Paint: A Family History

Is there anything a fresh coat of paint can’t fix?  A coat of paint makes all the difference in the world. It can freshen and brighten up a room. It can totally change that room’s appearance- a mini remodel! Paint isn’t so expensive that your husband has a stroke when you come home, full of ideas, and announce A Project (he still might have a stroke when he understands the amount of paint needed to do said project, or even what said project is, but that stroke won’t be over the cost!) Stop me, I sound like a commercial for Home Depot! (Another way I know I am getting old is that I so heart you, Home Depot! I could spend hours cruising your aisles, much the way I used to at the beauty counters at Nordstrom- is it coincidental that both involve colors and paint?!…)
I am lucky in that I have always lived in nicely decorated spaces. (As soon as my parents finished their home, they would restart everything from the beginning again. It was an endless loop of paint, wallpaper, and fabric. The only thing that would prevent them from restarting the existing home was to move into a new one.)  Except for an unwavering devotion to the St. Louis Cardinals, my parents are not sports nuts. They will gamely tune into the St. Louis Rams and watch them lose every Sunday (they both watch the team and watch them lose as the Rams don’t see winning as a desired outcome of a game.).  To fill the void, they decorate.  Let’s face it- everyone has to be fanatical about something, right? The only arguments I can remember my parents having were over decorating issues. These fights were not of the knock-down, drag out variety; my parents are way too sophisticated for that.  The tactics they used were sly and cunning- I learned my guerilla warfare attacks from the best! (The most memorable one was over what I can only call legwarmers on the chain that held up the chandelier in the dining room. They looked stupid in the 80s over leggings, they look stupid now over jeans and they looked especially stupid in my parents’ dining room. The chandelier was a beautiful, antique frosted glass dome that hung from the ceiling on gold chains.   The chains evidently got chilly (from the frosted glass?!) and needed to be kept warm.  ‘What would be better than legwarmers?’ my father asked himself.  He must have had some weird, thankfully briefly lived, obsession with girly accessories. My father went through a phase of tying stupid silken ropes with tassels (that bore an uncanny resemblance to BELTS) on everything he possibly could.  Loafers wear tassels well; lamps- not so much. My mother would wait for my father to go out of town for business (which was very frequently) and she would untie and hide every rope.  Perhaps she wasn’t very good at hiding places because as soon as my father would come home, the stupid ropes were back on all of the lamps. And possibly even the cat.) This love of decorating meant walls, trim, doors, etc were constantly being painted. The smell of paint is linked to my childhood, and therefore very comforting to me. (As a toddler, I was hospitalized for high lead levels. My parents were stripping lead based paint in their house and had put me to work. Kidding! But I really was over exposed to the stuff, even though they were careful. Hire a pro and go on a vacation if you are so tempted..)
When my husband and l bought our first house together, the first thing on The List was to paint all the disgusting ‘natural’ colored trim white.  (My husband performed one of the Miracles referenced in the Bible- he painted for fourteen hours a day for five days.  Thank you honey!) Once that was done, we got to select wall colors (way more exciting for me than for him, shockingly). I knew I wanted something that would bring out the best in our furniture, while complimenting the colors in the house.  Armed with no fewer than forty-two paint samples from the ‘local’ Home Depot, I headed home. (Being new to the areaI didn’t know we had a Home Depot less than a mile from our house, so we were driving twenty minutes the wrong way through traffic each time we needed something, which was approximately every five minutes.)  I picked out my colors using the proven scientific method of holding the sample up to the wall in BOTH natural and lamp light.  Satisfied, I had the paint department mix my colors, and hurried home to start the job… The dining room color I loved.  The living room color was too pale, so back to Home Depot. I instructed the paint department lady to “make it a smidge darker”.  She very politely (really, she was super nice) asked for some clarification as to how much pigment to add to achieve a ‘smidge’. Whatever she ended up adding was perfect.  (I did learn an important lesson this winter when I went to touch up the walls in living room- make sure you document the ‘custom color’ as it will be impossible to replicate it. Impossible.)  Next, we tackled our bedroom.   I selected a lovely, restful blue grey that accented our all white bed linens (I loved those linens. One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was to change our linens to TAN. More on that later…). As it happened, a deep purple was on the same color card.  I experienced a Brilliant Idea- I would paint the office off of the same color card! So, it turns out that deep purple isn’t really very pretty, nor is it a Brilliant Idea when it is all the eye can see… (I also learned a few lessons in the office. When painting, a thicker coat doesn’t take the place of two coats. It will look drippy and stupid.  ‘Cutting’, especially a ceiling, is harder than it looks. While I had mastered the makeup brush (please see ‘On the Job Training’), the paint brush is a different beast.  Also- make sure that the tape you use to protect wood work is on in a straight line.) Four coats of ‘bleached almond’ later, we were back in business…. We painted the guest bathroom twice. (I found a way cuter shower curtain, which changed the color of the towels, which changed the color of the walls…duh.)
As you could guess, my husband was definitely Over It. This was a problem because I could not do the painting by myself.   There is something this Super Woman cannot do- paint the walls all the way up to ceiling! (This is ‘cutting’ a ceiling.)  Also, some of the colors I had chosen weren’t really working for me (they were so ugly the cat refused to even go into the room)… so to get around his declaration of “NO more painting ever,” I employed another tricky tactic that totally took advantage of his job (you will recall I used this same tactic to clean boxes when we first moved in together).  When Thomas was on a trip, I would paint the entire room the new color… the entire room minus the four inches under the ceiling! Ha! Genius! The room would have to be finished, and since I had proven my total ineptness at cutting a ceiling, Needless to say, Thomas wasn’t as impressed with my guerilla tactics as I was.
So, the office and the guest bathroom now fixed, I moved on to the most important room in the house- the Kitchen (in my family, we consider eating to be the family sport).  The kitchen looked OK, but it needed some color to break up the bleached almond walls (it was one giant beige box).  Inspiration struck- one of the walls needed to be orange! I went and visited my good friends at the Home Depot paint department; I had the perfect (albeit custom) shade.  I know this idea was divinely inspired because I was able to A) paint the wall B) cut the ceilings and the corners C) not spill the paint and D) apply tape in a straight line against the opposite wall.  I stood back, admired my work… and heard the door open.  Thomas was home early from his trip! I was so excited to show off my decorator (and painting) skills! He took one look at the wall, turned to me, and asked me Why The Fuck Had I Painted The Wall Halloween ORANGE?!  Excuse me? I had never (OK maybe once with the purple office) turned him in the wrong direction when it came to color, and who was he to judge, Mr. All-Beige-All-The-Time? And did he not SEE the perfectly cut ceiling and corners?! I told him to not speak to me until the paint had dried and he was ready to say he was sorry.  In the morning, the paint had dried and he apologized. And the kitchen looked amazing.
The next game of Fun with Painting started about three years ago, when I found out I was pregnant. Naturally, we needed to repaint several rooms, as we had to convert one into a nursery (Emma’s room is a beautiful rose color- ‘Dusty Rose’ by Ralph Lauren.  I learned my lesson about custom mixed paints and went straight from the color card! Did you know that all Ralph Lauren paints have been discontinued and the formulas are no longer on file at Home Depot?! I cannot make this up.) I also wanted to update our bedroom, as I had a feeling the white bed linens weren’t the best choice going forward. I found a beautiful, silky duvet set that was sand colored, with a beautiful blue border. Most of the time. The fabric was beautiful, and it changed colors depending on the light and the folds in the fabric.  I took the sham into my friends at Home Depot, and we color matched the fabric.  Of course, I needed a custom color to match this one of a kind color.  It looked wonderful when I compared the fabric to the custom paint; I was so excited! Once on the wall, the two matched perfectly. And by matched perfectly, I mean by a blind person.  It was awful. On to custom paint #2.  The same blind person showed up for work that day.  We had the same results with #3, #4, and #5.  After #5, my husband asked me, in all seriousness, if I wanted a divorce and was too chicken to just ask for it. Because, he explained, at that point, I could have it- and I could have the house, the checking account, the cars- whatever I wanted, just please God let him stop painting! Finally, we got the color right. (I returned the unmatchable duvet and picked out a different, solid colored one.)
The good news is that the bedroom walls compliment the bedspread, the kitchen walls look fantastic, and Emma loves her pink room.  The bad news is that I have no way of touching up the various marks from picture frames, Christmas trees, toddlers, and furniture (Fun With Furniture is similar to Fun With Painting, and I suspect I enjoy this game more that my husband does too.)  I have no more painting projects in the works (depending on whom you ask this is good news (Thomas) or bad news (me).) In more good news, we are still (happily) married, despite what my husband might have suspected.  I hope my life lessons will make someone else’s life easier, and more peaceful. As I reflect on how far we have come, from the country dirty blue wallpaper disaster to the modern, clean colors that surround us, I realize and understand how lucky I am (not only to have a home that is happy, but to have one that isn’t filled with boxes and remodeling crap everywhere). Please remember, as you make changes to your living space, that it is not underhanded or mean or sneaky to use guerrilla tactics to ensure you get the desired outcome- be it paint, lamp legwarmers, or emptying out boxes.


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