And the Winner Is…

There’s an ongoing issue in my life.  I call it the Mind’s Eye Lacuna.

Stage one is the observation that something aesthetic must be procured.  It might be a pair of boots, a dress, a piece of furniture, or a second-hand brass and copper coal-scuttle.  Stage two, which is the stage I’d like to consign to history but can’t, involves development of a picture in my head of exactly what the item should look like.

I mean exactly.

Stage three is the inevitable discovery that the image conjured by my mind’s eye doesn’t translate to purchasable reality.  Or maybe it has, and I just haven’t found it yet.  Stage three can last months, years, or eons.  During stage three I will not compromise and buy the thing that’s almost good enough.  It’s the perfect marriage of Mind’s Eye Lacuna and Inner Curmudgeonly Old Miser: why pay good money for something that’s not right?

My brain reasons as follows: you might walk around the corner in two years and happen upon the perfect whatsit, only to toss and turn for the next six years having a recurring nightmare along the lines that if only you’d waited you wouldn’t have wasted all that money, and time spent looking at your existing whatsit thinking about how it wasn’t quite right.  Think gnashing teeth and hair violently detached from head.

So it goes.  And so it went with paint for our latest DIY project.  I have spent the last two weeks trying in vain to discern minute differences in shade from the unreliable source of a computer monitor.  I’ve completed repeated bike-rides to the Unfriendly Local DIY Megacorp only to be told that they don’t have the tester of that shade available right now.

I’ve painted the shade on the wall only to discover it differs radically from the paint card, sometimes to such a degree that Trading Standards ought to get involved.

The hallway is both a blank canvas and a gargantuan wall-space.  You can see my efforts to circumvent the Mind’s Eye Lacuna on the right hand side of the photo.  I dug out the tester pots from when we were trying to decide the bathroom (I lost that colour argument and we ended up with green).  The All Purpose Polish Tradesman offered his unsolicited opinion that they are all too dark.  I agreed with him.

One of the shades, that looked on the card as though it would be a mellow grey with just the right tinge of mauve, was in fact a sickening pastel violet pink.  My lard, would it kill them to try and get a vaguely comparable shade on the paint card?

In the category of Best Hallway, the winner is ‘Soft Feather’, produced in the Sanctuary range by Homebase.  It’s just the right kind of grey, and importantly, is currently on half-price sale.

The real Mind’s Eye Lacuna issue was the colour for the living room and dining room.  There’s plenty of light in both of those rooms.  We need to match the walls with our existing furniture, which is both deep red and chocolate brown. I also have future plans for seagrass flooring which is a sort of neutral sage-beige.

The Mind’s Eye conjured an image of a silvery-blue-grey, matt, duck-egg kind of soothing colour.  Not too cold, not too dark, not too warm, not too pale.   K-man began obsessing about blue being inherently cold, so I had to lecture him about underlying green tones.  Or something.  At this point the Mind’s Eye Lacuna had taken over and I was just making shit up.

K-man can’t see into my Mind’s Eye, so he was sceptical.  He was even more sceptical when I bought a shed full of tester pots and they all looked really bad.  I began to lose faith.  He suggested painting the whole lot magnolia until such time as we could find the right shade.  This would require not only years of obsessive searching on my part, but also a re-do of the painful and expensive job of painting two big rooms.

I’m already holding the end of my tether in my hand.

In a temper, I grabbed a paint card and tried to relate colours we’d tried and how they’d come out, and perform some kind of bizarre algorithm accounting for paint manufacturer’s individual notions of shade.

It’s a near-impossible calculation, because one brand’s ‘duck egg’ is another brand’s ‘sky blue’.

The winner is Farrow & Ball’s ‘Light Blue’.  On the paint card, it looks like the bottom left blue, but on the wall it comes out as a perfect representation of the Mind’s Eye colour.

I know it looks like I’m painting my whole house into a cloudy day.  In fact, I think it’s going to look fabulous.  Which makes up for the hours I spent sanding woodwork yesterday.

Finished photos should be with us in about two weeks!

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12 Responses to “And the Winner Is…”


  1. 1 trash January 24, 2011 at 10:50 am

    It is always that stage between having identified what you want and finding it that is the killer. Good job on the choices and do you think it possible we could get a class action against paint-producing companies?

  2. 2 kellyg January 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I’m going to assume that the color you labelled “too decaying fish” is from the paint can labelled smoked trout. I don’t think I would have been able to even try that color.

    When we painted our son’s room, the walls turned out exactly how I wanted. The ceiling on the other hand…. Yes. I paint ceilings. I wanted a light blue but at the last second decided that the blue I had originally settled on would be too light and went with the next shade darker on the chip chart. Argh! It was too dark and too gray. And didn’t go very well with the wall color. After that experience I started getting the sample colors and putting them straight onto the area I wanted to paint. I know some experts say to paint a piece of cardboard or wood or something but those aren’t the same as my walls with the current primer/paint on them so the color I’m testing might still look different on the wall.

    I’m happy for you that you found colors that match what your mind’s eye was seeing. That is a feat in itself. Congratulations. And I think your house is going to look fabulous, too. I like those colors. But then I also liked the green in the new bathroom. I should have you and K-man pick my paint for me.

  3. 3 Jen on the Edge January 25, 2011 at 12:05 am

    I obsess over paint colors too, so I understand completely. I really like the colors you chose and can’t wait to see photos when the job is done.

  4. 4 Jenn @ Juggling Life January 25, 2011 at 12:37 am

    That looks very similar to the color of my daughter’s room. Have you ever tried taking a fabric sample or a piece of pottery that has the color you want and have them color match it? I’ve had success with that.

    I love bold paint–I’ve got a cranberry wall in one room, my living room is terra cotta and my bedroom is a phenomenal sage.

  5. 5 Bella Rum January 25, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I hate choosing paint color. I did a post on it, too – last January – when we painted the living room and dining room. We chose ‘Nantucket Tan’ from Sherwin Williams. We brought the samples home and finally chose one. It’s quite a process. Who knew we’d place so much importance on the color of our walls? But it is something we have to live with for quite a while. Hoping you post pix of the finished product.

  6. 6 sue b January 25, 2011 at 4:46 am

    what a lovely color…hope you’ll share a photo when it’s all done

    • 7 nic January 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

      I’ll definitely be posting pictures when it’s done. The living room is scheduled for this weekend, so I should have pictures on Monday.

      @ Kellyg – got it in one! I too suggested painting the ceilings a colour other than white, but it was scotched from on high by K-man, who declared it to be THE LAW that ceilings are only ever ‘brilliant white’. He has certain bizarre ideas about things, but at least we will have zero risk of a costly too-dark error! I feel your pain.

      @ Jenn – I thought about it, but with this colour the problem is I have only seen it on the interior walls of a stately old home. What I should have done was call them and ask what paint they used in the library. But I didn’t think of that until right now, because I’m an idiot.

  7. 8 Mrs. G. January 30, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    My grandparents’ bathroom was “just no”. At that time it was called “powder room blue”. You must be developing some guns with all the painting.

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