Make old pieces look fresh, new

January 4, 2013 


Debby West

Debby’s Designs, Cary


Five words that describe my design philosophy: Don’t be afraid of color.

Where I find design inspiration: I look to old, dated furniture and accents because the quality is usually excellent and most pieces have a story. I also so enjoy bringing an old, used and sometimes damaged piece to life.

My best thrift store find: Was an early 1900s bar stool that I spent two days stripping black gloss paint off of and refurbishing for my studio. I paid $11 for it and have been offered $250 for it!

How I turned a design miss into a design hit: I had a pair of oversized brass palm leaves that were meant to be a tabletop decoration. I cut off the “legs,” etched, washed and repainted and hung them as on a wall at our house at the beach.

Favorite color combination: Fire Engine Red (either in material or paint) combined with an animal print. I often use this combo for specific areas that are in need of a pop of color.

Favorite design blog: Blog Cabin, the DIY Network blog! Find it at It has great instructional videos for those who are just starting out.

Best way to use faux painting in 2013: Use beautiful metallic paints over the yummy dark bases. (Rustoleum indoor/outdoor metallic paint in copper is beautiful with a dark base coat such as Chocolate Brown). I also use plaster of Paris to create texture and warmth while giving the wall depth. Apply it with a 4-inch spackling knife for smaller areas and a flat-edged trowel for larger areas. It sets up fast, so first-timers should use either a slow-setting premixed spackle, or work small areas.

Best way to give a foyer a fresh, welcoming touch: Set out a big, clear vase with fresh flowers.

Biggest design no-no: Sticking to a boring “Builder Beige.” A couple of nice alternatives are Sherwin Williams’s Hopsack or Valspar’s Fresh Cotton.

My best tip for do-it-yourself designers: Hit Goodwill stores, consignment stores, yard sales and the flea market. Look for any piece of furniture, frames or small end tables or console tables that can be refinished inexpensively. When I’m looking for upholstered pieces, I focus on vanity stools or end-of-the-bed benches. These can usually be redone for less than $30.

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