Nikki just has to scale to the top of any ladder she meets. These are the repainted wall colors–Limestone & Flowering Herb.

“THAT” she sneered, “Is mondo ugly.”

Our art class had visited a local glass gallery for inspiration, and the works there were definitely stretching the “pretty, transparent glass” category.

The instructor frowned. “We don’t say that about someone else’s art,” she remonstrated gently, “We say, ‘it’s not to my taste,” and explain why.”

“Oh, I get it!” the girl said, “It’s not to my taste,” she explained, “Because it’s ugly.”


I think of that when I review paint samples. And paint samples. And paint samples, most of which are, er, not to my taste.

Why anyone in their right mind wants to look at baby poop brown walls is beyond me. Also beyond me: Finding a color I DO want to look at. For me, paint stores are Baskin-Robbins on steroids.

If choice paralysis was a disease, I’d be the index case. I avoid ice cream stores because…should I try the cherry smash ripple? The pumpkin pie walnut is new, but there’s that mandarin sorbet I’ve been wanting to try. On the other hand, strawberry has never let me down…

Ice cream shops have 30-odd choices, and I can’t get out of them in less than an hour. Paint stores have thousands of choices. See the problem?

After major construction, wall-scraping wheelchairs, cats, dogs, squirrels, and the Resident Carpenter-Blacksmith, though, our poor house needed an inside paint job. Badly. Walls I once described as “pure, golden sunshine with a touch of heat” are now dingy, sludgy orange.

They say your tastes change every decade, and in the 12 years or so since these walls were painted I’ve been increasingly drawn to aquas and violets. What was needed, I determined, were cooler colors.

I tried painting stripes on the wall in Light Breeze and Baby Turtle. ‘Way, WAY too much contrast that DID kinda look like a circus tent. In this shot you can still see some of the old gold tones.

Problem was, WHICH cooler colors? Even if you don’t count walls, the house’s decor is very warm: Maple and bloodwood floors. Copper window coverings and trim. Sorrel-colored leather, mottled brown granite.

See, when I bought the house, it was–inside and out–the color of moldy mint chocolate chip ice cream. I purposely went in the opposite direction with the decorating.

“So? Paint it a pale warm color, all over, and leave it at that. All those dark walls compete with the art,” said my friend Carol-the-artist. Carol’s probably the best space designer I’ve ever seen, with an excellent color sense. When she says do it THIS way, she’s never wrong.

“…except that you never follow my advice,” she sniffed.

“I do so. You told me to cut down that bookcase separating the dining room from the family room, remember? I did, and it’s gorgeous. Opens the place right up.”

“I told you to get rid of it, not cut it down.”

“I needed the extra storage,” I said defensively, “And anyway, I like having my art against dark-colored walls. I don’t think it competes at all…”

“…because most of your paintings have white mats,” she finished impatiently.

She has a point, but the idea of plain-vanilla walls all over the house gives me heartburn. I agreed that a lighter tone would open things up though, so…we’ll put some kind of cream on MOST of the walls. I’ll exercise my creativity on the accent walls by swapping the golds and terra cottas for cooler tones.

“Don’t look at me,” said Nathan, “I don’t do colors.”

Nine months and about 20 gallons of paint sample jars later, I’ve given birth to the house’s new color palette: Light Breeze, Flowering Herbs, Baby Turtle, Limestone, and Polo Blue. (Benjamin Moore–you can look them up–btw, Levi the New Painter says the Aura line I chose is an excellent paint that “flows on like butter, excellent coverage.”).

Most of the palette is sortakindaalmost warm green with a deep navy accent. Odd combination, but, well…the outside of this house is, technically, blue and purple.

I went through hell picking those colors in 2013. I waded through maybe 500 shades, mapped the colors and locations of every house in a one-mile radius. Got the list down to about 40 tones that I painted on boards for comparison, winnowed those down to maybe 18, and applied them directly to the garage doors throughout the summer.

If you look carefully, you can tell that the house is painted purple and blue…but most people see it as slate and a really warm brown.

At one point there were maybe 20 different color blocks on those doors. Neighbors began casually stopping in to ask if I ever planned to go back to ONE color.

I showed the final choices–deep eggplant and slate blue–to Brad-the-Painter. He gave me The Look.

“You know,” he said kindly, “In college I saw the most beautiful girl ever, and even though she was way out of my league, I asked her out. She looked me up and down and said, ‘Well, I’ll try anything…once.’ So I’ll do the same for you: I’ll try painting a house like that…once.”

He apologized later; the house looked even better than I’d hoped. I’m hoping that wasn’t just beginner’s luck and that the new interior colors will be equally fabulous.

Levi the New Painter is just relieved that my vacillations have stopped vacillating. He had to repaint the Baby Turtle- and Light Breeze-striped wall in in the family room after Nathan saw it for the first time.

Palmer Green (on the wall) was too bright. The sample on the left was too grey; the one on the right was too blue. And NONE of them looked like the swatches online.

“Hey! It looks just like a circus in here! And we had an old refrigerator that color when I was a kid!”

I glared. “That glare,” Nathan said with dignity, “Is why I don’t do colors.”

But he was right, so Levi repainted a huge wall with Limestone & Flowering Herbs.

I like it. I think.

I could see Levi worrying that he’d apply a solid inch of paint layers before I made up my mind, so I dove back into the color wheel with renewed determination. I sought a deep, non-80s teal that read nearly black, but couldn’t find one after perusing maybe a thousand shades of blue-green in the store.

The store decorator sighed and began slipping swatches back into their holders. One dropped to the floor and…


Startled, she held up a dark yellow-green swatch. “You want THIS one? Palmer Green isn’t teal. It’s more avocado.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s perfect.” I bought a gallon, in an eggshell finish. On the swatch it looked dark, almost black.

The winner: Polo Blue! It’s the long strip on the right side of the board.

Levi applied the first coat to the least-visible accent wall, where it immediately turned a bright, guacamole green.

Exactly wrong, in other words.

“Well,” Levi said bravely, “We have time. Why don’t I just get Light Breeze on the rest of these walls while you decide? You’re sure about the Light Breeze, right?”

Did I mention that Levi is one of the sweetest, most patient contractors I’ve ever met? I’m beginning to love that guy.

Edit: Find peace, art, and music, Levi

About 48 hours after I published this post, Levi was taken from us by an idiot with a gun. He leaves behind a rock band, a slew of paintings (he was an art painter as well as a housepainter), and a partner with their small baby.

Levi was a good friend of Nathan’s and fast becoming mine, too. We’re still processing, still numb, having a hard time realizing that he’s never going to discover that I really did go with the Polo Blue. It’s very hard to look at these walls right now.

And hey: If you can spare some change there’s a gofundme to help his baby and babymama pay the bills while they mourn. Please help (and/or share the link) if you can.

After that, I tried Perfectly Pesto (too yellow), Lichen Green (too light), Guacamole (too baby-poop brown), Turtle Green (the baby dropped acid right before the diaper change), Mountain Moss (the baby died maybe two weeks ago), Dakota Woods (better, but still too Palmer Green), and ten or 12 others.

“How about navy blue?” suggested Mom.

Hmmmm. Picked up a few dark navy samples and--bingo!!

Mothers are always right. Remember that.

So we’re going with Polo Blue, on the accent walls in a light-absorbing matte finish.

“Whew,” said Levi, “I think that’s EXACTLY the right color. It’s been a long road, but I’m glad we reached the end.”

That got me to thinking back to the last time the house was painted, and all the paint colors I tried before settling on that slate blue. I skimmed through some old photos, and found a shot of my garage paint tests:

Before me were the very same same bloody colors I’d just spent the last nine months rejecting: Pale blue. Mountain Moss. Turtle Green, Dakota Woods.

At least I’m consistent. (the final house colors, by the way, are the dark trim and siding just above the garage faucet)

All we’ve gotta do now is pick out the colors for Nathan’s bathroom.

Stay tuned.