Tips and Guides

Designer Q and A for November 10

Interior designer Lilli Beth Gelvezon shares how to preserve wooden utensils, paint ceramic tiles, renovate pre-fab walls, and where to find water containers


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Read the original article ("Ask It”) in the September 2010 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details. 

Oil 'Em Away

Q: I have always wanted to preserve utensils with wooden handles but I’m not sure if it is more appropriate to use linseed (which dries) or olive oil (which leaves a very oily residue) as advised by some. Also, is the deterioration of the wood unavoidable, and part of the luxury of the experience (the same way snakeskin shoes die a little bit every time you use them)? Or is wood decay easily arrested, like suede shoes and Scotchguard? — Eric Florentino

A: Wood handles of utensils will naturally deteriorate over time because of the detergents and chemicals used for cleaning. But you can delay the ageing process! Keep the utensils away from the elements by storing them inside drawers or containers. Linseed or olive oil are okay for preservation but some recommend using mineral oil which is odorless, tasteless, and will not get sticky. Rub the oil on the handles every month or so and your wooden utensils might just last a a little longer.

Painting Tiles

Q: I’m planning to give our floor a new look by painting the tiles. How long does paint usually last and what might cause it to come off? Please also give tips on how to maintain a painted floor. – Joni Razote

A: Painting is always the easiest and cheapest way to update the look of your space. I’ve discussed painting walls and furniture in the past, but I haven’t had the chance to talk about painting floors. It may be a weird concept to some but ceramic tiles can be painted! Although I don’t have first-hand experience with this, I’ve come across a few practical tips to make this task easier and more successful for you. If the surface you’re planning to paint gets wet all the time, I suggest you think twice about painting. Go for it if the surface will be kept relatively dry most of the time. It’s important that you prepare the tiles properly before painting. Clean the surface very thoroughlythen use oil-based paints, which you should apply in several thin coats to build the durability of the finish. Maintenance will be easy once you’ve prepared and painted the floor properly. 

From Pre-Fab to Simply Fab

Q: We live in a pre-fabricated house built seven years ago and we are planning to have it renovated. Is it safe to tear down pre-fabricated walls and replace it with hollow blocks? --- Donna Cuna-Pita

 A: Renovations are exciting! Enjoy the process as much as you can. With the right tools and consultants by your side, I’m sure you’ll have a blast. As long as the walls are not load-bearing or there are beams above them, you can tear down those pre-fabricated walls to make way for new hollow block ones. Good luck on your renovation! 

Out of the Blue

Q: I saw this pretty water dispenser at Café By The Ruins (a restaurant in Baguio) that looked like a Chinese antique jar with a spout. Do you know shops where I can find a similar water container? Or can you please share some alternatives to those ugly blue water containers. I have those five-gallon ones that look out of place in my house. – Anna Vallesteros

A: I hate those ugly blue water containers, too! They really have no aesthetic value. I love the idea of having a decorative water container but it might be a bit impractical to have to transfer drinking water in this container every time it runs out. If you’ve got the time and the resources, you can buy a decorative jar at pottery stores and plant stores like the ones at Manila Seedling and have it installed with a spout. I’ve seen some pretty jars with spouts on Ebay like the one you probably saw at Café By The Ruins – if you want to go that route. There are some really cute designs for sale there.


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