Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Colour planning and other adventures with walls

For weeks now I've been sparing you all from any discussion of interior decorating, even though there is a ton of decision-making going on behind the screen here.  I'd like to tell you it's just the fun stuff - fabric and paint - but, Nope.  And I think that's why I am increasingly drawn to the palest of pale wall colour options.

What I am learning is that every decision impacts several others, and this is why interior designers are worth a lot of money and should be involved from the get-go.  At almost any stage of a renovation there are just so many ways to achieve the effect you want in the end - why not pick the one that will keep lots of options open?

Because you don't think of the options in time, that's why.  Not unless you're very clever and/or very experienced.

I'm getting better at this job, though.  Just today for example Brian called to make sure it was okay with me if he put our thermostat in the hallway at the top of the stairs to the basement, beside the light switch that's next to the doorway to the living room.  My gut reaction was Yes Please, because if he puts it anywhere else on the main floor it will be near a gas fireplace and any time we use said fireplace the temperature in the rest of the house will drop like a rock, just like it did in the previous version of our house.

And then I stopped myself mid sentence and said WAIT - is having the thermostat beside a light switch going to chew up that wall such that I can't hang a painting there?  Because I suddenly remembered we have very little space to hang art in the new house, and a lot of art to hang, and this particular wall was going to be a blank canvas for us.

(In the end we decided that Brian would choose what's best for him and then get Ray's okay, because Ray hangs a lot of art himself, and thinks about stuff like ideal thermostat placement, and ultimately the thermostat is important and I can always run a row of plates or something over the top of all the switches and knobs.  It will still look good in the end, somehow.)

The heating and ventilation system is influencing all sorts of design decisions actually, all over the house.  We went with in-floor heat to avoid losing precious square footage to ductwork, so instead there are some interior walls full of copper pipe with the size of the doorways adjusted, by which I mean narrowed, to accommodate them.  I pity anybody in the future who decides to make the place a little more open concept because we've already picked the most practical places for those to go - even if it wouldn't cost a fortune to move them, there's simply nowhere else for them to be.

And even the most practical place is not always wonderful.  We decided to put the manifold for the first and second floor heat into our bedroom closet to spare the custom cabinetry that's going into the kitchen and dining room, but that was before I realized we are talking about a panel 22" wide, 18" tall, and as much as 4" deep that has to be accessible so we can turn the water on and off if necessary.  The master closet is already pretty small for two people, one of whom owns a ridiculous number of shoes (and I'm not talking about moi, though I can't complain because most of them are for running and ball hockey and I should be more active myself.)

Andy, our genius kitchen designer, worked with Brian on how to get around this problem and came up with the best solution.  I am so grateful now that IKEA's very affordable closet options were the wrong depth, forcing us to pay a fortune for a custom closet, because it makes the manifold an opportunity instead of a flaw to disguise.  Check out the side view (both sides are the same, in mirror image):

adj shelf means 'adjustable'

Originally, we were going to have pull-out shoe shelves that ran right to the wall, but the manifold was going to block them from pulling and Andy didn't like that.  Instead he cut the shoe-shelf section short, added another 6" section that could be either a solid wall or a hanging space (guess which one I voted for), and designed a custom cabinet for the manifold on the wall between Pete's side and mine:

I'm thinking about vintage-look glass knobs for the manifold cabinet doors.  What about you?

I love that the cabinetry will become the perfect frame for a custom mirror from the fabulous place that Ray uses (we really appreciate the mirrors they supplied for the condo) or we can hang something with a big gorgeous frame around it, if we prefer.  I mean, mirrors do lose their silver over time and it might be wise to have one we can take down and deal with, rather than one that's glued to the wall... or maybe it's better not to have one that, being glued, will never fall on us, since we'd only start to see a problem around the time we turn 80.

Or of course, we could hang a painting.

Okay, now we're getting to the main point of today's post, which is not that you should totally work with Andy if you live in Toronto and need a kitchen, though that is true, because he is amazing.  Instead, it is: what colour wall paint to choose?

When I lived in England people around me were always using the phrase "At the end of the day", which was a real learning curve for me because the only related phrase I'd used was "In the end" and I kept thinking they were referring to an event to take place on a specific day rather than an ultimate outcome.  As in, "At the end of the day, will it matter which of these two press releases we go with? because frankly I'm just counting the hours until I can pick up chips at the tube station, good heavens they are delicious and I can't get them out of my mind."

However, when it comes to paint, there is no question about it: At the end of the day is the right phrase.  Because you can agonize about paint colours for a whole day's worth of angst, and then some, until you realize that

a/ if you want white, every paint company's offerings are pretty close to the same colour once they're on the wall

b/ most cabinet companies (in Canada anyway) offer Benjamin Moore's 'Cloud White' as a standard shade with no extra charge

c/ custom cabinetry is too expensive to be specifying a custom white that will end up looking almost exactly the same as Cloud White

And after you decide on Cloud White for the cabinets that are going to cover most of the walls in a room, however pedestrian and old-hat it may seem after years and years of being the go-to white, it makes sense to paint the walls of that room Cloud White also.  I mean, in our case, we are talking about a few inches, at most two feet, between a cabinet and the next door or window frame. How weird would a dark stripe of blue or gold look on that tiny irregular patch of wall that isn't even balanced by a corresponding patch anywhere else?

And if your floor is a light colour too - doesn't it make sense to keep the unbroken walls of other, cabinet-free rooms kind of airy and peaceful too so the whole house looks like it belongs together?  Especially if your brain is all cluttered up with boring decisions about where to put manifolds and the like?

I'm sure this is why I am fixating on the very very pale off-whites from Benjamin Moore for our bedroom walls.  I did pick some upholstery fabric - also off-white - for this room, so I will eventually narrow my choices to a colour that looks best with it, and since the walls are going to end up looking pale green no matter one I do because of the tint on our windows, I might as well choose one with either a green undertone or a pink one (to neutralize the green).

But omigosh, even within those guidelines, they all look so much the same.  Until you take a photograph and do an autocorrect on the image in your photo-processing software.

Here it is again pre-correction:

MAN autocorrect makes it easier to see the depth of a particular shade, and possibly even the undertone, though of course that might be the software messing with me.

Or you could just look at the whole spectrum with the autocorrect on, and breathe:

Or you could paddle around in the bliss of the names your favourites have been given:

OC24 Wind’s Breath
OC27 Balboa Mist
OC30 Gray Mist
OC31 Fog Mist
OC41 French Canvas
OC42 Old Prairie
OC43 Overcast
OC46 Halo
OC50 November Rain

(Okay, so 'Old Prairie' doesn't exactly sound like a foggy day that you spend at the window wearing muslin and reading Proust over china cups full of steaming tea, but you get the idea.)

(I have never read Proust.  have you?)

Or you could pick some curtain fabric for pity's sake, and match something in that, which is what I really need to do.  But apparently cabbage roses and peonies are not super hugely in fashion at the moment, and since they are what I want and I haven't found one I like from the somewhat limited selection it seems I can afford, I am Still Looking.

(Did you know that some English linen/cotton blend floral decorating fabrics cost as much as six or seven hundred dollars a yard? I didn't.  And I'm not going to risk pricing the matching wallpaper now that I do, I can tell you that much.)

Thank goodness Ray's decided it's more urgent to get the floor down and the cabinetry in than it is to paint before that happens, because I have a few more weeks to figure out fabric.

Well, that was a long post! Good bedtime reading, if nothing else, right?

(that was my exit line, but honestly: who can turn down a pale pale green called French Canvas?  I am totally rooting for that one to win.)


Anonymous said...

Good heavens so many decisions it would tangle my mind. Maria Killam post on Sept 5. deals with a green cast on white. Plus good shot of Richard Gere. Knitting cures almost any indecision. Sounds good anyways don't you think?

Mary Keenan said...

There is a sneaky link to that very article in the post - I was so glad to read a solution to our problem! Most people get their green tint from the plants outside and I call them LUCKY. I was leaning toward a pale celery sort of paint colour anyway but it's so nice to know I can counterbalance the green and wash it out, if I want :^)