The painters started work on Friday. Of course it was expected. This was the impetus behind my mad cleaning of closets, the final incentive to set up my sewing and craft studio, the elimination of stuff for stuff's sake. And now, having moved everything in my house around at least once in the last month or two, I get to do it all again as every wall in every room and closet in this house is painted (and one ceiling).
It is well past time. The builder's paint job was not very good, and the flat paint is difficult to clean. The master bedroom still carries scars from where the "Oxygen" warning signs were taped to the walls. In fact it probably should have been done before now, except that I was perhaps not ready. I'm not fully certain that I am ready now, or more exactly I am both ready for new paint and yet plagued by trepidation about change, about letting go. It strikes me as odd that I can be fearless about bigger changes and yet filled with doubt about something so small and simple.
I never intended that the entire house would be one color exclusively. I wanted several colors, but the builder did not agree, and I had decided to work within the framework of the builder's options, knowing full well I could change things as needed later on. Besides, I never expected that this first painting would be quality work, and I was not mistaken. But life did not go as planned, and the paint remained.
All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that although I knew I was ready to paint the house, and although I knew that I needed and wanted to change the colors of at least some rooms, the process of choosing paint colors proved to be far more daunting than I had anticipated. This surprised me, especially because, as stated before, I had happily anticipated painting the house in several colors when I first moved in. But when I made that first paint selection I lived in New York, and I was choosing paint for a house in Tennessee. I knew the light would be different. And although I chose a color that has become one of my favorite colors, a color I might use wherever I might live due to its versatility within my own palette of the colors I chose to surround myself with, I also knew that each house has its own personality, its own interaction with its family and its locale. I knew I wouldn't know what colors to chose until I lived in the house.
So why was it so hard to chose colors? I honestly don't know. I do however have suspicions. My time living in this house has been a time of much change, and although I have rearranged the furniture, purchased art, reupholstered furniture, given up old furniture, bought new furniture, and generally settled into a new life, the walls of this house had not changed. The color, like the scars on the walls were a testament to a history, a history that still exercised a pull on me even though it was time to let go.
It took me 16 samples of paint colors to settle on the colors I wanted this house to be. And truthfully those colors were at times incredibly bold, and although I am not generally afraid of color, this house told me early on that it was not a house for bold color, at least not in its relationship with me. Perhaps I then went too far to the other extreme, tending toward the exremely boring; luckily that trend was short lived. Eventually I found something that I hope is just right. At least I believed it was just right until the painters started working yesterday, and then I doubted myself all over again. But in the stillness of Friday evening, after the painters had left, I am once again calm. My choices are good, for this house, for this time, for me now. Nothing else is relevant.
Most of the house will be painted one of the four colors above. The photos show samples on foam board which I would move around the house to see the paint in different lights. Here they are out for garbage pickup this past week, their purpose having been fulfilled. In the early morning light, they are perhaps slightly cooler than they are in "real" life, but even that term is relative. Much of my house gets eastern and northern light; very little gets late afternoon light, and this has been one of the difficulties, finding colors that I loved in the rooms that I frequent at the time I frequent them. The color on the far right is the current color, Benjamin Moore's Elephant Gray. It is a color I love, and a color I am still using, but it is no longer the only color in the house. When people ask me what colors I am using, I usually say "4 shades of gray" but actually it is 3 shades of gray and a grayed-purple. From right to left they are, (all benjamin Moore, the first three grays) elephant gray, abalone, thundercloud gray, and sanctuary. I am happy with the colors. They play nicely with each other. They play nicely with the light in my house, they allow me to be bold with fabrics and furniture colors, something that suits me well.
It is only the sunroom that has given me constant trouble. In my imagination the word sunroom brings forth images of cheerful brightness. But that doesn't fit. The windows in the sunroom face east/north-east and get early morning light, a bit of incredibly intense late morning light that fades everything except the deepest colors into nothingness, and green, everywhere green. Right behind the sunroom is the steep hill behind the house. The impression is a wall of green, the light in that room, even with my rather purplish gray, is of green and green teals everywhere, a very cool green room. I happen to like that greenness, but when the light shifts in the late afternoon, that purple gray takes on a bit of a hint of the bruised and battered. Although I think a little bruising is a part of life, and don't mind a sense of the well-worn in my house, bruised shadows and sunrooms are incompatible.
Above are some paint swatches on the wall of the sunroom, taken at a fairly bright time of day. At the moment I am going for the pink at the top right. It feels bold, and I don't know if it will work, but as it is a color that exists in the carpet in that room, It may work gloriously. I was looking in the sunroom yesterday in the late morning, about 11:30 AM when the late morning light was making the current elephant gray, picking up the reflected green of the gardens through the windows, look almost silvery greenish-gray, like a savanah of silvery grass, and at first I thought "how can I change this?" But then I looked at that upper pink, and realized it looked less overtly pink and had taken on a comforting glow of honeyed pinky-peachiness, shining with a softness much like a warm embrace. At that moment the potential for outward-looking warmth was revealed, as opposed to the deeply inward gazing depths of a deeply forested glade, and I understood that it is not important whether that particular color is the right choice or not. It is important only to begin. Once the change has begun, everything will fall into place at its own pace. I suppose it is all a gamble, but, so is life, and paint is easily changed. In fact the change may come more easily, once I've loosened my grip
In the meantime my stuff has been scattered throughout four closets in four rooms, as I have asked that the master bedroom and bath be painted first so that I can reconfigure the master closet, and I feel profoundly unsettled. Perhaps this is good, this unsettledness, I suspect there is nothing like an upset in the routines of life to make one realize what is necessary, and what is not, and to see how comfort and complacency close in on themselves, when life is actually an act of opening up.