March 27, 2017
Enjoy the light show from Optimyst’s innovative fireplace design

Dear Debbie;
We’ve moved into an old house that needs lots of TLC. There is an existing fireplace in the living room, but the flue is damaged and the chimney requires extensive (and costly) repairs. We would like to have a fireplace in our den, which is where we spend the most time. What is a good alternative to a wood burning fire?

Dear Don;

The past decade has witnessed a boom in alternatives to the traditional wood burning fireplace. Direct vent natural gas fireplaces are the most popular due to ease of installation and operation, and the variety of styles. But for those looking for a visual experience without the need for a chimney or any venting, I discovered a very clever option. It’s an electric fireplace, well it looks like a fire is burning. But the smoke is, in fact, water vapour. And the orange flames are produced by LEDs. The Optimyst is a magic show. There is a water reservoir at the bottom of the unit. As the water vapour rises through the media bed, orange lights that sit inside the cassette reflect against the water molecules to create the impression of dancing flames. You can design your own media options, fibre logs, river rocks and glass are provided with the cassette. While heat generally dries the air, the Optimyst acts as a humidifier, an added bonus.

If you are not going to repair your existing fireplace chimney, it’s a good idea to seal it off properly to avoid home heat from escaping. Rosemary from The Fireplace Specialist, www.warmth.com, explains that the Optimyst by Dimplex is an easy DIY installation. It fits into a very small opening, and building a new opening is simple as there are no heat clearances to worry about. You can build a box to house the cassette using combustible finishing materials such as MDF. View different mounting options on their website.

Dear Debbie;
I painted my white, boring PVC kitchen cupboards taupe. Of course, the paint does not adhere, and has to be retouched frequently -- around door knobs especially. Is there something funky I can do (anything but paint!) to ‘cover’ this part of each door and make it look like it is supposed to be that way? Thanks much!

Dear Francoise;
I am sure that you are frustrated by the paint peeling repeatedly. Painting cabinet doors is a big job, but when done properly you have a “new” kitchen. To prepare your cabinet doors for paint you must first remove all dirt and grease carefully. You can never apply water-based or latex paint over oil paint, or plastic surfaces such as your PVC cabinets. The surface requires a primer designed to cover slippery surfaces so that the latex paint will stick. (It’s fine to layer oil paint over water-based paint.) Allow the primer to dry completely before you start to paint.

Take a deep breath and start again. Go with a bold colour or a strie effect for a funky look. But stick with paint. You can distress what you have and make it look like old, peeling cabinets, which would be worn around the handles. Another option is patio paint, which is super tough and sticks to most surfaces.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@debbietravis.com. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis, and visit Debbie’s new website, www.debbietravis.com.