House to home: Options about for outdated designs

October 5, 2013
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Dear Debbie: We have the typical old 1970s brick and cement fireplace in our den. It really dates the room. I'm thinking of painting it a cream color and adding glass tiles to the top of the hearth. What do you think? - Sheri

Dear Sheri: Your idea sounds fine. Glass tiles have a shimmery, translucent appearance, which will add an extra dimension to your fireplace. With the glass tiles, you can go very calm and pensive with the watery colors or add an amazing tapestry of shades for a cheerful atmosphere. Think about how you use the room, and that will set you in the right direction. Here's another option to update that '70s look:

I have updated many dens and recreation rooms, and one of my favorite makeovers is shown here. This room was vintage '70s with yellowing paneled walls, a parquet floor and red brick fireplace. The challenge was to lighten up the space and make it comfortable and welcoming for the young family. We removed the mantel and applied a faux brick facade over the entire back wall to expand the focal area. I put up faux brick panels (available in 4-foot-by-8-foot panels at your building store) on either side of the brick fireplace. I then smeared plaster randomly over the panels and fireplace bricks so that some areas were covered but the brick shapes still showed through. The whole wall was then primed, painted white and then rubbed with a creamy yellow glaze to highlight the textures. The dark paneling on the other walls was painted white and the parquet floor stained a rich, dark brown. A new pale blue sofa, a few turquoise accessories and some greenery complete the transformation.

Dear Debbie: We purchased a synthetic wicker outdoor furniture set several years ago when the price was high. It is still in good condition, but I now prefer the darker colors to the original light shade we have. Can I paint? - Heather

Dear Heather: I don't advise you to paint. You have a high quality set, and the tight weave and material of this furniture is not conducive to a painted finish. But colors are cyclical, and lighter shades in outdoor furniture are returning. Why not alter the appearance of the chairs with new seat covers? Table linens, flower pots and outdoor lighting are all powerful design elements that will offer a fresh look without replacing the furniture.

Dear Debbie: We are renovating our dark-stained, oak staircase. We have ordered new pickets in off-white that will have no grain and a dark, smooth railing. We want to paint everything else but the treads (we are having a stair runner) in the same off-white for a traditional look, but we are worried about the grain of the oak, which will show through the paint. - Kata

Dear Kata: If you have any knots in the wood, they should be sealed with shellac before you paint to stop any bleeding. It's OK to see a bit of the wood grain through the paint. It shows off the authentic texture of the oak and will enhance the staircase. Shades of white vary significantly, so wait until you have your new pickets to match up the paint.


House to Home is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter at, and visit Debbie's new website,

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