Once upon a time………the decision of choosing the ‘right’ white was no problem. Actually it never even occurred to me that more than one shade of white paint even existed!
But now I pain myself over deciding the correct shade of white paint for my walls and trim. And there are hundreds to choose from. Dover White by Sherwin-Williams, Cloud White by Benjamin Moore, Cottage White by Behr, Natural White by Sico, Cameo White by Para; the list goes on and on.
When I bought my first home years ago and had to paint the walls there was only once choice of white paint – ‘D.J. Beige’. Let me explain. I had an uncle, Donald Joseph, affectionately known as D.J., who kindly offered his painting skills to each of us when we bought our first home. D.J. would show up with his brushes, rollers, trays and gallons of paint. I never knew the name of the paint D.J. had brought or even thought to ask. It was just a ‘good’ colour that worked in all our homes. It was D.J. Beige!
But now as I try to decide on the right white to paint the new walls of our cottage renovation I am puzzled. What white will create that perfect feeling of relaxed calm lending itself to a weekend retreat that soothes the soul? (That’s a lot of pressure on a paint colour!) I think I have my colour choices narrowed down so stay tuned.
PS. Sometimes climbing a mountain is easier than choosing a paint colour!
I just finished reading the classic and well-known book, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. It was on the pile of books my son is required to read this year for his English class. Written in 1912 as a play, later adapted as the musical and film, My Fair Lady, Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a lower-class Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess by teaching her impeccable speech and thus giving her an appearance of gentility. In Act Three, Eliza is introduced to Henry’s mother. The scene takes place in Mrs. Higgins drawing-room in a flat on Chelsea Embankment. Shaw’s writes of the room’s setting with great detail; “In the middle of the room there is a big ottoman; and this, with the carpet, the Morris wallpapers, and the Morris chintz window curtains and brocade covers of the ottoman and its cushions, supply all the ornament, and are much too handsome to be hidden by odds and ends of useless things.” The ‘Morris’ that Shaw writes about is well-known English textile designer, artist and writer, William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896). Morris founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which greatly influenced the decoration of houses and churches into the early 20th century. Furnishing textiles were an important part of the design firm. Morris taught himself embroidery, tapestry weaving and textile printing. Morris had his first repeating wallpaper pattern manufactured in 1864. Almost 150 years later, William Morris textiles and wallpaper designs remain as ever popular which is a great testament to the enduring appeal of his work. And Morris’s golden rule, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. A very wise man!
As I have mentioned in previous posts I live in a home that is about 100 years old. Although there have been only 4 different owners throughout the homes existence there has been a number of ‘alterations’. My home still has some of its original 10” baseboards, crown molding and leaded windows but a lot of the homes original features have been changed. Mind you updated wiring, plumbing, windows and insulation are great changes. We (hubby and me) have probably done the most changes to the home but a lot of those were necessary. Every owner wants to put their personal style into the home so sometime in the ‘70’s all the walls on the main and 2nd floor had paneling applied to them. Not cherry or gumwood but the ‘cheesy’ kind so well-known for the ‘70’s. In the ‘90’s another owner decided to wallpaper over all the paneling but first had every single groove in the paneling plastered over to give the wallpaper a smooth finish. Not an easy or inexpensive task. When we finally became the homeowners we initially painted every single paneled/plastered/wallpapered wall but slowly, room by room we started to tackle the job of gutting the walls. This allowed us to start putting some insulation into the house, to update the wiring and add new drywall. Upon removal of the cheesy ‘70’s paneling we discovered that on the back side the paneling was made of mahogany! Can you imagine, one of the more valuable wood species in the world that has always been associated with fine furnishings was degraded to cheesy paneling? It seemed such a waste to dispose of this ‘outstanding’ paneling especially since mahogany trees are now endangered. We kept these sheets of paneling and have since been using them to make items like my built-in desk. Isn’t it amazing when you scratch beneath the surface what you may find?
I recently visited Shelter, www.shelterfurniture.ca a shop in Toronto’s west end. Shelter sells Mid-Century, Bauhaus, Danish and Italian modern furniture. So often one can be intimidated by this ‘design-type’ shop, feeling nothing in the store is attainable, too expensive or for ‘designers only’. But as I strolled through the store looking at all the fabulous vignettes admiring the sofas, sectionals, chairs, tables and accessories what I found really interesting were all the ‘writings’ on the walls. Shelter is housed in a warehouse lending the shop a relaxed casual atmosphere and the first thing you see as you walk through the doors: LIVE WITHTHE THINGS YOU LOVE painted on an entire wall in huge, fun letters. I liked that; sometimes we just need the obvious pointed out. Another wall sign stated that: ‘Compelling designs are a right rather than a privilege. Where an ordinary space becomes an expression of who you are’. Good design is attainable! And written on the wall behind the counter: ‘We recognize your individuality and are sensitive to the space you envision for yourself’. Shelters motto surely seems to be that they sell to ‘you’ not to who they think ‘you should be’. Webster’s Dictionary defines shelter as: a refuge, a haven, something that provides protection. Shelter just wants you to put a Mid-Century piece in that haven.
My parents moved to the suburbs in 1957. They purchased the model home of the new development; a ranch-style bungalow with a sunken living, dining room. As it was the model home there were many ‘extra’ decorative features included. One of those features was the paint finish on the walls in 2 of the bedrooms, the hallway and the wall above the fireplace mantle in the living room. A special technique of ‘painted-on wallpaper’ was applied to the walls. A ‘Master Painter and Decorator’, as they were called back in those days, applied a very detailed decorative finish using paint to give the impression of wallpaper. I shared a bedroom with my sister that had the special paint technique; soft grey with little bouquets of white flowers in a repeating pattern. (See photo below) My mother coordinated the bed linens in yellow and then pink. Years later in 1973 my mother hired an ‘Interior Decorator’ to redecorate the bedroom that my sister and I still shared. Now keeping in mind that this was the ‘70’s and the theme of the time was “mod and groovy’ our bedroom was decorated in the most amazing way! We had wall-to-wall lime/chartreuse green shag carpet, white faux fur bedspreads and the grooviest part was the wall finishes. On three of the walls was a vinyl wall covering of vertical wavy stripes of bright yellow, goldenrod, black, white and chartreuse green. The paper had a gloss finish. The remaining wall was painted in the brightest, sunshine yellow. We had draperies made to match the ‘groovy’ theme that were white and weaved. I remember the paperhanger man being very experienced (read mature) but very frustrated at hanging this very heavy, not pre-glued wallpaper. Years later I was the one who sadly had to strip the wallpaper off and prime over the yellow paint. The walls were then painted a colour that leaves no memory with me yet I can recall every detail of that bedroom from the very distant past. As a wise person once said “Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose”.