Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

With Color, Throw Caution to the Wind

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

With Color, Throw Caution to the Wind

Article excerpt

Master painter-decorator Debbie Travis makes one point repeatedly about selecting room colors: Be brave.

This message is underlined in her television show, "Debbie Travis' Painted House," which airs in more than 50 countries, including the United States (check local PBS listings).

When she speaks at decorating seminars, which she does frequently, she discourages conservatism.

"If we were going to choose a color for a room, and this was a group of five-year-olds," she tells her audiences, "I can guarantee that no one would choose taupe or beige. When we become grown-ups ... we get intimidated."

She sees no reason to be timid when the frontiers of style and taste are expanding rapidly. "Fashion now is 'choose what you like,' " she observes.

What Ms. Travis hopes her show, seminars, and books will do is open up the brave, new world of home decorating possibilities just as Julia Child and others have paved the way to culinary adventure.

"Twenty years ago America was a meat, potato, and two veg. country," she says. "Now, if you are invited to dinner at someone's house and they make sushi, you're not going to have them imprisoned. And if you go to an Italian restaurant, you might get Chinese or fusion food. We've accepted that. It's part of our daily lives."

The same should be true, she says, with paint. "Paint is cheap," she reminds, and mistakes are more easily remedied than ever before, given today's array of products and information.

Mistakes aren't forever

In particular she sings the praises of primers, some of which are now capable of covering the strongest colors, essentially providing a fresh start. Primers are also made to adhere to shiny surfaces - laminates, linoleum, or varnish, for example - greatly increasing the ease and options in remodeling. They can even be used to paint bathroom tiles.

People are now employing more painting strategies, says Travis, who learned about color washes, glazing, sponging, and myriad other tricks of the trade through trial and error.

There's really no reason to panic when mistakes occur, she says, because most are correctable. And besides, "it's just a wall. You're not tinkering with a car."

An Englishwoman with a background in TV, she turned to interior decorating after marrying and moving to Montreal. There, she began painting her new home, a project so impressively done that it soon garnered her many outside jobs.

While Travis encourages a go-for-it approach in selecting vibrant colors, she calls choosing them from a one-inch chip "madness. This is where people really go wrong because colors always end up much darker than you expect. You think you have a primrose yellow for the living room, but it comes out looking like a huge banana."

Even if this happens, the finish can be toned down. …

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