When Ken and I began dating, he showed me his portfolio, and I marveled at how he had transformed tract homes into jewel boxes. I also instinctively felt that such grandeur had nothing to do with me. In gradate school I’d absorbed the Marxist notion that, since I relied on wage labor, I shared more with the proletariat than the bourgeoisie. I assumed that remodeling and redecorating were the province of the rich, on the order of an Ivy League education, a trust fund, or place settings involving chargers, napkin rings, and shrimp forks. If you’ve read this site’s basic principles, though, you know how wrong I was. Homes just like my small modernist condo cry out for vivid paint and bold moldings.
|The proletariat contemplating paint chips.|
When Ken suggested that we paint the bedroom, I was certain the process would expose the vicious taste and fundamental idleness I’d cleverly concealed with well-cut clothes, cute shoes, and a surface knowledge of such substances as spackle and grout. More than anything, I felt unqualified. I was pretty sure I preferred bright colors to muted ones, but then I’d been burned so often! Why, when I was 12 or so, my parents let me pick paint for my bedroom, and I’d been chastened by the result: horrid flamingo-colored walls and a concrete floor the color of dried blood. In my 20s I bought innumerable compacts of eye shadow in bright jewel tones — not disposable drugstore trash, but compacts that closed with a sound reminiscent of a Mercedes door — only to discover that bright eye makeup on hooded brown eyes reliably lends me a jaded, haggard look more suitable, as the Victorians would say, in an entirely different class of female. I nourished a secret fear that I couldn’t be trusted with color.
Ken gently suggested green, and chose paint chips from the neighborhood Sherwin Williams. He extolled the virtues of a matte finish, and described how color would turn everything from a common switch plate to a brick wall into a distinguished architectural detail. He propped two paint chips behind my beloved painting, and invited me to live with them, which I dutifully did. After a few days, I chose one more or less at random, consoled by his promise to repaint the whole thing white if I didn’t like it.
He applied samples to the wall, and I nervously admitted that they were pretty, particularly around the artwork. We set aside a weekend, and while I read aloud from the first volume of the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Painter transformed our bedroom.
|After a weekend well spent.|
It’s funny to reflect back on my introduction to paint. The rules he expounded were absolutely correct: the matte green looked like velvet, particularly with two precisely-applied, lavish coats. Far from making the room seem poky or cramped, vivid color rendered it intimate and elegant. The project proved inexpensive, too — about $150 for four different shades plus samples. By the time the first wall was complete, I was scheming to create the gallery walls downstairs.
I would never be as timid and compliant again. I bought samples with abandon, explored bizarre color combinations, and made a whole series of silly and instructive mistakes. As Ken has put together his website, I’ve wanted to tell our own story, since, as promised, paint and moldings changed first our home, and then my life.