorn is messy, and you will have to patch and plaster to get a smooth surface for paint. Or apply wallpaper designed for ceilings.
You can paint over the popcorn to freshen it up. Use a split foam roller to get into all the nooks and crannies.
If you decide to change the look, the most reasonable option is to apply ceiling tiles over the popcorn. Check your local home-renovation store and the Internet for Styrofoam or metal ceiling tiles. They come in a variety of patterns and are paintable. You also could have plywood planks installed for the cathedral ceiling, which again are easy to paint.
Dear Debbie: We remodeled our kitchen 15 years ago and still like our solid-surface countertops and light wood cabinetry. However, we would like to add something fresh and new. Would glass tiles on the backsplash work with this type of countertop? - Sandy
Dear Sandy: Glass tiles come in so many sizes and colors now; you can devise any pattern you choose in the space you have. Since your countertop and cabinetry are both solid colors, here's an opportunity to build in some interesting texture. A multicolored glass tile combination in shades of mocha, coffee and cream would create a modern and fresh focal point, and add sparkle to the room. Your tile store will let you bring home samples to test on site, which is always a good idea. Once you have seen the colorways of these beautiful tiles, you will have a difficult time making a choice.
Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@ debbietravis.com.