That Time We Repainted the Living Room

Happy New Year!

December was a lazy month for me. I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks and am finally sitting down to do it. I wasted 15 minutes between typing the title and the first line by Googling “ab exercises, best haircut and slow cooker artichoke dip, but I think I’m good now.

When we moved in to the house in September of 2014, the living room looked like this….house.living house.living3

I hated the beige walls (too…muddy? too blah? Plus, does anyone like beige? These people, obviously. And the lady from Calico, who recently suggested maybe we paint our living room beige. Umm). So we added the living room to our to-be-painted list.

I wanted something clean, fresh, airy. Something white. I brought home dozens of white samples (you wouldn’t believe how many whites there are) from Benjamin Moore before they started charging for the 8 x 10 sheets (which I’ve no doubt I had something to do with) and even though several design bloggers (what do they know, anyway) said to stay away from Navajo White (a “dull, boring” white), I went with it.

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Old pic during remodel. Couldn’t find recent.

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The color definitely helped the room. But it still didn’t feel right. Was it airy? Sure. But now it was too airy. And plain (damn those design bloggers!). I realized the problem was that I was fighting with the room. I wanted it to be a Northern California room when it so clearly wanted to be Grosse Pointe. Okay, fine.

In January (we’d painted the room in October ’14), I wanted to repaint while the guys were here doing the kitchen and family room, but my husband wasn’t on board. In November, he all of a sudden wants to get curtains and gives me the go ahead for a repaint as well. Hurray!

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Deciding to go blue seemed the most logical choice. Our dining room was green, our kitchen, a gray-green, our hallway, a gray-tan (not beige!) and upstairs we have different variations of gray. Yellow was too….cheery and other colors like red or orange, too Victorian. I’d actually already selected a gray-blue, back when I thought we might be painting in January.

Of course me being me, I had to go through the process all over again. Back to Benjamin Moore, scouring the internet. I had visions of this….

Blue walls, pink chairs.:

to die for, right?

and this…Blue and Green: I picked up some paint samples, just to see. But painting it a deep blue, even though it would look beautiful and moody, would not really flow with the rest of the house. I tried to justify it in my head by saying that the room could be shut off with the double doors and therefore didn’t have to flow or that it was our house, we could paint it whatever we wanted, couldn’t we? But ultimately my dark blue fantasy room would have to wait.

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But the pink chairs would have looked so great with that deep blue. Sigh.

Another issue was our huge vintage poster. It has a striking blue background, so whatever blue we came up with would need to not clash with it, not match with it perfectly, not have too much green in it, etc. I was beginning¬† to realize that blue is a tough color to get right. As my mother-in-law stated, “it’s a commitment.”

For a day or two I toyed with the idea of a light blue (the Calico gal suggested that as well, to match the little blue flowers on the couch). And went back to the store for more samples. But a light blue living room made me think of an old lady’s house where you walk into the room and there are individually wrapped caramels sitting in a bowl. Just no.

I was going mental over it and my husband was done hearing about it. One evening, after begging him to deliberate with me once more, he rolled his eyes (okay I can’t say that with 100% certainty, but there is a high probability), threw his hands in the air (maybe) and said “well you love the dining room so much, why don’t you just paint it that color!” This ended the conversation and I was beyond annoyed. I mean beyond.

And yet.

I did love the dining room color. Nantucket Gray. The perfect green. Fresh but not too bright. Welcoming, but somewhat mysterious. My favorite color in the whole house. It would solve the problem of the blue painting and would certainly flow well with the rest of the house. Genius.

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I love it. The room feels much more inviting and looks tied together. I think once we get the curtains up (another harrowing decision oh my gosh! I’m so nervous about it), it will look even better.

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So that’s the story of how the living room got painted green.

The December List is up next. It’s snowing as I write this, but just a light dusting. We’re hoping for more this month (I mean, if it’s going to be cold, I’d rather it snow), but it’s been such a warm winter. Relatively speaking. Happy January!

Meet Tim, the Color Expert

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My bad on the blurry photo. This is maybe the second or third time I’ve ever asked a “stranger” if I could take their photo (my introverted self applauds my bravery and excuses my poor photography. Hope you will, too).

Meet Tim, the color expert at Shelby Paint (the local Benjamin Moore store). We met at the new house yesterday to finalize colors for the walls.

But first, lets turn back time a couple weeks. I was in the thick of researching, reviewing and setting up appointments with various contractors and was starting to doubt my ability to make decisions (when you’re talking about spending large sums of money, you want to get things right. Or at least close).

My (exasperated?) husband suggested hiring an interior designer, which pretty much everyone does here. And they are everywhere. Seriously, I have seen more interior decorator/design shops and businesses here per square mile than….well, at least than any other place I’ve lived. After giving it a lot of thought, I agreed we should go ahead and take money out of the home improvement budget and hire someone. However.

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Our “office.”

My gut didn’t really want to go that route. So I called up my friend and former roommate Liz for her take on the matter. She completely changed my mind, arguing that so many places nowadays will provide design help for free or for a small fee that you can put towards goods or services (upholstery shops, furniture stores, paint stores, carpet places). And, she said, do you want to spend $150 an hour for someone to show you paint samples? No. You have a good aesthetic, she said. You can do this.

Really what she did wasn’t change my mind. I already knew what I wanted to do (or not do, in this case). I just needed someone to believe in me. Before I spoke to her, I felt so overwhelmed and stressed by all of it – the scheduling, the interviewing, the decision-making. After I got it into my head that I could do it, I just got it done. Bing bang boom. Funny how that works.

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Nantucket Gray, dining room.

One of the calls I made was to Shelby Paint. For just $90 ($50 of which you get back in the form of a gift card), a “color expert” will meet with you and help you pick out a color (or in my case, colors) for your project. Bam.

Flash forward to yesterday. How did you end up being a color expert?, I ask Tim. He tells me he started out in sales at another paint shop in town (which has since closed) in the early ’80s. One day his boss asked him if he’d be interested in helping a friend of his pick a color for his office (or house? Drat, I wasn’t taking good notes at this point). He goes over and helps the guy out. Then down the line, he helps another guy out and another, and pretty soon it becomes a regular thing.

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Athena, entryway and living room. (photo via homebunch.com)

After the shop closed, he moved to his current job at Shelby Paint/Benjamin Moore. At that job interview, he brought up his color consulting abilities and wondered if he could do the same for them. At first they said no. They were skeptical about community interest. He asked for two weeks to prove himself and they agreed. In Tim’s words, “the phones kept ringing,” so he’s still there, doing what he enjoys and is good at (as I can vouch for). At one point, as he was on his hands and knees, digging through his color swatches to find what he thought was a truer gray for the master (the one I’d picked was too green), he said, “This is the fun part, this is what I love doing the most.”

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Galveston Gray, one of two possible grays for the master bedroom.

Thankfully (and because I’m awesome), most of the colors I had on my shortlist worked well with each other, so we were able to take our time narrowing them down. Tim made a couple suggestions and substitutions, for example, selecting a creamier white for trim and suggesting we paint the dining room ceiling the same color as the walls (Nantucket Gray, a very subdued gray-green that I had at the top of my list).¬† That’s something I would never have thought of doing, but may actually consider (and if I like it, suggest to the husband over a glass of wine. Or four).

To give me the full effect of how the dining room could make for a dramatic focal point, he closed the french doors, then walked to the front door, pretending to be a guest coming in for the first time. He walked past the dining room to the stairs…yes, he says, this could be a real “wow” moment. Especially after we replace the chandelier. Ahem. He was also interested in the other decor (paint, light fixtures, wallpaper, drapes) the previous owners had left behind. He would ask, “and are you getting rid of these drapes?” and when I affirmed, he would let out a small sigh of relief and say, “thank you” under his breath.

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Acadia White, trim.

Before he leaves, I asked him about trends. No one is using borders anymore (decorative borders that run underneath ceiling trim). People are going more neutral (Even here in Grosse Pointe? Yes, he says. People are using furniture more as accents or showpieces now). And he’s seeing lots of soft yellow. In kitchens, but also in other parts of the house. And one more thing… Wallpaper? It’s coming back.