A paint contractor called me the other day to help on a big exterior project he was working on. His clients R & M had presented him with their large, dignified stone house that had not been painted in many years.
It’s exciting to polish a diamond. This place has beautiful moulding, old wooden shutters with heart cut-outs, and honest-to-god pillars.
R&M were weary of the deep blue shutters and bright white trim. Colors that are not right will wear you out. Visual exhaustion is real and is caused by colors that are not meant to be together.
R especially was visually worn out. Their house is a glory of warm gold/grey stone dug up from the local hillside long, long ago. Nautical blue and a bright white accents on that warm rich stone colors are hard on the ol’ eyeballs. I had an impulse to pull the shutters off the walls with my bare hands, but resisted because I am a professional.
We took a walk around the house and chatted about the feeling they wanted, and I looked for the places where colors could shift to get an idea of how many colors this big hunk of house needed.
Long story short: 4 colors!
We chose York Gray CW-45 for the trim around the windows, the soffits and pillars. York Gray is soft, yummy and happy to hang out next to the stone walls.
For the shutters, downspouts and an iron railing around a second-floor deck: Bucktrout Brown CW-180. Bucktrout might be the most mysterious deep, rich chocolate EVER. What’s its secret? A drop of purple. Bucktrout Brown is the best friend of a warm gray stone with gold undertones.
There are 2 exterior porches with stucco ceilings and you know I hate to throw away a ceiling, so they are painted in Cole Stone CW-60. This is a soft middle tone that bridges York Gray and the Bucktrout very nicely.
The all important Front Door, as well and the kitchen and rear doors, got the pop of color. There were several choices that were gorgeous. R&M went with Parrot Green CW-465, which surprised them both! It’s an unusual choice. It adds a lovely leafiness to the stone and other earthy paint colors, and suits the personalities of R&M.
I don’t want you to think we landed on this 4-color combination in 5 minutes. We looked at most of the Williamsburg deck and tried out several combinations that were in the R&M comfort zone. Almost always, people need to see their preconceived notions. Sometimes those first ideas do work, but more often the first ideas are scrapped, and then the Creative Door opens to combinations that had not been thought of or considered. This is when the magic happens.
I left R sitting at her kitchen table with four 4×8 sheets in her hands: her new palette of colors for the exterior. She was amazed at what they had chosen – nothing like what they had planned – and how happy they both were at the unexpected choices. It is amazing what happens when we let go of preconceptions and let our own deep artist selves and the house itself lead the way.
PS. I’m just back from 2 weeks in northern Italy where I taught travel journalling to a wonderful group of women, ate like the Queen of Italy, walked 14,000 steps a day, and took in the colors of the region. Posts about my color adventures there soon.