Please stop talking about that paint!

Would someone please explain to me why it is so hard to pick out a paint color that looks good on your own walls?  On HGTV, they constantly arrive with buckets of just the right Orange Peel, or Bird of Paradise, or Gingeroot paint, and no matter how awful it looks in the can, it always works perfectly.  For weeks I’ve been carrying around paint samples, taping them to all four walls at different times of day; windows open, windows closed, lights on or off, high on the wall, lower down on the wall; next to the dark cabinets, next to the window.  (Just FYI, I usually make decisions in seconds, but I wanted to get this one exactly, irrevocably right).  I asked Darren and Ginsberg to weigh in.  Ginsberg is an art major (we’re having her see a psychiatrist about it), so I trust her color sense more than my own.  Through this whole thing, I had the word “beige” in my mind, but I knew if I ever said it out loud, HGTV would go off the air and my friend Joaquin with the newly refurbished house in Connecticut would quit talking to me.  But  you know that scene in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House?  Cary Grant and Myrna Loy.  Myrna goes around with various color samples and explains to the contractor exactly which shades of paint he should have the painter use for each room:

Myrna: I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds. Now, the only sample I could get is a little too yellow, but don’t let whoever does it go to the other extreme and get it too blue. It should just be a sort of grayish-yellow-green. Now, the dining room. I’d like yellow. Not just yellow; a very gay yellow. Something bright and sunshine-y. I tell you, Mr. PeDelford, if you’ll send one of your men to the grocer for a pound of their best butter, and match that exactly, you can’t go wrong! Now, this is the paper we’re going to use in the hall. It’s flowered, but I don’t want the ceiling to match any of the colors of the flowers. There’s some little dots in the background, and it’s these dots I want you to match. Not the little greenish dot near the hollyhock leaf, but the little bluish dot between the rosebud and the delphinium blossom. Is that clear? Now the kitchen is to be white. Not a cold, antiseptic hospital white. A little warmer, but still, not to suggest any other color but white. Now for the powder room – in here – I want you to match this thread, and don’t lose it. It’s the only spool I have and I had an awful time finding it! As you can see, it’s practically an apple red. Somewhere between a healthy winesap and an unripened Jonathan. Oh, excuse me…
Mr. PeDelford to Painter: You got that Charlie?
Painter: Red, green, blue, yellow, white.

I should have hired Mr. PeDelford. I should have owned my secret longing for good old-fashioned beige.  My walls are yellow.  YELLOW.  Well, it’s only the primer coat.  Wish me luck backtracking.


About hipstersmother

Writer, Teacher, Observer, Amateur Therapist, Killer of All Things Grown in Pots, Living Room Comedian
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3 Responses to Please stop talking about that paint!

  1. psoric says:

    I am with your friend Joaquin on this, beige is seldom the answer. But taupe often is. Where beige recedes and has to be selected oh, so carefully in that some taupes can have too much gray in them and end up cooling the room off and making it dark, or they can have too much pink in them and end up looking flesh-toned on the wall.

    Taupe, on the other hand, can look both modern and antique, depending upon how you use it. It can have the same gray as beige, or can move toward brown tones–my favorites or even green. The difference between the two has to do with one other aspect that you failed to mention. Not only do you need to know how a wall color changes due to time of day and season, you need to know how your skin tones look against the wall color. I have found that many people will refuse to spend any time in a room that makes THEM look green or yellowish and that they will hurry back into the room once its color has been changed to something that enhances rather than fights their skin tones.

    Ask your friend Joaquin, people in Connecticut know these things. And remember when choosing the pain that there is no wrong color, but that it is very easy to get the wrong tone of any given color. Yellow, along with green, is perhaps the hardest color to get right. I usually works best in a kitchen, and a yellow living room or dining room will usually be so oppressive that it will drive the family out. Yellow bedrooms, unless it is a carefully selected shade of butter yellow with well-selected coordinating colors on the soft materials, the drapes, bed linens, pillows, etc, are energizing and therefore not good for sleeping.

    So, in closing, consider taupe anywhere where you would instinctively use beige and, when making final choices as to shade and tone of a color, make sure to consider hair color, skin color and even eye color as part of the mix. Also consider the lighting in the room that will usually be used, as it will contribute to whether or not a color will work. Balance all this and the color wheel will be your slave and not the other way around.

    Prince Psoric, Designer to the Stars

    • Thank you, psoric. I will let Joaquin know. He seldom reads this because he lives in the one neighborhood in Caracas (Caracas, Connecticut) where they do not have the internet. But here is my question. Where is this magical color wheel? I have longed for a chart of some kind, a magical one, where I look down the left side and select taupe, and look across the bottom and move my finger over to either grey or brown, and voila, there is the Behr serial number of the exact color, or a selection of colors in different tones, that I should choose/choose from. Can I buy one at Best Buy? Do they come in boxes of Breeze? Is there a password? Does Dan Brown know? Even my copy of Decorating for Dummies does not feature, or even discuss, where the wheel is located. I am forlorn.

  2. psoric says:

    Typo alert: In the second line of my insightful comment, I used the word “taupe” where I meant to use “beige”: “some taupes can have much gray in them,” should have been written, “some beiges can have too much gray.” Freudian? You decide.

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