The weekend can pretty much be divided into two camps of people: those who do and those who don’t. Those who do, plan. Those who don’t, punt. Those who do, make. Those who don’t, make do.
Nothing wrong with strolling when Saturday comes around, but that’s not Debbie Travis’ style. Her busy-bee book, Debbie Travis’ Weekend Projects, is a call to get active, with 50 home-oriented missions that she says can be finished in two days or less.
You’ll need supplies found at hardware or arts and crafts stores. And, of course, some inspiration is also required.
William Simmons, who lives on the West Coast, knows where he’d start his weekend work. Forget the porch and patio–both could use some small repair work. Simmons would tackle that old wood table thick with dust in the garage.
“I’ve thought about doing something with it for months [because] I don’t want to just throw it out,” he says. “I’d like to use it in my office, maybe as a desk, but it’s too crummy now. I was thinking of painting it black or dark green.”
Create An Expensive Wood Look
Travis has another idea. Do what others do to mimic more expensive woods and create a “vinegar-grained” table with a tortoise-shell look. Here’s what you do:
First, strip, sand or clean the wood. Simmons’ table has already been stripped of its varnish surface, so it needs to be lightly washed with household detergent.
Then apply two coats of cream-colored latex paint as a base and let it dry for four hours. Sand very lightly.
Make the vinegar glaze with 3/4-cup malt vinegar, a squirt of dishwashing liquid and two tablespoons of burnt umber powder pigment. Apply the glaze with a brush.
While the glaze is still wet, make circle designs in it with a rolled up length of plastic wrap. Hold one end of the wrap against the surface and then move it around in a clockwise motion, lifting and pressing down while you create a textured look. Be creative and adjust the sizes.
For the tortoise-shell effect, “dab the glaze with your fingertips as if you’re playing the piano; your fingers will leave interesting marks in the glaze,” the author said.
Travis also suggests using other materials “such as corks, putty or a cut potato” to create other surface designs. After drying, protect the finish with three coats of high-gloss spray varnish. And be aware that the vinegar glaze will be removed if you brush on regular varnish.
Looking For Bathroom Ideas? No Problem
Regina Wasowski, another West Coaster, wants to do something with her bathroom. And she’s willing to take a few chances. “My husband and I have been looking at fixtures [and] we’re close to picking out the colors” for painting, she says. “He wants white, but I wouldn’t mind something more bright.”
Try painting a frame, which will include stenciled designs, around the medicine cabinet or main mirror, Travis suggests, to give the bathroom a bold centerpiece. Here’s how:
Make a stencil from a design you’ve created (or buy a stencil from an arts store; there are also several in Travis’ book) and cut it out using an X-acto knife. “It’s a good idea to cut two, as the stencil must be washed and dried each time it is used,” she suggests. Then, tape off an 8-inch border around the mirror.
Plan where the stencil will go and mark it with a pencil. Spray the stencil with adhesive and press into position flat against the wall. Using a spatula, smear ornamental gesso around the stencil about 1/4-inch thick.
When you remove the stencil, an embossed pattern will be left behind. Continue the stenciling around the mirror until the design is complete. Let the gesso dry for 24 hours.
Mix a colored glaze using two parts acrylic paint (Travis used a deep red but any complementary color can be used) and one part water-based glazing liquid. Use a 1-inch paintbrush to apply, covering everything inside the taped border, including the embossed stencil areas.
With a soft rag, dab over the raised design to diminish any brush strokes. Let the glaze dry. A second coat can be added once dry to create more color depth.
Finally, to highlight the embossed design, reposition the stencil and apply a little gold metallic paint with an artist’s brush.
Backyard Furniture? Here You Go
James Cardillo, from southern California, said he and his wife, Amy, spend much of their time in their backyard with friends, barbecuing and enjoying the garden. They have some simple lawn furniture, but Cardillo wouldn’t mind buying something new to improve the overall look.
Travis’ idea is to pick up some wicker chairs, new or used, and “distress” them for a lived-in quality. “I much prefer the look of faded old paint, as if these chairs have been sitting on a southern veranda in the summer heat,” she writes.
Spray the chair with a white acrylic primer and let dry. This is required whether the wicker is raw or already stained, varnished or painted.
Apply red paint sparingly using a dry-brush technique by wiping most of the paint off with a rag before applying. “With almost-dry brushes,” Travis writes, “rub the brush onto the wicker, applying the color in random patches.”
Using a dry clean brush, apply light green paint over the red, brushing on a slightly thicker coat. Rub the chair with a soft rag to expose some of the red. Let dry.
Even Starbucks Can Help
Emily Phao, also from southern California, likes to sew and says she’s good at it. One of Travis’ suggested projects could work for her, especially if she visits coffee bars.
“There’s a Starbucks not far from me and I walk there all the time,” Phao says, wondering what coffee time has to do with sewing.
Travis, who writes that she’s “forever on the lookout for unusual materials,” regularly hits up the owner of her local coffee shop for discarded sackcloth bags the beans are shipped in. They become cushions after being washed, ironed and taken apart.
Here’s what she does:
Unravel some thread from the side of the Jute bag to be used later for the cross-stitch border. Cut the bag to the size you want the pillow to be, plus a 1-inch seam allowance all around. You should have two equal pieces of material.
Choose which side has the most interesting graphics (the company logo or lettering). Stitch the sides together leaving one end open. Then, use the thread and a wool needle, and sew the cross stitch along the three finished sides. Stuff the pillowcase with fiberfill. Stitch the open side closed, then give it the decorative stitching.
For more decoration, attach some Jute thread and string on a few beads at the corners.
- Travis, Debbie. Debbie Travis’ Weekend Projects. Clarkson Potter Publishers.