Choosing Between White and Blue While Trying to Avoid Seeing Red.
In the early days of owning the house, I enthusiastically wrote up a long list of home improvement projects that I wanted to embark on. Ranging from the quick and simple (changing a light fixture), to the fancifully unrealistic (a new solarium/dining pavilion built off the back of the house) it was by its very nature destined to become a fluid document. Over time, projects moved up and down the list, some were crossed off as they are finished, some dropped off altogether, and new ones made an appearance. The list never shortens significantly, and most likely it never will (unless I win the lottery or someone convinces Ty Pennington’s producers that my good deeds merit Schoolfield an extreme makeover). As the list entered its second decade, I’ve noticed a new category of projects creeping on. The do-overs. Projects that I finished earlier (often with happy results) that hop back on as my tastes, skills or life circumstances evolve. My master bedroom is the perfect example.
When Joel and I first viewed the master bedroom with our realtor, its assets immediately jumped out at us. The room’s generous proportions, pair of mantels on the north wall (it began it’s existence as two smaller, square bedrooms), and large west-facing windows all spoke to its potential. They valiantly fought and almost won the battle with the rooms detractions, namely it’s 60’s era closets with their hollow board doors, and more significantly, its yellow color. Yellow as a room color does not bother me per se. Sunny hues and buttery yellow tones can brighten a room, and one’s mood. This however, was a thin powdery yellow, limpid and lifeless. The dingy grey (most likely originally white) wall-to-wall carpeting, strewn with bunches of violets didn’t help matters. For a thirty-year old man to have his bedroom carpet strewn with violets is questionable at best. For a thirty-year old gay man with naturally sallow skin tones to have his bedroom walls a powdery yellow color is, inexcusable. A new paint job and carpeting made its way towards the top my list.
Knowing we would eventually be rid of the rooms offensive elements and having other more pressing items in the house to address, we decided to camp out in the room initially. We would put together our large bed and hang artwork after we painted the walls and changed the carpeting. We set up our mattress and box spring directly on the floor. Settling in on our first night, we encountered an offensive element more serious than yellow walls or floral carpeting.
“I can’t sleep like this!” Joel cried. “It smells like a dog! “
It was true, the room smelled like a dog. The whole house smelled like a dog when we moved in. The previous owner had multiple dogs over the years she lived there. Perhaps she owned breeds that leaned towards incontinence, or in the anticipatory delight of owning our first home, our olfactory senses temporarily shut down before buying. Whatever the underlying reason, the house, after being shut up for two hot weeks before we moved in, had allowed the ghosts of dogs past to make their presence known. Fermented vestiges of their once full bladders nearly knocked us over when we opened the door. Airing the house out and a valiant cleaning helped, but the carpets remained a problem. After a steam cleaning and vacuum, the smell was barely noticeable when one stood upright. Lying down, sitting down, or engaging in any activity that would bring your nose within four feet of the floor was another matter entirely. The next day we hastily found someone to come and rip up all the carpeting. It helped alleviate the smell.
It also revealed, under the tightly nailed down plywood subflooring, potentially attractive original pine boards here and there. Not ready to rip up three floors of plywood planking or choose a carpet, we painted the plywood and set up camp again.
Eventually we learned the original pine floors were in remarkably good condition, and had them restored. Instead of figuring out a new color combination for walls and carpeting, we could now just pick out a wall color that would compliment our newly stained dark pine floors.
“Blue!” I brightly suggested.
“White.” Joel archly replied.
And so the battle lines were drawn. I belong to the “Walls Need Color” camp, while Joel was a graduate of the “Walls Should be White” school. We had already skirmished over the living room and family room, ending up with a win for him in our white living room, while I won in the darker red family room. This would be the tiebreaker. I was actually going to be the one painting the room, and tried arguing that should give my preference more weight. Joel pointed out that the reason I was painting it was because I was too cheap to pay for a painter (no points scored there). I then tried pop psychology. I brought to his attention that the walls of bedroom in our apartment were white, and that we didn’t necessarily sleep well in it. I then showed him a passage from a book about the psychology of room colors.
“Blues and greens evoke serenity and peace. They are colors associated with nature and the ocean. Using these colors heavily in your bedroom can help to calm the emotions of its inhabitants, and bring restful nights. Blue will also calm cravings for food after you've gone to bed, because there is very little blue food in nature, so our minds tend to repress hunger at its site. “
With the prospect of a rosy future with less squabbling, less refills on our ambien prescriptions, and retaining our 30 (ok, 32) inch waists longer, how could anyone refuse? Faced with such irrefutable logic, Joel assented (with the proviso that I would repaint the room white if he hated it after 60 days). We drove to the paint store to pick out a blue.
Because of our polar opposite color preferences, we had already developed a system for picking out paint. Once we agreed on the general color, we would each independently pick out four or five favorite shades and hues from the large wall of color chips. We then fanned them out card-style in front of each other on a table, revealing our preferences. If by chance we both had chosen the same specific shade (or close), then kismet! We were golden, and making the final color selection the whole decision was easy, in theory. That never, ever happened.
In reality, we would then start negotiating. We could each throw out the two colors from the others hand we hated (usually he would eliminate the darkest tones I picked, and I would throw out his lightest choices), leaving us with two or three colors that hopefully began to approach each other. Not that it did much good, as we eventually put in ringers for the other to throw out, me picking some obviously too dark hues and he choosing some off whites. We both looked over the color samples and picked our favorites. Given the hundreds of potential shades, the bedroom blue became a long protracted ordeal. We couldn’t settle on a hue that we both liked, and started the whole process from scratch several times. As our voices raised and piles of rejected paint chips rose higher on the floor, the store’s owners came over to mediate. Whether it was motivated by their desire for us both to be happy, or to allow them to close the before midnight, they eventually helped us settle on a color we both could live with.
I duly painted the room. Neither of us really loved it. It wasn’t a rich blue that evoked midnight or the ocean floor I had envisioned, nor the pale blue hue matching an eggshell produced by one of Martha Stewart’s fancy chickens that Joel aspired to, but it was worlds better than the yellow. Setting up the bedroom, it actually looked very good. So it remained for close to a decade.
Several years ago, finding myself single, I started to think about doing the bedroom over. Wanting to establish a new life and independent identity, I thought a new color for the room I slept in might help. I found the walls a little too “baby blue”. Also, over time, eggshell cracks were appearing on the surface of the exterior walls, and paint was starting to flake here and there. Repainting the bedroom went back on my list, not on the top but somewhere near the middle. Sooner than I anticipated, an event boosted its position up, coming in the form of an NYU Student Film Crew who wanted to shoot a movie at my house.