The August List

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Our vacation rental on Walloon Lake.

1) Northern Michigan (aka Up North) is to Detroiters, as Tahoe is to San Franciscans. I blame Northern Michigan for my blog lull, by the way. We’ve been back over a week and I still can’t get out of vacation mode.

2) Most gnats inhaled on an evening run: four.

3) Nevermind gnats. Whatup spiders? Unless you spray (which we don’t), they are everywhere. I walk through at least one web per day, usually in the morning before I’ve had coffee (letting the dog out). Creeps me out every time, even though I’m expecting it.

4) The guy at Trader Joe’s asked me if I just moved here (they always check my ID, which still says California). He’s from Santa Rosa. He said, “You know what you won’t be able to find out here….good Chinese food.” Yep.

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American Spoon

5) Speaking of food, the best meal I’ve had since I moved was in Petoskey (Up North territory) at a great spot called American Spoon. As I was enjoying my not-greasy whitefish sandwich and potato salad with snap peas and mint (I miss you, San Francisco!), I fell in love with the paint color. Which miraculously they had on file. Which unfortunately is either a mistake or no longer exists, because I cannot find it anywhere, at least not under the brand name they gave me. Waaaahhhh!

6) Yes, you did just see my kid sitting on a pink potty. In the back of my SUV. In the library parking lot.

7) When school starts in Grosse Pointe, summer is officially o-VER. Pools close, restaurants shorten hours, traffic laws change (no right turn on red). In San Francisco, there is no official end of summer. In fact, summer is just getting started (September and October are two of its most gorgeous months).

8) Finding the perfect paint color for the foyer suddenly seems ridiculous and embarrassing when you are waiting for your Italian sub at Which-Wich and start reading the headlines of the newspaper tacked to the walls. Ugh.

sign9) A lawn sign you will never find in San Francisco (above). For one thing, no one has a lawn in San Francisco, but that’s not really the point. Lawn signs are big here. There’s one in front of our new house right now, actually, that the painters put up.

10) Need to get back on your feet, Detroit? Start charging for stuff! It’s free to park anywhere on Belle Isle and admission to the aquarium and conservatory are free (in SF, prices are $35 and $5, respectively). Residents also get a free ride to the DIA museum (at the SF MOMA, it’s $18). A couple weeks ago I parked at St. John’s for a doctor’s appointment. It’s a huge Detroit hospital, as big as San Francisco General. Free parking. (In SF, you’d pay $6.00 – $12.00 easy for the shortest doctor visit).

11) When the guys at Benjamin Moore say, “Bye, see you soon!” as you’re leaving, it’s time to decide on a paint color already.

12) When you start giving other Benjamin Moore patrons color advice, it’s time to pack it up and go home. (Although she did say the creamy white I suggested was exactly what she was looking for. Boo-yeah.)

 

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.