DIY Doris – “Little Girls’ Room”

Dear Doris,

I have two rooms in my home that I need help with.  One is referred to as “the little boys’ room”, the other, “the little girls’ room”.  They are, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, bathrooms.  The little boys room is a small half bath with a baby blue toilet and baby blue sink.  The little girls room is a full bath with all pink fixtures, big pink tub and all!

I am working on a VERY small budget, everything must be DIY, and I am stuck.  I can’t replace the fixtures at this juncture, but I must do something!  Any suggestions for  paint colors that will play up the quirkiness of these two rooms?  There’s no way to disguise them, so I might as well embrace what I’ve got.  Right?

Thanks so much,

Bathroom Boondoggle


Dear Boondoggle,

Wow. That is a lot to take in. Well…let’s just dive in. Let’s start with the pink room.

Pink bathrooms were made fashionable by First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower in the 1950s. “Mamie Pink” was the colour to have in bathrooms of homes built at that time. If you are interested in a little more history, check out It has lots of little factoids about this phenomenon.

A classic colour combination in bathrooms with pink fixtures was creamy white tiles and walls, with black accents, either in the wall tiles in a border, or in the flooring. I think that one way for you to go is to embrace the era, and go for a retro or vintage look in your bathroom, but do it in a more modern and stream lined way…I am not going to suggest crocheted doilies to cover your toilet roll, or macramé wall hangings.

Looking at your pictures, I am tempted to say PAINT THE WOOD, but I know that may be a touchy suggestion at your house. So, I won’t say PAINT THE WOOD, but rather suggest that you PAINT some of THE WOOD. Perhaps painting the wood cabinets around the shower a creamy white would calm things down a little, and give the eye fewer things to look at. There are so many different surfaces and patterns in that small space, the eye has nowhere to rest.  I am also going to make the radical suggestion of painting the tile on the walls. There is paint for almost every type of surface, and tile is no exception. It requires a special primer, but the results can be amazing at a fraction of the cost of re-tiling, or a complete bathroom renovation. One surface I don’t suggest painting is the countertop. I know it can be painted, but it never looks as great as it promises to, and one little chip is all it takes to look wretched.

I kind of like the wallpaper…but it may just remind me of my Nana’s house. It is quite tender, with those little birds, but if you are going to embrace the fixtures, that means embracing the fish and bubbles shower door. Birds and fish? I don’t think so. I could suggest removing the shower doors ,a task I took on in my own bathroom one week-end when my husband was away, but I would not recommend it. It did look as good as I had hoped it would. It may be time for the wallpaper to go, and for the walls to become the backdrop to showcase the amazing colour of the fixtures.

Once some of the surfaces are painted, some cream and black accent pieces would be all you would need to set the stage for your vintage bathroom. I also suspect that perhaps once some of the wood was painted, an argument could be successfully made to paint the rest…and the closet door!

If you decide to embark on this adventure in painting, ask the advice from the professional at your paint store. They will have all the information on how to prepare the surfaces you are going to paint, and what types of paints and primers you will need to use. Plan your project carefully, and allow the appropriate times for drying, as recommended by the manufacturer. This will ensure that the paint cures properly, and will not lift, bubble or peel in the moisture of the bathroom.

More to come for the “little boy’s room”.

In design,

Doris ♥

DIY Doris – Door colours continued

Dear DIY Doris
We recently added shutters to our home and now want to paint the front door to give it that extra splash of color but just cannot find the perfect hue.  I have an idea of what color I want but wish to hear your thoughts first.  What color would be ideal for the front door….and should we also paint the garage door to tone down all that white?
Your adoring fan, Jan.
Dear Jan,

Thanks for the note and picture! First of all, I really must compliment the lovely plantings around your front entry way. Really well done!

I hope you had a chance to see the other piece about front door colours and have had a chance to think a little about your choices.

Now to your questions…first we will address the garage door. I AM a big fan of painting garage doors. They are very often JUST what you described…a BIG expanse of white! I think it is a great idea to paint out the doors in a colour close to the house colour, and have it blend in. My husband would say “Why would you paint a beautiful white door like that?” “It is just too much!” is my usual reply…to many of his comments, actually. If you don’t want it to blend in completely, try a colour just a shade darker than your house colour. I do not endorse painting the garage door the same colour as the front door. I know people do it, but that doesn’t make it right.

As to your front door colour, I think that depends on your own taste. Your home is neutral colours now, so technically almost any colour could be applied. A deep red would be the classic choice for a gray house with dark shutters. Orange is my favourite colour, and I might choose to put a deep burnt orange with this gray. I suspect the beautiful fall colours in your photo have influenced that choice! Think about the colours that you love. Then choose a shade of that colour that is deep enough to complement the gray, but also warm up your entrance.

Best of luck.  Do make sure to send us some ‘after’ pics.
In design,
Doris ♥

DIY Doris ~ Door Colour

Dear DIY Doris,

I have recently purchased a house and plan on doing some renovations.  The Basement level door is being replaced with a single glass door with 2 sidelights…. it’s sitting in the garage right now….. and the lovely lattice under the window is going and I have a vision of horizontal slats that go all along the foundation, around the basement door, and continue under the window and around the base of the front step.  However, what I am really wondering about is what color to paint the doors?

I like something bright but with the green house I am confused. I think a red would look like Christmas and pink has always been in my mind (like a raspberry pink) but I’m afraid that would look red against the green too…. so then I was thinking maybe an eggplant colour but that’s kinda dark….. Oh, help me Doris.  I have so many ideas but am afraid I’ll make a huge mistake.


Timid in Tignish


Dear Timid,

A trend of late is making a bold statement with the colour of one’s front door. We have all walked around our neighbourhood and passed judgement on those who took a risk with their front door, and missed the mark. Sadly, it was such a labour intensive and time sensitive project the owners have either decided to “just live with it… it’s fine”, or have brainwashed themselves into liking it; “It’s stylish and  fun! Edgy!” It’s not.

Now, I am ALL about making statements, showing your style and putting it out there, but with a front door I think you need to be smart and strategic. You want your statement to be something like  “I am bold, fearless, and have incredible style”, not “I tried to be edgy, and missed and I don’t even know it.”  Paint is reversible, and can be changed, but painting the front door is a big project, and not an easy one!

When you are trying to choose a front door colour, don’t limit yourself to traditional colours associated with certain styles of homes. Do be bold, but be selective. Take a little time to do a trial run. Most paint stores sell sample pots of their colours for a few dollars. Buy a few large sheets of poster board, and paint some large samples, at least two coats. Let them dry thoroughly (overnight), and then try them on the door, close to your house and trim colours. Take the time to look at the colour in all types of light, and think about the colours in your landscaping and gardens. You may find that the magenta you thought you loved on the tiny paint chip is really too bold for you. Or not bold enough. Perhaps the 2”x2” square of cheerful yellow that you thought would complement your blue shingles makes you angry on a larger scale. You don’t want angry people entering your home.

A very popular door color is red. It is cheerful, strong, and inviting. Choose a dark red, as opposed to a cherry red. It goes with most styles of architecture, and compliments a wide range of colours. Almost all cultures have a tradition or superstition around red doors. For example, feng shui tradition says that a red front door can attract wealth and good luck and create a powerful entrance. In early America, a red front door signalled to weary travellers that this house is where you will be welcomed to rest. In Scotland, there is a tradition of painting the front door red when you have paid off your mortgage. I am not saying that your front door has to reveal so much information, but it can tell all who pass by “fabulous people with style live here.”

Complimentary colors are always a good idea since they work well together and are very visually appealing to people that see them.  For your house specifically, I like the idea of an eggplant door with this colour! It may seem like it would be too dark, but perhaps a “dusty eggplant” would be an easier risk? Try one step down on the paint chip from the deep aubergine you are thinking about. Think about the type of plantings and shrubs you would have around your home. Do you love lilacs, purple cone flowers, and hyacinths? That would bring the purple to other parts of your yard.

If you lean more toward the yellows of daffodils, marigolds, and sunflowers, maybe a rusty red will make the rich statement you are looking for. It won’t seem so holiday specific, and will add gorgeous colour to the front of your home. It would look great with natural terra cotta pots and planters, and easy to maintain plantings of boxwood and hostas. No pressure to be a master gardener! In any case, a front door color value does not necessarily have to be dark or light if you want to bring it out, but it should be different in some way from the surrounding areas

Don’t forget though, decorating is not all about fabulocity. You need to make sure that the paint you use has been treated in such a way as to prevent it from succumbing to the weather conditions in your area. If you fail to do this, you can expect to be repainting your door again in a couple of years or even less if the weather over that time is particularly severe.

To recap, choose a color that makes a statement, and makes you happy. Invest a little time on a week-end trying it out and verifying that it is indeed the color for you and your home. When you have done your prep work, jump in with both feet and put your stamp on your home, and on your neighbourhood!

In design,

Doris ♥

Today’s Treasure

We had a wonderful dinner with a great friend this evening, full of laughter, chatter, and a wonderful housewarming prezzie!  This amazing hammered aluminum bowl, complete with stag heads is going to look fabby in the den with the bear skin rug and the antler collection, don’t you think?

DIY Doris – Chair Painting

Do you want to refinish an old piece of furniture, but don’t know how? Are you ever required to pick out a paint colour but have no idea where to begin? Are you flummoxed by the seemingly daunting task of removing wallpaper?  Well, even we here at the Ottoman Empire sometimes have these issues and when we do, we call DIY Doris.

Doris is a wonderful friend of the Empire and has been with us since the beginning. Whether it was the great paint colour debacle of May 2010 or the shopping spree of a lifetime in Summer 2011, Doris, her minivan, and her unending support and advice are always there. In fact, when Doris and her minivan aren’t shuttling gay men to and from antique shops you can often find her taxiing teenage girls from dance class to pit parties. She does it all, with grace and wit.

Excitedly, we launch our first DIY Doris column with a question from a reader on how to paint a chair they picked up at a flea market!

Whatever your question DIY Doris usually has some advice, so ask away and you just may be lucky enough to have your query answered by the design guru herself.


Dear Doris,

I recently picked up an adorable chair from a yard sale in my neighbourhood.  It was a bit of an impulse purchase, and now my vision of design grandeur seems like an insurmountable task.  I know there is an amazing chair under there somewhere, but I have no idea where to begin. Help me please!

Chairless in Charlottetown


Dear Chairless,

So, you ventured off to the local flea or yard sale, and found just the perfect chair! It is just the right size, has a great shape and will be just the thing to tie a room all together! The only problem is the finish. In this situation, it will be one of two things…a hideous “fly specked”, oil rubbed, dirty brown with layers of grease on the back, OR it will have multiple layers of paint that are chipping and obscuring the lines and details. Whatever, it was $5, and you wanted it! Now, how to begin to make this chair as fabulous as you think it can be?

First, assess the finish. If it is the hideous original finish, begin by CLEANING it! Use a detergent that will cut through grease and oils, and allow to dry well. Pay special attention to small spaces around rungs and where the back meets the seat. A cheap paintbrush is great to scrub out those tight spaces. After it is clean, let it dry thoroughly. I know…the temptation to rush to the next step is great, but resist! When it is truly dry, a good sanding is in order. If it is only varnish or oil, start with a 150 grit, and gradually move to a finer grade until you get things smoothed out and ready to receive paint. Now, IF you have been lucky enough to have gotten a chair with 6-8 layers of paint, skip straight to sanding! Begin with a heavier grit, and gradually move to finer. It is not necessary to remove ALL the paint, but it IS necessary to remove all the loose chips, and inevitable drip marks from previous shoddy paint jobs. All the work put into preparing your paint surface is going to be worth it; after all, this IS going to be part of YOUR personal style statement, and you WILL be looking for accolades from everyone who sees it. Make sure you deserve them! When sanding is done, wipe you r project down with a damp rag to remove dust, or use a tack cloth (a piece of cheese cloth treated with bees wax: removes all dust, and requires no drying time afterwards).

While doing the grunt work, you can be thinking about your vision for this chair to make. Is it going to complement what is already in a room? Is it going to “match” something you already own? OR…is it going to be a Statement.  Will you go with a classic black, or a pristine white? Are you going to use your chair to add a bold colour that you would never be brave enough to put on the walls? It is only paint, and it can be undone and re-done.  Be fearless! Give some thought to the finish you want your piece to have: glossy, pearl, matte, etc.

Then, hit the paint store! If you choose a traditional latex paint, a primer will most likely be in order. You will need several painting tools…a good quality brush, foam sticks, and maybe a foam roller and small paint tray. Several thin coats are the best way to get the finish you are looking for, but I will concede that it is easier to slap on one thick, drippy coat…if you want to be THAT kind of painter. If you choose spray paint, read the instructions carefully on the can. READ THEM! Again, several thin coats. Use a smooth sweeping motion, going back and forth over the surface, always changing direction when spray is OFF the chair. Otherwise, you will get lines in your finish. Allow to dry thoroughly between coats, and when you have achieved the finish you want, allow your paint to cure for 24-48 hours before any real use.

Your amazing $5 chair is now a unique piece, not found anywhere else, and realistically has cost $25, including supplies. Sit back, admire your own handy work, and graciously accept any and all compliments; “Oh, it’s nothing really! Just a little something I did on the week-end.”

In design,

Doris ♥