Need a new perspective? Try on a new coat of paint
June 26, 2007
We take color for granted every day. Green grass, blue sky, white clouds, pink sunset. The color of our clothing, our cars, and even our hair are part of who we are and how we relate to the world around us.
These profound musings arise from the fact that I am in the process of transforming a dark dated house into a light colorful one.
Whenever I embark on a project involving transformation through color, I head to the paint department at the hardware store. Searching for the perfect color is a dreamy comforting consuming pastime. The choices are overwhelming; the fluorescent lights intense. Do these colors ever look like this in real life? I scan the racks of paint chips as if I were looking for mug shots of long lost relatives, seeking just the right shade or contrast of colors.
After several trips to the temple of designer paint to worship Valspar, Olympic, Eddie Bauer, Laura Ashley, and the domestic goddess herself, Martha Stewart, I have found solace in the collection of paint swatches called “Seaside Retreat.”
Deciding on a collection of paints with such a specific theme obligates the paint company to name every color – and there are over 100 – something related to vacation at the water.
The Seaside Retreat artisans have grouped Under the Sea (bluish), Canvas Loafers (tan), Gray Teal (blue green), and Painted Basket (green not tan) together as a recommended suite of complementary colors. Cottage Stone, Sailcloth and Shallow Tide have found each other.
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I wonder: Who names these paints? Is it the paint mixologists who brew these bright and soothing colors, or is it the marketing department? Do they pick the best Scrabble player in the company to name shades of yellow and green? Or is it a recent college grad (English or art major) still clutching her (electronic) Oxford dictionary and thesaurus or color wheel who discerns the slight variations of ocean blue?
I confess to a weakness for these names. Maine Shore, a vague gray green, called to me. Having weathered the foggy coast of Maine, it reminded me of the summer my mother and I rehabbed a formerly abandoned summer house Downeast. We spent a foggy July scraping windows, using spackle and putty the color of clams to rescue the windows and sills from decades of moisture.
We painted coat after coat of Oyster White on the thirsty wooden windows, molding and woodwork. When we ran out of Oyster White, I’d walk to the general store for a quart of paint and a quart of milk. The general store: creaky wood floors, old coolers that hum deeply, the smell of cheddar and butcher paper mixed with warm fog and the slam of the worn screen door. Name that color?
Currently I’m flirting with Tahiti Blue, Lemoncello and Early Spring. If you can’t go to the ocean this summer, consider how the possibilities of Sisal and Cottage White, Freshwater Blue and late day sun may refresh you.
Paint is a powerful catalyst. It can effect change, quickly. And sometimes that is as essential as mosaic green grass, breathtaking blue sky, delicate white clouds and brushed rose sunsets.
• Fresh Ideas: Starting conversations by sharing personal perspectives on timely and timeless issues.
• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nevada. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients.