Monday, August 26, 2013

True Colors

One-a-Day Redux
Day Twenty-Six:  Color

One of the first things discussed in the painting class I took earlier this year is what a drastic difference there is between the color of a shady patch of grass and that same grass with the sun shining on it. One would think that would have been obvious, but I'd never given it a conscious thought. I wish it had been pointed out to me before I picked out paint colors for my house.

When I bought this house, most of its walls were covered with wood paneling. Replacing the paneling with drywall was beyond my budget, so painting the paneling seemed to be the next best option to brighten up the place. I knew from the outset that I wanted the walls to be the neutral gray-green color of Spanish moss, so I went from store to store collecting paint samples in that color range. All of them were close, but I couldn't decide which one was exactly right.

My daughter solved the problem for me when I was talking about paint colors while we were riding in the car. She abruptly pulled into someone's driveway, got out and yanked a big handful of moss from a nearby low-hanging branch. Now I had something real to compare the swatches to.

That afternoon I sat in my den, moss in one hand, swatches in the other, and chose the nearest color. The next day I took it to the home-improvement store and asked them to mix paint in that shade. Several gallons of it. That night we painted primer over the paneling, and the next day we applied the custom-color paint. Once the fresh paint dried, the room was still quite dark. Not as dark as the paneling had made it, but certainly not as light and airy as I'd expected.

The problem, I now understand, is that I'd sat indoors--in the shade--with the moss and the color swatches. I picked the color of shady moss. Compare the wall color to the shady parts of the moss in this composite photo, and you'll see what I'm talking about:

If I'd made the selection outside in the sunshine, I would have come much closer to the lighter color I'd expected. Lesson learned.

When it comes time to repaint, maybe I'll try again for the moss-in-sunshine color. In the meantime, I've learned to love and live with the darker shade. It still gives the house the outdoorsy feel I like; it just happens to be outdoors in the woods.

While I've been writing this, it's occurred to me that this light-and-shadows rule can apply to people as well as to paint colors. I think most of us put our bright, sunny sides out there so others see those first. Only people who know us well or observe us very closely ever get a glimpse of our darker, shadowy natures. Lord knows that would explain a few situations in which I've made worse decisions than wall paint color.

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