Janet Combs (copy)

Janet Combs

I’ve heard people say “the shoes make the outfit.” Hang in there, perturbed readers who wonder if I’ve changed from a fixer-upper columnist to a fashion one — there’s absolutely no danger of that! I admire fashion but I don’t have a personal style, unless there’s one called “Clearance Rack.”

I guess if I had to classify myself, I’d say I’m more or less stuck in the Talbot’s catalog where you can’t really go wrong because you’re wearing the same Capri pants and boat-neck blouses your mother wore in 1952, only back then they were called “pedal pushers” and, well, “boat-neck blouses.”

So, let us meander back to the point about shoes making the outfit. The most obvious takeaway is that shoes are a relatively small part of any ensemble, but when they perfectly accent one’s slacks or skirt, the whole outfit can be stunning.

But there’s a subtle, alternative message in the phrase “shoes make the outfit’ that most folks haven’t considered. And that is why you read this column, friends, so that the next time you are at a fancy party where someone is sporting a stunning ensemble, you can view the person’s shoes through the odd Planet Janet lens and ask yourself: what in the world are those shoes covering up? Plantar warts? Bulging veins? Callouses? Knobby toes? The point is, shoes deftly hide the parts of a person that can be, shall we say, less groomed?

At last, we arrive at the theme of this week’s fixer-upper column: covering up the ugly is one smart and easy way to improve the overall look of a thing. A few months ago, we took down a huge wall mirror in our bathroom. The mirror slid into a track running the entire length of the bathroom base cabinets and was affixed to the wall with globs of some sort of industrial adhesive. Suffice it to say that the mirror came down, but not the glue, which left raised, irregular brownish black blobs all over the wall, giving it a sickly appearance. My husband and I scraped the patches off, which transformed the surface from a hideous, mottled wall into a faded, hideous, mottled wall. We could repair the drywall, coat it with a stain-sealing primer, sand it, and paint it — or simply cover it up.

We figured we’d plank the wall, for a rustic, beachy look. But my husband is a not a faux fixer-upper, he’s the real deal, and so when we went to the prefinished, prepackaged planks aisle in our local home improvement store, he checked his measurements of our wall space and did the math. Doing the math caused us to look at the unfinished planks one aisle over and do some more math, which caused us to head over to the paint aisle for some additional math. This was more math than I have done in a long time, so I sat down on the big cart we had wheeled into the home improvement store to ponder the following competing equations:

1) Prepackaged/prefinished planks X 27 = instant professional results in one-half day

2) Unfinished planks X 27 + paint = economical, professional results that will take the entire weekend to accomplish.

After solving for “n,” which was the current balance in our checkbook, we determined that equation No. 1 works best for TV-style fixer uppers. And equation No. 2 makes more mathematical sense for us real ones. Or at least that’s what we told ourselves as we drove home with our truckload of unfinished planks.

But now, if you were to walk into our master bathroom, you’d see a pretty stunning ensemble of driftwood-grey planks contrasting nicely with crisp white vanities and sinks.

Basically, we covered up a host of imperfections with style. Which, when you think about it, is something we do every time we get dressed. Especially in that gauzy thing that we wear over our bathing suits. Fashionistas and fixer-uppers alike always appreciate a good cover-up.