Kids' Rooms: More Than 80 Innovative Projects from Cradle to College

by Debbie Travis, Barbara Dingle (Joint Author)



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780609805510
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/09/2002
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 8.60(w) x 11.04(h) x 0.41(d)

About the Author

DEBBIE TRAVIS is the host of the television series The Painted House, which airs in more than 50 countries, and author of several decorating books. She writes a monthly column that appears in the Chicago Sun-Times and is syndicated in newspapers throughout Canada.

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paint basics

If you have never tackled a paint project before, then you are in for a treat. Applying a coat of paint or a paint technique will transform any room instantly. It's magical! There is some work involved, to be sure, but the "wow" factor will more than make it worthwhile. Paints, rollers, and brushes are not expensive, and are available at your closest hardware or paint store. Each product is labeled to take the confusion out of the vast assortment, and the sales staff are generally knowledgeable and helpful. Let them know that you are a beginner and they will steer you in the right direction.

I use water-based paints and glazes for all the projects in this book as they are more environmentally friendly, almost odorless, and dry quickly, and the brushes, rollers, and paint trays are easily cleaned with soap and water. They are also safest to use with or around children. Where exceptions are made, such as with the epoxy finish on the Icy Desktop on page 100 or the spray varnish for My Magnets on page 162, I have made a note on the project to move children out of the room while the work is going on. The chart on page 16 indicates which materials and tools in this book are safe for children to use on their own, are best used alongside a parent, or are exclusively for adult use. Throughout the book you will also see notes that offer project safety tips or quick tips.

Always read each project's materials and tools list and step-by-step instructions carefully before you start. If you use products other than the ones we list, be sure to read the label on use and safety for that product.

note to mom or dad

However fabulous your child's design or color choice for his or her room is, it's important that you prepare the surfaces carefully first.

work safely

When painting a room, take the time to create a safe working environment. Clear out as much furniture as possible and cover the remaining pieces and the floor with painters' drop cloths. These are a good investment because paint leaks through newspapers and plastic sheets are slippery.

Use a stable ladder and clear enough space around the perimeter of the room to set up and move the ladder safely and easily. Extension poles will help you reach the ceiling and tops of walls, but you will need a ladder to tape off and paint clean edges (see Applying a Base Coat, page 22). Keep small children and animals at a safe distance to avoid accidents, bumps, and spills, especially when you are up on the ladder.

Wear a face mask and goggles when sanding to protect your lungs and eyes from airborne particles. When working with toxic fumes, rent or buy a mask that fits tightly over your nose and mouth and uses replaceable charcoal filters. Toxic fumes can have a faster and more serious effect on a child than on an adult.

When working on smaller projects, set aside a work space that is big enough to support the piece that you are working on plus the tools and materials you need.

It's great fun to involve young children in making something for their room, even if it's on a minor level, but never leave them unattended with pots of paint or glue and scissors. Practice the same safety procedures yourself as you do with them so that they will learn by example.

Older children may want to work on their own, but read the instructions with them first and discuss how they are going to go about the work. Make sure that any warnings and safety precautions are understood and followed.

materials and tools


There are basically two types of paint found at your neighborhood paint or hardware store: oil based and water based. Oil paint is known as alkyd, and water-based paint is called latex. You will also see cans of acrylic paints, which are also water based but have a different formulation from latex; these two should not be mixed together.

All the rooms in this book are decorated using latex paint because it has a low odor, is safe to use around children, and can be cleaned up with soap and water. For people who are allergic to latex paint, there are natural paints made from organic matter (see Resources, page 174), although the color selection is somewhat limited. Whatever type of paint you use, you should work in a well-ventilated room.

For smaller projects there is no need to purchase the large quantities of paint contained in most commercial cans. This is where the craft and art supply stores become invaluable. Craft paints, stencil paints, and artist's oils and acrylics are available in small quantities in numerous colors. Note that children's watercolor paints are not recommended for decorating projects as the colors are not permanent.


A primer is a specially formulated white paint that is applied before the base coat goes on. Primers are very important for a successful project and will always save time and money in the end. There are several different primers on the market designed for different jobs. Standard primer is used to seal plaster walls and cracks that have been filled with plaster. If you paint a base coat over raw plaster, the base coat will sink into the porous surface.

There are primers that will seal in stains like marker, lipstick, water marks, or tobacco-stained ceilings. There are also metal primers to stop metal objects from rusting once painted. Floorcloths need to be primed to seal the canvas and to give weight to the fabric so that it will lie flat on the floor.

Both water- and oil-based primers are readily available. If you are painting over an existing wall that has been previously painted in oil, then you must use an oil primer. You can then apply a base coat of water-based or oil-based paint. (This is the only time you can apply water-based paint over an oil-based product. The properties of oil-based primers allow latex paint to stick.)

It is more difficult to get good solid coverage with dark paint colors. If your base coat is a dark color, tint the primer with a bit of the paint. This will help get good color coverage with fewer coats of paint.

glazing liquids and colored glazes

Glazing liquid is a clear medium that is added to paint to slow down the drying time of the paint so that you can apply paint finishes to a surface. It also makes the paint translucent.

Oil-based glazing liquid is yellowish and thick, whereas water-based glazing liquid is milky and thin. Both are translucent when rubbed over a surface and when mixed with paint will not change the color of the paint.

Water-based glazing liquid must be used with latex and acrylic (water-based) paints, and oil-based glazing liquid used with oil paint. We refer to the mixture of glazing liquid and paint as a colored glaze. When a colored glaze is required in any of the projects in this book you will find a recipe that tells you the ratio of glazing liquid and paint to mix together.

varnish or top coat

note to mom or dad

Varnishes, especially the oil-based variety, are toxic. This is an adult job. Wear a mask and work in a well-ventilated area.

There are many names and products available that can be used as a protective coating for paint: urethane, polyurethane, top coat, clear coat, and varnish. For consistency I have used the term varnish throughout this book. Oil-based varnish has a yellow tint and will affect the final color of the surface it covers. Water-based varnish, the toughest being acrylic, dries clear. As with paint, oil varnish goes over oil- or water-based paint, but water-based varnish will not stick to oil paint.

Varnish comes in matte, semigloss, and gloss sheens. A matte sheen is the least slippery, and the water-based varieties will not alter the surface color. A high-gloss sheen will make the colors underneath appear darker, and this sheen also adds realistic depth to a paint effect such as faux marble.

A protective top coat of varnish is necessary only on surfaces that take a great deal of wear and tear, such as floors. I recommend at least 4 coats for floors. Let each coat dry before adding the next one. Sand lightly between coats, and wipe away the sanding dust with a tack cloth. Use either a varnish brush or a foam brush to eliminate brush-strokes. Let the floor cure for a week if possible before returning furniture to the room. It will feel dry to the touch almost immediately, but it takes longer for the acrylic resins to harden.


I use all kinds of tools when I'm decorating. Some are specialty tools that can be expensive, but there are always cheaper alternatives that will work, and you will find them listed among the materials and tools in the project instructions.

Take proper care of your tools and they will last a long time. If you have been using an oil-based product, you will first have to remove the paint with paint thinner and then wash with soap and water. Synthetic latex brushes require only soap and water. Rinse well; then squeeze, shake, or wipe off any excess moisture. Let dry properly before you use them again. Specialty brushes, which are expensive, are traditionally made from natural hair. They need to be looked after as well as your own hair or the bristles will split. Wash them with soap and water, and occasionally use hair conditioner to keep the bristles from drying out.

note to mom or dad

Preparation for all surfaces is important. For big jobs, I suggest you do the prep work one weekend and enjoy the paint project the following weekend.

how to paint a room

Prepare * Prime * Base Coat * Painted Finish * Top Coat

When painting, always work from the top down.

1. Repair and sand all the surfaces to be painted: ceiling, walls, trim, doors, and floor.

2. Prime all areas that have been repaired and any raw surface-wood or drywall.

3. Paint and finish ceilings first.

4. Paint base coats and painted effect on walls.

5. Paint trim and doors when walls are completely dry.

6. Paint or stain the floor last.

preparing walls for paint

Any wallpaper should be removed using either wallpaper remover gels or a commercial steamer. Steamers expel very hot water; wear work gloves and use care not to burn yourself. You can also carefully gouge the surface of the paper with the edge of a spatula-you don't want to scar the wall underneath; just make random rips. Then soak the walls with a wet sponge and start scraping. A combination of these methods works best for stubborn jobs.

For all walls, wipe away any dust or cobwebs and wash the walls down with either trisodium phosphate (TSP) or vinegar and water to remove any surface grease or wallpaper residue.

To repair large cracks or holes, first brush away any loose plaster and debris and then fill in the space with a ready-mixed filler. If the hole is deep, it is better to fill in thin layers, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next until you are flush to the wall. This will make a sturdier, shrink-resistant mending job. You will need a scraper, fine-grade sandpaper, and a rag. Once all the plastered areas are dry, lightly sand over the surface to make sure the area is smooth. The plaster used for repairing cracks and holes must be primed, even if the rest of the wall surface does not require priming. Otherwise these spots will show through the fresh coat of paint.

Walls covered in wood paneling or wood veneer that is awkward to remove can be painted over to create a fresh new look. Repair any holes or cracks with wood filler, let dry, and sand smooth. The wood paneling must first be sealed with wood primer to halt any knots, stain, or old varnish from coming through the new top coat. A light sanding is required to buff up the surface and then a high-adhesion primer should be used.

note: there is no need to prime if you plan to paint a color over walls that have previously been coated in a light shade and are clean and in good condition. (If the existing paint is oil based and you want to use latex, then you must use an oil-based primer; see Primers, page 17.)

If you are changing the paint color from dark to light, a prime coat will ensure that you get good coverage without having to apply many layers of paint.

applying a base coat

When painting the ceiling, you may use ceiling paint unless you are going to apply a paint effect on the ceiling. Ceiling paint has a matte finish and is more absorbent and less durable than regular paint. Use an extension pole for your roller as it's easier to make long, even strokes.

When painting the walls, if you find it difficult to paint a clean edge, protect trim, baseboards, and ceiling with low-tack painter's tape. For an even, solid base coat and to avoid paint drips, paint buildup, and leaking under the tape, it's best to apply 2 thin coats of paint rather than 1 thick coat. Wait for the first coat to dry before adding the second coat, 2 to 4 hours depending on the heat and humidity. Begin with a brush that has a slanted tip and cut in around corners and edges. Use a roller to fill in the wall. Work in 3- or 4-foot sections starting at the top of the wall. Apply paint in parallel bands using slightly crisscrossed strokes so that roller lines are eliminated.

For clean edges:

1. Use low-tack painter's tape and press down hard along the edges with your fingers.

2. To avoid paint leaking under the tape, brush the paint from the tape out. Apply the paint in thin coats.

3. Remove the tape slowly, pulling it back on itself.

applying a paint effect

(paint finish or faux finish)

The sign of a professional paint finish is that no one can tell the tools used to create the effect. This magical feat is not difficult to attain if you follow a few guidelines.

Start with colors that are similar in shade and tone for your base coat and glaze coat so that the effect will be subtle and any mistakes invisible. Go back over your work either dabbing softly with a rag or tickling the surface with a softening brush to blur or erase unwanted lines and brushstrokes. If you are simulating the look of a material such as wood planks or panels, tape off sections and work on them separately as they would appear if real. Add shadow and highlight lines to give the illusion of dimension. This simple addition is the cornerstone of trompe l'oeil, which literally means "to trick the eye" (see Sky and Skylight, page 53).

Lap lines are lines created when the colored glaze dries before you have had the chance to go back over it with a rag, brush, or other tool that is creating the paint effect. They spoil the overall look of your wall. Avoid lap lines by keeping a wet edge. Work in small sections, about 3 feet square. Start at the top of the wall, apply the glaze, work the technique, and then apply more glaze to the section directly below, overlapping the wet edge. Work the overlap first and then continue in this manner. If an edge dries before you get to it, add more glaze to open it up. It is most helpful to work with a partner, one applying the glaze and the other creating the effect.

Copyright 2002 by Debbie Travis with Barbara Dingle

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