Category "News"

Pandemic painting post

March 3, 2021

Pandemic Painting Post

How I managed to keep my sanity, and some of my jobs, in 2020.

When things started shutting down, I had several projects in the works, but the one scheduled for the week of  March 16th ended up being my last for a while.

Obviously I’m not an essential business. But I work alone, and for most of my jobs, I can be isolated in the space I am painting. So I thought the lockdown would be short-lived for me. However, things pretty much shut down all around. Larger projects were canceled, and many of my clients didn’t want people in their homes. After 10 weeks of nothing, the few jobs I had were ones I had already been working on with clients. Two who were moving, (the moves were still happening on schedule), and one expecting a baby, (which was also going to happen on schedule), and also a project on canvases, which I could do from home and safely deliver. In between, I was mostly able to fight for and collect some independent contractor’s pandemic unemployment relief.

Otherwise, here’s what got me through:

Expressive Arts Burlington open studio

My childhood ballet buddy and friend Topaz owns and operates an awesome Expressive Arts Studio in Vermont. I went to virtual open studio every week and had a guaranteed 2-hour creative session every Thursday! I made some fun projects and experimented in ways I wouldn’t if I were busy with jobs. I still pop in from time to time! http://expressiveartsburlington.com/

Painting projects at home

My favorite home project was the fake fireplace I painted on canvas to cover our firebox opening. Otherwise, I painted my front porch flower pots, my front porch benches, the basement foundation walls, refinished some lamps. Nothing terribly creative, but it kept me painting. Painters gotta paint!

A few projects for friends

Things I could do from home and either deliver safely in person or by mail.  I painted a few small, informational signs, and a pair of converse hi-tops.


On a whim, I entered a canvas painting I did for my home into a virtual gallery show, and it was accepted! That inspired me to paint another canvas specifically to enter into another exhibit which was also accepted! That exhibit was virtual as well as in-person, my first experience as a gallery artist! (and maybe a new regular part of my work?) https://www.monmoutharts.org/sanctuary

Social media

Even if I didn’t have anything going on, I would post some previously unshared projects on IG and FB, just to keep my presence out there.

Eventually in the late fall, some small projects started creeping back into my schedule, and some clients started discussing bigger projects for 2021.

Some perspective– After the terrorist attacks in 2001, I thought for sure my business was going to end. People were sad, scared, serious, and (I thought) not interested in “frivolous luxuries” like decorative painting projects. The opposite turned out to be true, and the years after that ended up being some of my best. People were nesting and wanted comfort and beauty in their surroundings.

This is how I started to feel about the time of COVID. People have been spending so much more time at home, and that will likely continue. People who have been safely working, studying or teaching from home, staring at the same home surroundings all year, will be ready for changes! When this pandemic blows over, I’m looking forward to getting back to a busy schedule. I can see it starting to happen, even as Covid data is not cooperating as a factor yet. Vaccines are here. I’m optimistic. C’mon, aren’t you ready for something new and exciting to look at in your place?

Here are just a few of my Covid-era projects:

Celebrating 25 Years! How I got started.

June 28, 2019

How did I get started?

Going way back…..I always wanted to paint. When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a billboard painter when I grew up. Painting – plus a little bit daring and unconventional. But my parents told me that billboards weren’t painted anymore, they are all printed. Bummer. (now they are electronic!)

I’ve always loved to paint, but not always just to make pretty artworks. I wanted to make things look better, function better, have meaning and purpose, or fulfill a need.

I studied scenic design in college, because I love theater. And I loved being able to create something that helped tell a story. I loved being able to replicate wood, marble and other materials with paint, for scenery. And I loved painting beautiful landscapes and other scenery on a large scale! All in support of the live presentation of a story.

After college I started my career in retail visual merchandising and design because it was closely related to my degree. I loved being able to create something that helped tell a story, which in turn helped make people want to buy things! I progressed from store-line display to corporate design. But all along, I still painted, because I love what I can do with paint, and I love creating something meaningful.

In 1994 I left my retail job, and established my business, naming it the generic Donna Rubin Design so that it could represent not just my painting, but also any design or creative work that I would do. Was it a complete leap of faith? Maybe. But it all came together when my retail job ended, I wanted more control of my time since I had a young child, and my husband’s income was able to carry us for awhile until I got established. So the timing was perfect. I had my home as a large palette, and a few personal and professional friends as my first clients. I was on my way!

Also read: Celebrating 25 Years! How I did it.

Celebrating 25 Years! How I did it.

June 28, 2019

How Did I Do It?

Longevity in any career or business is a rarity these days. So 25 years is something I am really proud of! Besides having a great boss (me), how was I able to keep it going all these years? Obviously, I love what I do! I love to paint, and it’s what I want to do. Every day. But it takes more than that. I spent some time reflecting and reminiscing, and put together this list.


I am not a hobbyist. This is my profession and I’ve treated it as such since the day I started. I take my business seriously.  I like my work, and I like to work. I am fair, and so are my prices. I want my clients to be happy and love what I do for them. Being able to give my clients exactly what they want gives me great satisfaction. If they need help refining their ideas, I have plenty to offer. My approach has always been the same as it was during my education and previous employment, I am artist/problem-solver!


I’ve got the goods. I’m skilled, I’m trained. I have some natural talent, combined with my design degree, art and painting education, an enthusiasm for new products and techniques, and a steady variety of work experience, I have the confidence that I can tackle anything.


The kinds of projects that I offer fall under a very broad range of decorative painting and design.  My skills are varied and I do everything with equal enthusiasm. I am flexible, so that when the market changes and when trends change, I can still work. I don’t need to rely on the popularity of one type of project or skill in order to keep working. I haven’t built my business around one product line. Those kinds of limits ended the careers of many of my colleagues. 

Meanwhile, click here for a great article about people’s perceptions of the word “faux”, faux finishes, and the outdated-ness of some paint finishes.


I’m physically healthy.  I have the capacity to handle the physical demands of my work. I rarely get sick, and I have enough energy to work consistently. Knock on wood, my knees, back, other various body parts all remain in perfect working condition! I’m not afraid of heights and I’m comfortable on ladders and scaffolds.  I have never had to turn down a project because I wasn’t able to do it physically.


I love meeting people!  I have the best clients. I love them for hiring me, and for trusting me to execute the perfect expression of their vision. I love them for referring me to new clients, and to designers who have kept me busy over the years! I love my clients, my colleagues and designers because they are so nice that many of them have also become my friends. Renovating my own home (OK, three homes) and working on my client’s renovations led me into the network of residential home contractors, another great source of referrals. My website and more recent focus on social media presence has expanded my network even further. So keep checking me out here, and on Instagram and Facebook! Spread the word to your friends and family, that’s how it works! Help me keep myself employed!

And finally…


It’s easy to stick with something if you never get bored!   How many people can say that there is literally NO monotony,  boredom or repetition in 25 years of work in the same profession? Variety of clients, variety of locations, variety of projects. New challenges all the time! This is the thing that really keeps me at it. Go ahead, surprise me with an unusual idea! The day that my work is no longer interesting, challenging and enjoyable will be the day I am ready to give it all up. I hope that day is a long way off!

Also read: Celebrating 25 Years! How I got started.

Painted Mahogany Faux Finish – When “faux” is the way to go!

November 28, 2018

In this historic home, my clients were eager to restore all the trim in the Living Room and Dining Room to its original dark stained finish. After a few attempts themselves, they realized that stripping and refinishing the wood was too overwhelming a project. The next best thing to real mahogany would be a painted wood faux finish.

Not only did the wood in this 100+ year old house already have many MANY coats of paint, a lot of it was not in the best condition. Nicks, gouges, missing pieces, crooked molding, corners that don’t meet, and many other “charming” imperfections, typical of a home this age.  My clients decided to embrace that charm and hired me to add a few more coats of paint!

 We settled on a dark red mahogany finish.  Mahogany has a tight smooth grain and many variations in depth of colors, making it a perfect project for me to paint, and one of my favorites techniques! After a few small repairs, sanding, cleaning and priming, I painted layers of paints and glazes, followed by a top coat of tinted polyurethane. All water-based products. The result is gorgeous! It brings a warm cozy and unified feeling to this home, while camouflaging all the imperfections in the trim.

Here are some before, during and after photos!


Choosing Paint Colors

May 29, 2018

Choosing Paint Colors

Do you need help choosing paint colors for your home? So often, I see people asking in online forums for help choosing a paint color:

“Please share your suggestions for a nice blue for my son’s room!”

“Does someone have a favorite warm grey color to suggest for my living room?”

“What’s your favorite off-white for trim?”

“Which of these 6 paint swatches should I use on my bedroom walls?”

People ask, and SO many people are quick to answer with SO many photos and color swatches and opinions. It’s overwhelming! How can you choose?  Everyone who responds is looking at different devices with different screens, so the colors you see and the colors they see aren’t the same. No one sees your room and your décor and your natural light conditions or light fixtures. No one sees your style preferences, but they are ready to share theirs. I love my online community!  I’m not knocking this method, sometimes it works really well. But sometimes it doesn’t.

You might think a professional color consultation isn’t necessary. You might think that paying for professional advice is too expensive. But I think what’s too expensive is paying for paint, hiring a painter to do the work (or even spending your time to do it yourself) and then realizing it’s wrong,  you don’t like it and you want to start over.

I am a lifelong painter with a design degree. My business is decorative painting, but COLOR is the basis for every project I do. I can look at your room as it relates to everything in and around it, including you! I can look at your entire house and help you develop a palette that works throughout. I can give you suggestions, options, swatches, and instructions for your painter. I can even give you a lesson in color theory!

But the best part is that because I am a decorative painter, your flat fee will be credited toward any decorative painting project you decide to do in your home within a year! Now THAT’S a great value. So, look through the rest of my website for some great ideas, but if all you really want are solid paint colors, I can help with that too!

Contact me for more information! 908-217-3861 drdesign4u@gmail.com


Sweet ideas for a newborn’s painted nursery.

March 15, 2018

The Painted Nursery

Oh baby! Anticipating the arrival of a new baby? What could be more special than creating a beautiful space to welcome your little bundle of joy home to?   Painted nursery projects are some of my favorites because my clients are extra eager to do something special! Think beyond the basic pink and blue for something that can easily transition to the toddler years and beyond, or go all-out for something extravagant that can be updated in a few years as your child asserts his or her own preferences. Here are some of my favorites, from full room wall murals to surprisingly simple embellishments.


The Personal Touch: Painted Names in Kid’s Bedrooms

September 26, 2016

Personalized Decorative Painting

One of the best things about a decorative painting project is that you end up with something personalized, beautiful and unique. Incorporating painted names into the project goes one step further! Here are some names that I’ve worked on some of my projects.

Tree Paintings and Murals: Trees!

April 28, 2016

In honor of Arbor Day, here are a few examples of the wide variety of trees that I have painted in the homes of my clients in the NJ and NYC area. My tree painting and murals on walls include palm trees, willow trees, and birch trees.

Painted House Numbers: Where Are You?

January 14, 2016

A legible address is a very important feature of your home, especially if you want someone to be able to find your house! But beautifully painted house numbers and addresses are even better and add to the “curb appeal” to your home. Discover some of the house addresses Donna Rubin has painted for her clients.

Painting Bathroom Vanities: Oh Vanity!

December 22, 2015

Sometimes simple, straightforward projects like painting bathroom vanities can make a very big impact. 2015 seemed to be the year of the bathroom vanity re-do. None of these projects were terribly complicated, but they made a big difference in the look of a bathroom! Sometimes a homeowner is not ready to completely renovate a bathroom, but still cannot live with the current decor! Sometimes a cabinet is beautiful and loved just as it is, but surrounding renovations require an update.

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