DIY Doris – End Tables

DIY Doris is back from Christmas vacation, and this time is answering a reader’s question about a pair of end tables that they would like to re-purpose for their cottage.

Dear DIY Doris,

I have this lovely pair of end tables, that I just can’t bear to part with, however; I can’t stand their present state.  I want to bring them to my cottage, but fear that instead of looking fresh, funky, and fun, they’ll come across as cheap, cheerless, and chintzy.  Can you help me?

Tableless in Tryon


Dear Tableless,

I have an end table almost identical to one of these! There are incredibly sturdy, and a great alternative to new tables. They have interesting lines, and would look great with a painted finish. I could really see these pieces painted white, or a pale beach-y colour like watery green or blue.  One comment I will make is that for some reason furniture builders of this era were keen on hardware! They went a little overkill on the knobs.

When one finds pieces like this, more often than not, the hardware, knobs, handles, whatever you wish to call them are unsightly, offensive, strange…any number of adjectives could apply. Sometimes changing them seems like a daunting or impossible task. Some older pieces have different dimensions than modern pieces, and modern hardware does not match up with existing holes. If you plan to apply a painted finish, this does not matter! It is easy to buy a small container of wood filler, fill existing holes, and drill new ones! Once the holes are filled, a light sanding will smooth out the surface, and after painting, you will have a blank canvas for whatever hardware you like!

Hard ware CAN be expensive! I know I always seem to fall in love with handles and pulls that are exorbitantly expensive, like $20-30 per handle! If you are trying to redo the kitchen on the cheap, and need 20 handles/pulls, that price is probably not feasible, at least on my budget. However, if you are doing a piece of furniture and only need one or two, splash out! The perfect handle or drawer pull can finish off a piece and make it look unique and expensive, like custom furniture, as opposed to looking like your Nana’s end table with a coat of paint.

After you have painted your piece, you may want to protect the top surface from scratches and nicks. One way would be to apply several coats of a non-yellowing water based varnish (only over latex paint, of course). Another would be to have a piece of glass cut to the size of the table top. Probably the most important step in avoiding nicks, though, is curing time. That is the little piece of information on the can of paint or varnish that we all read, and then decide to ignore. “What do the paint companies know? That is just foolishness.”

We are all so excited to have the piece finished and placed in its waiting spot, we touch it every ten minutes or so, and as soon as it is not leaving paint on our fingers, we move it into position, and immediately put a lamp or a few tasteful knick-knacks on it. A week or two later, we try to dust the table, and when we move the lamp, we lift a big circle of paint off with it! Curing time allows the paint to not only dry, but also to harden through all the coats of paint, not just the surface. Latex paint is like a pliable skin applied to a surface, and until it is cured, or hardened throughout, it is vulnerable to nicks, bubbling, and peeling. The extra drying time is well worth it to have a beautiful custom piece of furniture in your home.

In design,

Doris ♥


DIY Doris – Little Boys’ Room

We here at The Ottoman Empire are taking a little bit of reveal reprieve to give you the second installment to a previous DIY Doris post.

Dear DIY 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.

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,

Now…this bathroom has some redeeming qualities, like the great sink and the shutters. It is not, however, without its challenges. For example, the “wood”…with the gold stenciling. I think we both know where I am going with this. Paint.

Looking at the blue fixtures, I immediately think beach-y, water-y colours, like pale blues and greens, with sand colours like tan. Perhaps I am being influenced by the ship wallpaper border. That, of course, needs to come down.

I would paint the “wood” cabinets a crisp white, and change out the hardware. Since these cabinets have such a glossy finish, they will require a light sanding, which will also take care of the gold stenciling. Without sanding, the outline of those vines would be clearly seen through the paint, no matter how many coats are applied. Then a good primer, and paint. In this instance, I am a fan of a dedicated primer, as opposed to a primer/paint combination. It will ensure good coverage, and be insurance against paint bubbling and peeling in the moisture of the bathroom. I would also paint the shutters. They look to be in great shape, and a coat of white paint would give them a beach house/cottage look. They would look great from the outside, as well! A can or two of good quality white spray paint is the easiest way to deal with them.

I would replace the back-splash with something…anything! It could be painted, or you could investigate some of the many “stick on” products available to cover up unsightly surfaces.  These are acrylic sheets applied with double sided tape, and made in all sorts of pattern to replicate embossed tin ceilings, bathroom tiles, wood, bead board, etc.  They are also designed to stand up to the moisture in kitchens and bathrooms. These products are a little pricey, but you are paying for convenience, and ease of installation.   It can literally be done in minutes. If you are really feeling adventurous, you could attempt a small DIY tile project! It is a small space, and would require very few tiles. It would be an opportunity to add a little sparkle or personality with some glass mosaic tiles, or white subway tiles, or round penny tiles… O.K., I can get a little excited about tiles.

On the walls, I would love to see a fresh watery green. It would modernize the fixtures, but they would still maintain that retro/vintage appeal. It also won’t fight with the countertop. There are a number of water, sea, and ocean inspired accessories available for you to complete the look you want. Simple accessories are best to keep things looking fresh and updated, and they needn’t be expensive. Discount and dollar stores can often provide interesting items to finish a room, as well as second hand stores like Value Village.

Anytime one takes on a lot of painting projects, it can seem overwhelming, and more often than not, people get frustrated, and walk away with the project half-done, and never look back. When beginning a project like this, it is important to plan carefully, and set realistic deadlines. Some things to consider:

  • Are you going to remove the cupboard doors to prime and paint them?
  • Where are you going to store and paint them?
  • How long is the drying time between each coat?
  • Where are the things in the cupboards going to live for the next 7-10 days?
  • Where will the painting tools and equipment be stored between coats?

Taking some time to plan for these things will eliminate unnecessary interruptions and frustrations, as well protect belongings and other areas in your home. Take the time as well to make a detailed supply list, and save yourself emergency trips to the hardware store to get more painters tape, sand paper, or roller sleeves. Every time you have to leave your house, it takes an hour away from your project.

Good luck in your renos!

In design,

Doris ♥

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 ♥

Doris and her Digits

Doris now has her very own email address. She is really moving up the world, she is. If you have a DIY issue that requires a bit of help or advice – and prefer it delivered with wit, style and a sharp tongue – Doris is your gal. Give her a yell: dori

A bit more about DIY Doris:

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.