Friday, September 21, 2012

Chip Tease: On Paint Colors and the Coast

Note: Buckle up, my friends.  We're in for a long one.  I've been away for ages, I know, but mostly because we've been painting.  And painting.  And painting.  If you're as crazy about paint and colors as I am, or if you want some interesting links to things paint- or Maine-related, then read the text.  If you just want to see colors and pretty pictures, please feel free to skip my ramblings!

I have a longstanding obsession love affair with paint, as does Mr. Magpie, and we have been talking nonstop about colors for the cottage ever since the day we stood in its kitchen with our realtor and emailed in our offer.

Ultimately, I think every color we've chosen has been inspired by one thing: the coast.  More specifically, we've been inspired by two coasts, one we live on and one we've never even seen in person before.

Photo I took on the island three years ago.  On the right are mason jars filled with the sea glass we gathered that fall.

Ever since those four months that we spent on Peaks Island here in southern Maine three years ago, I have dreamed of a room painted the color of my favorite pieces of sea glass.  Benjamin Moore's Palladian Blue is just that color.  As soon as it went up on the walls of our living room, I knew it was right.  It shifts all day long in the changing light, from blue to green to both, combined with a touch of soft gray.  Sometimes it feels like the sky, other times like the shallows of a sandy beach.

Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue

Oh, I should mention that we've done all our walls, including the kitchen, in a matte finish using Benjamin Moore's Regal Select paints.  This paint is very durable and washable.  Yes, we've already had to wash some spots--moving is dirty business!  This paint is also incredibly easy to work with.

If you're a local reader, you might be interested to know that we've bought all our paint at Maine Paint Co. on Forest Avenue in Portland.  Working with a local store has been wonderful.  Folks there knew us by name after just a couple of visits, and they have been helpful with every question we've had, whether practical (Q: "When is that floor paint ever going to cure?"  A: "Fifteen days.  Be patient." And they were right.  It did take exactly fifteen days.) or aesthetic (Q: "Should we dare to paint our dining room a very dark and dramatic color?"  A: "Yes."  Emphatically.  And they were right.  Or more precisely, she was right.  Tanasia at Maine Paint has been a color consultant extraordinaire).  And this dining room color question leads me to the next chip: Newburg Green.

Benjamin Moore Newburg Green

There is a story behind this beautiful color, which, on our dining room walls reads sometimes as navy, sometimes as deep teal, and sometimes as nearly black.  Gasp.  Serious drama.  I am in love. Remember how I mentioned a coast we've never seen in person?  Over the summer, the Portland Museum of Art hosted an exhibition called The Draw of the Normandy Coast, featuring French and American artists of the 19th and 20th centuries who were inspired by the cliffs and ports of Normandy.  What impressed us upon first arriving at the show were the walls of the gallery themselves, which some brilliant people at the museum had painted a very deep marine blue.  Against this backdrop the Monets, Whistlers, and Dufys were stunning.  Again and again we found this blue in the paintings themselves--sometimes darker, sometimes lighter, but variations on deep, briny blue with hints of green.  Wouldn't we love a room in a color like this, we wondered.  Well, yes, but we hadn't found a house yet.  We were putting the cart well ahead of the horse.  In fact, the horse was still nowhere in sight.  

And then we found the house.  And then we thought, it's a little cottage.  It should be all light-filled rooms and whitewash and sea glass.  We forgot all about the Normandy coast.

But there sat our dining room in the darkest corner of the house with two windows, one of which lets in little light at the moment due to an overgrown (not for long) viburnum rubbing against its panes.  A dark room, indeed.  We decided to fight the darkness.  We talked with Tanasia.  She sent us home with lots of wonderful samples in light and bright colors.  None of them worked in the room.  We went back to the store.  We talked some more, and the ever-patient woman asked us questions, offered ideas, and listened to our color woes.       

And then it happened.  There on the table in the paint store was a copy of Maine Magazine.  I absentmindedly flipped through it while we chatted, and I was about to set it aside when it fell open to a page advertising the upcoming Winslow Homer exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art.  It's difficult to describe the buzz surrounding this exhibition.  Pretty much everyone I know can't wait to go; nor can we wait for the tours of his famous studio at Prout's Neck.

Winslow Homer, Eight Bells, 1886

But that's not what I was thinking about at the moment.  All I could see was blue.  That spot of blue in the break in the clouds.  And suddenly the Normandy coast was back.  And the Maine coast.  And I showed it to Todd, and we both knew.

So the color we chose is called Newburg Green, and there is green in there, but only to serve the blue, and like the ocean and sky along a northern coast, that blue is ever-shifting and changing with the day and the whims of the weather.  I can't wait to show you our dark dining room.


Benjamin Moore Mountain Peak White

Now onto trim and ceilings and doors and even the brick fireplace.  I love white for trim and doors, especially in a cottage, but I know how hard it can be to choose.  Too much yellow in it and it can feel dirty; too much blue and it feels cold, etc.  I think we simply must test it at various times of day against the other colors we plan to use in a room.  A white can look hideous at the store under their fluorescent lights but be a stunner in sunlight or under incandescents.  The opposite can be true, as well.  I've fallen in love at the store only to find once I get it home that the crisp white I thought was the color of sun-bleached seashells is actually the yellow of a chain smoker's fingernails.  

I wasn't expecting to like Mountain Peak White, but its sample was the one color that matched the bead board cupboards (be still my heart) in our kitchen, and I knew I wanted to paint the kitchen walls the same color as the cupboards to make the whole room light and bright and airy, so I went with it, and guess what?  In our house it looks clean and fresh without being blinding.  And it may have an alpine name, but it feels wonderfully seaside cottage-y, so it soon spread to the living room and beyond, until before we knew it, we were using it on trim (in semigloss) and ceilings (in pearl--after reading this post over at For the Love of a House, I don't think I will ever paint a ceiling with flat paint again) throughout the house to unify all the various colors.  In fact, we worked hard to find colors that we loved and that also resonated with the white as well as all the other colors in the house.  Against the Palladian Blue, Mountain Peak White feels soothing and creamy.


Dream Beach, Reid State Park, Gigi Thibodeau 2010

Have you ever been to a beach in Maine?  The sand here varies from beach to beach, depending, of course on the rocks found surrounding the beach.  We don't really have white sandy beaches; they tend more towards pale grays and grieges.  One of my favorite beaches is Reid State Park, where I spent countless hours in the waves as a kid.  I took a series of photos there a couple of years ago, and I find myself thinking often of the color of the sand at Reid.
 
Benjamin Moore Pashmina

And so, my study is in Pashmina, also by Benjamin Moore.  It's a warm greige that sometimes feels much grayer, depending on the time of day.  And it always reminds me of the beaches along this part of the Maine coast.

Farrow and Ball French Gray

And for his study, Todd (aka Mr. Magpie) choose Farrow and Ball's French Gray--another very Maine coast color with a touch of green in it.  In his study it is warm and rich like moss, and just perfect for a reading room.  I promise to give you a peek soon!  

I haven't mentioned yet that we've turned our entire upstairs into a sort of work/sleep/hangout space for the two of us.  When you climb the stairs, you enter a large room with skylights, which is paneled entirely in bead board that we've painted with the Mountain Peak White.  That's our bedroom.  Love. Serious love.  

The floors in there are hardwood, but the boards were in rough shape, and we have a limited budget, so we decided to paint them.  And what cottage is complete without at least one painted floor?  With the white walls and the navy blue bead board bed we're soon to have--after 22 years we have bought our first new bed--we decided to go with a beautiful neutral floor color: Thundercloud Gray.

Benjamin Moor Thundercloud Gray

On our floors it is even softer and lighter than this sample.  And while that Mountain Peak White sample looks very cream against the white of my blog, it looks much whiter and crisper beside this gray.  Have I ever told you that as much as I love a sunny day by the water, by far my favorite days along the coast of Maine look like this:


Thus Thundercloud Gray and also a lighter, even softer grey with a touch of violet:

Benjamin Moore Bunny Gray

Bunny Gray is in our front foyer downstairs, which is a very small, but light-filled space with arches leading into the dining and living rooms.  We knew we needed a very neutral color here to allow the eye to move comfortably from one room to the next, and Bunny Gray did the trick. We tried it in an interior hall as well, but without much natural light, it actually read as violet rather than gray.  In a room with lots of sunlight, it reads as a beautiful driftwood color that connects with all the other ocean colors.

Last but not least is the room we are finishing later today--the guest room.  When we moved in, this room was painted a deep burgundy red on the walls with a very orangey-gold ceiling.  Not at all cottage-y.  Not at all coastal.  Not at all us.  This room was the hardest for us to re-imagine.  It is on the first floor overlooking the garden, so we knew we wanted to connect it to all the beautiful greens right outside the windows.  The winner was a green that Benjamin Moore calls Spring Meadow, but it reminds me of the lichen that grows on the rocks near the ocean here in Maine.  

Benjamin Moore Spring Meadow

Hmm . . . I'm not happy with this sample.  It's nowhere near as lovely as the actual color, which is greener and richer than this.  One more reason I can't wait to show you the actual rooms, but I wanted to share some of our inspirations first.  I promise before and after photos (one room per post) soon!







31 comments:

  1. Rarely do people thing through interior colour at this level Gigi, this is bound to result in a most briliant result for you. How clever to use nature's colours that have ingrained themselves into your memories. No wonder you are so pleased with the results. Looking forward to seeing your finished home. You always "paint" such a beautiful picture. xx

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    1. Thank you, Sande! I don't think I'm clever, though. I just don't know any other way to do it! :D xo

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  2. So many people don't pay attention to their environment...you two are obviously not some of 'those people'! I was inspired by our Auracana chicken eggs for the paint in our little country kitchen, which is a light greenish, robins egg blue. It was a step away from my comfort zone as I'm usually drawn to the brown tones. Now that it's up I love it. Can't wait to see photos of the rooms all done up at your place.

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    1. I adore the color of Auracana chicken eggs. It's not far from the Palladian Blue we painted our living room. Your kitchen must be beautiful, Kerry! Thanks so much for visiting and for your comment. xo

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  3. i read every. single. word.
    (nodding all along)

    and drooled over every. single. sample. and image.
    (i so remember the one from the island!)

    you have painted such a fabulous visual for us that i know i would instantly recognize and feel each and every space with one step in the door ...

    i. am. giddy.

    xxo
    pg

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    1. Of course you read every word, pg, for that's just the kind of gal you are. Thank you so much. xo

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  4. Gigi,

    Having seen the palette you and the Mr. chose, I can't wait to see the posts of your rooms. I think it's great that the colors are inspired by things that mean so much to the two of you.

    This post may prove to be fortuitous for me as my husband and I plan a getaway weekend and your link to the article about the Homer exhibition has prompted my interest in visiting Portand. I'm just sorry we will have missed the Normandy Coast exhibition. We were there two years ago and one of my favorite pictures is of a somewhat stormy sky over the cliffs.

    Thank you for sharing all you do with your readers.

    Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. Thank YOU, Marla, for your wonderful comment. I'm glad the Homer link is inspiring you to consider a trip to Portland. I think you'll love it, and if you do come, please let me know how it goes! xo

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  5. such beautiful colors! i can't wait to see..in person!
    xo

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    1. I can't wait for you to actually be here in person! We miss you guys!!!! xoxo

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  6. Your color choices are wonderful, perfectly exhilarating and relaxing all at once. I am working on a few color projects around here as well, and your choices have given me some much needed inspiration. Thank you for sharing your creativity. Happy nesting!

    Keri

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    1. Thanks, Keri! Looking forward to seeing your color projects!

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  7. Gorgeous, gorgeous, restfull, luscious colors! Makes me feel like painting some rooms in my house:)

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    1. Thanks so much, Gail. I have an addiction to painting rooms. I suppose there are worse addictions! :)

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  8. Oh my, I cannot wait to see the finished rooms, Gigi!

    I'm sure you could guess, but your colour choices match my dream palette, perfectly. It must be coastal living, of the blue/grey northern seas and skies kind. No glaring azures and cobalts here! How blessed are we. And amazing how similar, yet in many ways, worlds apart.

    You're Maine cost is one I've never seen in person, but have such a draw to I have no doubt I will some day. Especially with the possibility of seeing YOU, dear heart. xxxx

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    1. Yes, I know you'll make it here at some point, Ciara, and I to your coast, too! I am so not surprised that we share a dream palette. Not one bit. xoxo

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  9. PS. I have no saved this post for future reference!

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  10. Ohhhhhhh! I can't wait to visit!

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  11. I seriously love these colours. We're planning a reno of our retirement home. It's about 2 - 4 years away, but I'm collecting colours and ideas You have given me such inspiration. These colours bring such peace and calm. I can't wait to see the rest of your story!

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    1. I'm so glad this post inspired you! I love that collecting and dreaming stage when everything is about possibility. You are so right, too; these are very peaceful colors. They are also very welcoming. We've already had several guests even while we've been working on the place, and everyone seems to feel very at home here, which makes me enormously happy! Thanks for your lovely comment!

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  12. I love all your personal inspirations for the color choices...it certainly seems like you're making your house your home. Can't wait to see the rooms!

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    1. Thanks, Megan! Now you've got me wondering what colors you would pick for your dream home! :) xo

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  13. Love your palette! It is just perfect for the Maine coast. We have recently been painting the outside of our house and I think it took us about 8 months and about 12 paint swatches on the house to decide what color. It is close to your Pashima and I am loving it. Love paint, it makes such a difference to a room and doesn't cost as much to make a difference. Look forward to seeing your rooms.

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    1. Oh, Marilyn, I would love that color on the exterior of a home!!! What is your trim color? I totally get how hard it is to make that decision about what to paint the exterior. I think it's much harder than interior colors, especially since there's the neighborhood to consider, and what will go with the other houses on your street without blending in so much that it's boring. I'm just glad we don't have to think about painting the exterior for a few years yet! xo

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  14. I too am obsessed with painting! Such an easy way to transform a room. Love your color palette, grays are so sophisticated.

    Hope you are well.
    e

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    1. I am well, thanks, Elizabeth! It's good to see you. I'll pop over to your place soon to say hi and find out what you've been up to!

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  15. LOVE the colors, Gigi! This palette of blues and grays is sublime! We're in the process of doing a lot of painting & reno to our old house. The rooms are small, and some colors we wanted didn't look good at all, what with light, etc. So it's been a surprise to return to cream and sand colors we had originally done when we moved in. I was wanting to mix it up to try some more jewel-tone colors. But it didn't work. LOL...so a lot of painting here too! ;o) And like your place, our 2nd floor is work-rest-hangout place... We're just back from a long weekend in London. I'm catching my breath... Hoping to share a few photo soon. Glad to catch up with you here. :o) ((HUGS))

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    1. I love that you've been experimenting with colors too, Tracy! I also love that you're willing to try something and then change it when it doesn't work. It takes more time, but it's so worth it, right!? So far, the only room I wasn't happy with was an interior hallway that we ended up simply painting with our favorite Mountain Peak white. It's simple and clean, and it gives the eye a break from color, too, which I think is important.

      Coming to see you at your place soon, too! xoxo

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  16. Your colors are just gorgeous. When I was on the western tip of Jamaica this past summer, I was constantly looking at the colors of the ocean and falling in love with a particular blue I found. What you've done reminded me of that. How wonderful to choose colors that mean something to you, as well as being perfect combinations of peace and calm.

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  17. Firstly I love your header picture!
    And then it was such a treat to read through the transformation of your cottage, I love ALL the colours, especially the greys in your bedroom...I'm loving grey at the moment! Your house sounds wonderful and I can't wait to be shown photographs!! (Hint-hint ;)
    I'm imagining the fading smell of newly painted walls and floors mingling with the brine of the ocean....fantastic!

    Hugs Jane

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Thank you so much for visiting and for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing from you.