Paint on a Wall

June 2, 2014


I offer you this recipe for house painting:

Decide enthusiastically on a color; buy paint & apply; realize it doesn't look anything like you expected; find a picture that reminds you of the color you'd hoped for; consider repainting; remember how much work it was; shrug & repeat.

My first attempt at interior painting was a year and a half ago. I'm not a detail-oriented person, so I got paint on the ceiling and all of the metal bathroom fixtures, and hated the color I'd chosen so much I tackled it all again. I also loved it; it was such tangible proof of progress. Painting is brilliant and awful at the same time for control freaks: you have such potential to get things right, and such potential to totally misjudge things. And then I jump into full-on self-loathing because it's a total first world woe to be squinting at a wall, wondering if there's just a touch too much lavender in the grey just applied, a thought continually dwelt upon throughout the day. (Really.) I haven't even touched upon the issue of needing to agree with a significant other on these changes, and my partner is as opinionated as I am. It reminds me of how my in-laws almost divorced over a wallpapering job; I can understand that.

One of the main perks of partial ownership of our last place was the ability to make changes, like paint colors and cabinet shelves. Is it the director in me that forms really strong opinions about most things, nay-saying a lavender bathroom with total insistence? It's probably like any creative endeavor: it's satisfying to make something happen and see a result, and see that result remind you of yourself. Maybe narcissistic, but totally legitimate.

So I share examples of painting...

In our former house:

Changing a dark, brick-red kitchen for the brightest of reds:



I might have been scared by the brightness, but Ben McGinley had a go-bold-or-go-home approach. I don't think it would work in every kitchen, but this one was spacious and open to the rest of the house. Also: lots of white cabinets to contrast.

Changing a sunroom from light yellow to a blue that actually was aqua:

red kitchen, jamaican blue sunroom, rude cat
A little too 'tropical waters' for my taste (though fun next to the red). I should have taken more notice that the color was called something along the lines of "Jamaican Blue".

Our new place
We moved from a house that was about 1500 square feet to one that is 913 square feet. I really like it! The space we have is incredibly usable, and there is loads of storage available in the basement and closets. The rooms in the lower level are open to one another, making it feel larger than the square footage suggests. But maybe loads of bright red and tropical blue don't quite have the same effect in such a small space. But also, who wants to stick with a beige and pea green living room? 

'Before' living room photos, staged by a realtor with another person's stuff & a sunset:


'After' living room photos with lots of light grey paint (Athena by Benjamin Moore) & my janky camera skills:


'Before' accent wall:

'After' accent wall (Hallowed Hush by Behr-- what a name):



The kitchen stayed this color, because it's awesome:


The main bedroom was beige:


It's now this color (Pussywillow by Sherwin Williams):


Satisfying changes, yes? It feels a bit more like us. Only two more beige rooms... (My office was also painted Athena grey, with a dark grey chalkboard wall). 

I'd love to offer some tangible painting advice, but I mostly think you should paint your home colors you love to be around, or colors that flatter other things you love (like art on your walls). We were skeptical of a color as boring as light grey, but light colors work well in tiny spaces. Other advice:

Get a sample of paint and test it before committing to an entire gallon (or half gallon) of paint. It seems like a waste of money, but colors on swatches never look the same once they are on your wall. I promise!

Consider how you want the room to feel and what activities you'll use the room for. Some love sleeping in a red bedroom. I might have trouble with that... 

This project made me think of the Karen Sherman quote I shared last week in terms of having tangible projects outside of art-making. I, too, crave balance. Though I love rehearsals and dance-making, I need the contrast of a tactile, result-driven task. I can debate colors for hours, but beyond that the act of painting is pretty cut and dry: paint put on a wall. There's something very necessary about that, in contrast to all of the debating and second-guessing involved in a lot of the other creative projects I'm involved in. Also: this is where the coffee is made, the Small Arts realized, the cat fed, the life plans discussed. These life projects have, quite unexpectedly, become my favorites.

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