Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Design on a Dime

Until Saturday, my house looked pretty much as it did when I bought it a year ago. I hadn't lifted a paint brush or driven a nail. Yes, I did buy some furniture, and there's less echo in there than when I first closed on the joint, but interior decorating isn't something I have much interest in or talent for.

Over the past year I bought two futon/sofas for the living room and a pair of runners. A guy I know called last fall and handed off some chairs out of the back of a truck, including a wooden armchair that gets approving nods from designer types but isn't very comfortable to sit on (not padded). The wrought-iron table and chairs my old roommate and I got from Ace Hardware for our old porch now grace the dining room. The window treatments are Redi-Shades (about seven bucks at Home Depot, by the way). The guy who delivered my futons referred to the ceiling fixtures as "interrogation lights."

All of this is beginning to change. Through a friend who teaches history at a for-profit bachelor's/trade school, I found an aspiring interior designer. I think we're getting Japanese meets Mexican more by accident than design. I'd say the Mexican part is the color scheme, which I'm having trouble swallowing. We painted two walls last Saturday--one is yellow, another is purple. The back wall and the kitchen. It's to stop the bowling alley effect of the long, open first floor.

The wall ate a lot of the purple paint. It's only the first coat so I shouldn't freak about the paint job, but it's uneven. The dark color totally sucks up the light. I used to love how the light hit the wood floor. Now you can hardly see it. She's not touching the upstairs--which is still white, thank God.

She's making screens for the lower halves of the first floor windows, so the top halves will be bare. Hopefully this will offset the loss of light somewhat, but I'm not betting it will bring back my beautiful light on the floor.

The upholstery, window screens and light fixtures should be worth it, but I don't know how long I'll put up with this paint job. It does feel warm in the winter, and it's dark out anyway. Painting is a pain though and I wasn't planning to go through it twice.

When it's done maybe I'll post photos for public comment. I'm going to regret this when I get this winter's heat bills, too. Why did I waste money on paint I don't even like when this winter's gas bill may double last year's?


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Anonymous said...

Did you use primer? If not, that could be the reason why the paint went on unevenly. I'm certainly no expert--having painted my first and only household walls a mere month ago. But, we had several 3' x 4' test sections of various shades of orange paint on the walls, and we didn't want them to show through. So, we used primer. I was worried when we finished the primer coat, as that certainly dried unevenly. I did have a vague memory that primer normally does that. And, in fact, the top coat went on beautifully. Again, I was worried as we were painting the top coat, as the edges that Andrea was painting seemed like a different shade than the roller that I was doing. In the end, that was an effect of the slight drying that happened between his cutting in and my rolling. It dried seamlessly (even the touchups that were at least 30 minutes after the previous pass are invisible). We only needed one coat of the color (orange), which is one of the things that makes me wonder if a lack of primer might be causing your unevenness.

If your designer suggests color for the upstairs and you have any remaining inclination to try, I do suggest painting large 3 x 4 foot sections to test the color. Paint around a corner so you can see how the color reflects off of itself. We left our test sections up for weeks, looking at them in different lights, at different times of day, with pieces of our bed frame and bed linens against them. For a time, our inclination was to go with the darker orange, but we still weren't convinced. So we took even more time and eventually (finally!) decided on the lighter orange. Though it was frustrating at times that it was taking such a long time, I'm glad in the end that we took all of that time. Now that the room is painted in the lighter orange, it is clear that the darker orange would have been too intense.

It's really hard to pick paint colors. The paper swatches are a good attempt, but in my limited experience aren't really at all like the color. And, even when you do paint the large test sections, it is still hard to imagine what it will look like when the entire wall or room is covered.

My conclusion is that most people don't get paint color right on their first try. Some people just live with it, which is what I think the previous owners of our house must have done with the bedroom in which the color looked nice in late afternoon--when no one is ever in their bedroom--and awfully drab the rest of the time. Other people repaint until they get the color they want, which is what my sister did when she went through 4 shades of green before she got the color that she wanted for the area between her kitchen cabinets and counter.

I will look forward to seeing either pictures or the real thing!

Love, C.

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