Friday, July 9, 2010

38. My Life In Paint

I have been having a love affair with paint for quite some time now. I walked into my younger sister Oakley’s (rental!) apartment and noticed that the ceiling was painted sky blue. Had she done that? She had. I didn't realize you could paint a rental. Won’t the Rental Police seek you out and throw you in some (Navajo White) dungeon? Apparently not. The worst that could happen, according to my Einstein-like sister, was that the landlord would make you re-paint when you move out or you could lose your security deposit. That is the precise moment when my addiction to paint began: I, too, needed a sky blue ceiling. Why stop there? We added a mint green hallway. Sublime. Rental agreement be damned. (Random Stock Tip #6: Buy stock in Benjamin Moore.) Soon thereafter, The Husband and I bought our first house, a dilapidated 1913 Craftsman-style bungalow in an “up-and-coming” (read: Crime Adjacent) neighborhood just outside of L.A. The main draw was that we were walking distance to the beach. Drug deals on the corner? Half-way house less than a block away? who cares—look at that pretty sunset! We had been looking at houses for months and months and months in a burgeoning market. Out Realtor was growing weary of us. It was time to act. We settled on this house which was a putrid shade of green with red (!) trim, that can only be described as something from the “Early Chinese Restaurant” era. We did not care, we loved our little house. And little it was. Measuring in at a paltry 900 sq. ft or so (but don’t forget the patio!), it was a tight fit. Our painting projects immediately went into effect. The Husband used up all his employer's generous leave to indulge my color-coordinated whims. The living room would be a muted grayish-lavender. The study, which was visible through French doors, would be a more saturated hue in the same color family. (I know—“saturated!” I was trying on the lingo like I would soon try on beach hats.) The kitchen would become my new obsession. If I was going to comfortably make sandwiches in here, it would need to be appealing. Banish the boring white! In a bold move, we took the swoon-worthy vintage stove (1952 O’Keefe & Merritt) and had it re-enameled in cobalt blue. Stunning. We decided to match the wall color to the stove and paint all the cabinets white. What followed was a series of missteps that could only be called tragic. The first blue we picked was called, “Big Sky Blue” (as in, Montana). What a fun name! How could this not work out? The little itty bitty paint chip the size of a cotton ball looked perfect! Crisp, lively, beckoning. I should have been alerted to a potential problem when the clerk at the paint store mixed the paint and the only color I saw pouring into the bucket was BLUE. Shouldn't there be, maybe, a touch of black or magenta or something? white? anything? Surely there was more to the formula then just blue? Apparently not. The Husband and I soon came to calling the hateful blue “Big Mistake Blue”. It did not remind one of the peaceful outdoors, basking in Montana. No. It reminded one of the need to buy new sunglasses immediately. Like, yesterday. It was, how shall I say this politely? NEON. When you hear someone say the words “electric blue”, be assured that this is what they are referring to. Just by sitting there doing its job clinging to the walls, this "Big Blue Sky" paint assaulted one's eyes. The Husband, ever the optimist, would say soothing and supportive things like, “It might dry darker,”or “Maybe it will look different with a second coat”, or “Seriously, this is f---ed up! Who picked this God-awful color?” We trudged back to the paint store. Little did we know we would soon be on a first name basis with all the clerks there. We tried again. And again. And our perseverance paid off because we finally discovered the (sorta, kinda, good enough, just-pick-one-already-I-don’t-even-care-anymore) right color blue. In our second house, a stately Colonial, we came up with the “vision” to paint the dining room a color reminiscent of butternut squash. We lived with it for all of six months, when The Husband suddenly said, “I can’t take it anymore, we need to paint it.” To which I replied, “I thought you liked it. I hate it, so paint away.” To which he responded, “You hated it? I thought you loved it!” We debated about the replacement color for many days, and eventually we mutually agreed. White. When seeking a kitchen color, we channeled every ounce of what was left of our creative reserves. That's right: beige. "Wheeling Neutral" by Benjamin Moore quickly became our new Favorite Color Of The Universe, temporarily replacing my obsession with lavender. This flattering Uber-color quietly coated the study and upstairs bathroom in rapid succession. It is the elusive khaki that every designer seeks because it is not too green, not peach at all, and has no yellow undertones. Looks fabulous in any light: bright direct sunlight, shadows, artificial light, and it is used to great advantage when paired with black or red. This color is more fail-safe than most marriages. Like a favorite pet, this color has followed us to our new house as well. Our latest house is a Cape Cod style, built in the 1940’s. We have had only one paint blunder (so far) and that was the bathroom paint. In keeping with the era of the house, the bathroom has the original tile which is a black/white basket-weave on the floor and gray tiles up the wall. The Husband and I determined that a deep, mauve-y purple would best complement the existing tile. Uhhh, no. Somehow, there was a slight disconnect from the beautiful color I saw in my mind and the reality of what was now on the wall: Disco-Vegas-Glitter-Barbie. The Husband was kinder in his description, “It looks like the Joker from Batman threw up all over our wall.” I thought it might grow on me, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it was the color of a bruise. A particularly nasty bruise conceived in a dark bar after an all-night drinking binge capped off with a brawl. Needless to say, we painted yet again. Even thought the new color had the slightly off-putting name of “Sea Life”, it was apt: serene and calming. A medium violet, with strong gray undertones. Gray, but not too gray. Purple, but not too purple. It was the ideal neutral. The Husband is getting a little tired of painting. Although, by this point, he has gotten very very good at it. He no longer needs the blue tape to tape off the edges ahead of time (“Taping Is For Wimps” he likes to remind me, as I tape off my corner). He rarely has to touch things up. Recently, my contractor asked me who we use for our painting, because he was looking to hire someone new for his team. Imagine his disappointment when I told him it was The Husband, and he is under exclusive contract to me. MOV (“Mauve Or Violet”?)

1 comment:

  1. I'm a painter, too! I love to change the colors of the walls. I think it annoys the Scouser, but he tolerates it.


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