Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that I was admiring our blooming gardens and looking forward to a long stretch of approaching summer? Now, Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the roses are finishing their second bloom, hydrangeas are fading into autumn colors, and everything looks overblown and weedy. Why does summer pass so quickly, but winter drags its feet?
Eric’s paid summer off has ended and he’s seeking employment again, figuring he might as well work as long as I still have to. He had such an ambitious to-do list back in June, when summer loomed long and full of promise: prep and paint the house, finish the basement reorg, clear out the storage units, clear out the attic, replace the backyard fence.
He soon learned what a laborious process it is to prep an old house for paint. It’s taken much, much, much longer than he anticipated, and he says he could work months more just on prep. But we don’t have months more. The paint must go on while we have good weather. By October, we’ll be heading into storm season and outdoor painting will be impossible.
After weeks of pressure-washing, scraping, stripping, filling, and sanding, the trim was ready for primer. I don’t know how to spell the sound that 103-year-old wood makes when it sucks up primer; you’ll have to use your imagination.
One day I came home from work and stepped out onto the front porch. The underside of the eave looked uncharacteristically bright and clean. “I may have to give it a second coat,” said Eric. “Of primer?” I asked, puzzled. “No—that’s the trim color,” he replied. WHAAAAT?? It looked—oh no!—white! Well, not stark white … more like cream white, and definitely NOT what I had envisioned. The Valspar “Oatlands Subtle Taupe” was too subtle.
But, by now we had already consumed a $170 five-gallon bucket of the stuff, and I wasn’t about to ask Eric to repaint with another color. “I’ll learn to love it,” I declared. So far, I love it not, but it’s serviceable and it will stay. Before we committed to the color, I was vascillating. Should I go with something a little darker? My gut told me I should, but I decided to trust the test patch that I’d painted. So, Subtle Taupe it was. Damn—I should have listened to my gut. I am still trying to make peace with what I’m sure people will refer to as “white trim.” The fault is entirely mine … but it will be okay.
Weeks of weather too hot and breezy for painting followed, and Eric was limited as to what he could accomplish. Tick-tock, the summer clock counted down.
On another afternoon, Eric led me to our side porch paint testing lab and pointed to a patch of fresh olive green paint. It was the Mossy Aura from the five-gallon bucket … but it didn’t look like the sample I’d applied. It looked … kinda weak, more like split pea soup. No, no, this would never do! We were both disappointed. What, the paint crew at Lowe’s can’t mix the correct shade even with a computer??
We began to think that maybe we should go with Falcon’s Plume, the darker green, after all. I painted a test patch next to the Subtle Taupe trim. It would look beautiful, although the contrast between field and trim would be even greater than before—the opposite direction of where I wanted to go. Still, the combination would be stunning. And after all, hadn’t we initially decided to go bravely dark?
So back to Lowe’s went the Mossy Aura. The guy in the paint lab agreed that something wasn’t right. That’s when Eric discovered that when you return five gallons of $170 mistint paint, not only do you get your money back, you get the replacement five gallons for $99! Woo-hoo!
The next day when I came home from work, I found this:
Wow, that is … really dramatic! Keep in mind, you’re looking at a lot of competing colors here—not just our three new paint colors, but the current house colors and the colorful mums and chair pillows, too. Try to focus on the dark green, the taupe trim, and the dark red accent. Still … wow. It’s dramatic, yes … but, paradoxically, it makes the house disappear. The windows seem to float free. Well … okay, let’s do it!
Later that evening I blurted out, “I think it’s too dark.” Eric didn’t disagree. But could the paint mixer remix an accurate match of Mossy Aura? And if we need more than five gallons (which was likely), what would be the chances that we could get the same shade twice? It seemed that the perfectly matched Falcon’s Plume was the safer bet.
Lying in bed that night, I had a brilliant idea: The next day I would go back to Lowe’s, where surely our five gallons of Mossy Aura mistint would be on sale for a ridiculously low price. I’d buy the bucket, then we’d mix the Mossy Aura and the Falcon’s Plume and come up with the potentially perfect intermediate shade. Genius!
However, in the morning, the DIY gods punished my money-saving plan by killing our stove. I didn’t intend to go stove shopping that day, but the retail gods came to our rescue and put all the appliances at Lowe’s on sale. Score!
We snuck into the paint department, hoping the staff wouldn’t recognize Eric as the original owner of the Mossy Aura. Of course, they didn’t care and they weren’t paying a lick of attention to us. We snatched up our own paint for $30! In other words, we now had ten gallons of paint, which would have cost $340, for $130! But wait, there’s more! At the check out stand the cashier presented us with a coupon for a $30 rebate, which we can use on the Falcon’s Plume paint. Make that ten gallons of paint for $100.
That is, if the two mixed together resulted in the perfect shade. I’m sure some folks are thinking, “Why don’t they just paint the house, already!” Yes, maybe we are a little bit obsessive about our paint colors. In fact, we are the Goldilocks of pickiness. At the other end of the spectrum is my friend Cathy, who wrote about me in her blog:
She made a potentially boring topic about picking paint colors quite interesting to someone who let the next door neighbor pick the paint color for her house (I said “surprise me” and went on a trip).
Wait—paint color is potentially boring? Not endlessly fascinating? Our eyeballs are pretty calibrated when it comes to color. We want what we want.
Now, to test our custom blend. We carefully measured a 1:1 mixture of Mossy Aura and Falcon’s Plume, and applied a generous test patch to the wall. BINGO!! That’s our perfect color! We christened it “Falcon’s Aura.”
Every time I go out to look at it, I’m happy. Yes, I’m absolutely, positively certain. Did I mention we got ten gallons of paint for only $100?