The power of paint

Paint is an amazing substance. Looking back over my many projects, I realize I’ve spent an awful lot of time taking it OFF things that shouldn’t have been painted in the first place (or were painted badly) and putting it ON things that needed it. Last week was all about putting it ON.

I choose paint colors in groups. Since the Schoolhouse is divided in half, essentially – the front half being the main (original) room and the back half being the hallway, two bedrooms, and bath –I’d chosen two groups of colors. For the front half, I had a pale green called Celery Ice and a rich, buttery off-white called Vanilla Custard. For the back half, I had a paler creamy off-white called Canyon Cloud, a pale aqua (Water Mark), a pale lavender (Ash White), and for an accent, an electric yellow green called Summer Resort (I’d already done the insides of the closets with this – VERY bright). But like all well-made plans, this one went a bit astray and we ended up mixing and matching as we went.

Steve in a Summer Resort closet

I’m a purist when it comes to trim – door frames, window frames, baseboards, and the built-in in the dining room were all destined for semi-gloss white. We had several different colors and substances of trim throughout the Schoolhouse. The salvaged trim was mostly teal or turquoise blue (flat) or pale yellow (semi-gloss), though there were a few random off-whites in there as well. Pre-painted with what was probably oil based paint, it needed cleaning and sanding. The new trim was primed olive green or white, depending on when and where we’d bought it, and in a few cases raw wood. The raw needed priming. The white needed sanding. It all needed two coats and some sections needed three. But finally, we had bright white trim through the whole house.

Original window with (old) pale yellow frame and (new) olive green primed trim
Same window painted white

The walls were more of a challenge, mostly because they’re so tall, and I’m ladder-challenged, and we paint at different speeds: he’s slow and careful and I’m kamikaze. But we worked out a really good system. I went first, and did everything I could reach from the third step of an 8-foot ladder, which is as far as I go. Since I’m 5’7”, that took us to about 8 ½ feet. He came after and did the top three feet. Together, we worked through the main room, bathroom, stairwell, and one of the bedrooms.

The main room is Celery Ice on the beadboard, Vanilla Custard over white on the textured sheetrock (we used sponges on this, so the custard color sits on the top layer of the textured sheetrock while the white shows through in the lower areas), and Ash White, swiped from the trio of colors I’d chosen for the back half of the house, accenting the nooks that will house our vintage globe collection. I’m planning a deeper lavender for the insides of the two doors and lavender glass knobs for the built-in, just to finish it off.

Vanilla Custard rubbed over brushed Celery Ice in the main room

The bathroom is primarily Ash White sponged over white, with a Water Mark accent on the beadboard and a couple of the smaller walls.

Mostly Ash White rubbed over white on the bathroom walls
With a Water Mark accent on the reclaimed beadboard wall (above the exposed heart redwood)

In the alcove outside the bathroom, which will eventually be storage on one side and a closet on the other, we again breached the front half/back half dichotomy, using Water Mark from the back half trio on the beadboard paired with leftover Vanilla Custard from the main room sponged on the sheetrock, a cheerful combination that looks like the inside of an easter egg and which Steve dubbed “Aqua Butter.”

Aqua Butter in the alcove (Vanilla Custard and Water Mark)

In the stairwell, we used Summer Resort for the wall above the stairs and sponged Ash White on the walls, for a zingy combination of chartreuse and pale lavender. I’m thinking of a stencil down the edge of the stairs too, but I’m not sure what yet.

schoolhouse stairwell showing paint treatment
Stairwell - Summer Resort (rolled) with Ash White (sponged)

The master bedroom got a rolled coat of Canyon Cloud, which is a little yellower than I had anticipated, but provides a good base for whatever I decide to sponge over it.

Corner of master bedroom showing paint treatment
Master bedroom - Canyon Cloud over white; white ceiling and trim; Water Mark door

What’s left? Second bedroom, hallway, and basement. Steve actually suggested we leave the hallway white, but that is SO not going to happen.

A note on sequencing: Most paint guidelines tell you to do the trim last. Since I use semi-gloss for trim and flat for walls, I like to do the trim first. That way, there’s no need to tape all the trim – you actually WANT to get a little bit of semigloss on the wall. Then, when you go back and put the flat paint on the wall, it’s pretty easy to eyeball and brush – no tape needed here either. And, if you slop a little bit (or a lot) onto the semi-gloss, it wipes right off with a damp rag.

A note on paint: all colors are Behr low VOC from Home Depot, both because it’s a good buy (Consumer Reports even says so) and because Home Depot is open at night, which is the only time I have to shop.


    1. Channeling my nieces: “I know, right?” And I always end up choosing similar colors – once I even bought the same paint twice without realizing it!

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