Colors are Hard.

There’s this thought I have sometimes. Painting’s not so bad, I tell myself. In fact, it’s kind of fun. It can be relaxing. Just put some music on the old iPod, change into those paint-splattered jeans, and you’re liable for a good time.

What I always seem to forget is that painting is awful. It’s boring, repetitive, messy, and just generally sucks. If somebody tells you they like painting, they’re lying and you shouldn’t trust them. I know– once the tape is down, the touch-ups are completed, and the perfume of volatile organic compounds drifts through the air like a fresh summer evening’s breeze, it’s nice. But I always forget the bummer-fest of getting there. Which is why, while cracking open a can of paint for Eva’s room, I piped up, “Hey, why don’t we just paint the kitchen too? I mean, while we’re at it.”

So off we went to the hardware store, where a color (Benjamin Moore’s “White Rain” in eggshell) was hastily selected and a gallon of paint was bought. I think of choosing paint colors as less of a question of basic ability and more as an acquired life skill, like drag racing or choosing the right jeans for your thighs. Sure, anyone can drive fast or buy a pair of pants, but only some people can do it with warranted self-confidence. It’s something you have to learn through a difficult process of trial and error. So I’m not going to beat myself up about doing this to my wall:

could pass this off as that thing responsible people (liars) do where they paint samples before springing for the whole gallon, but I’m not going to do that. The only color I actually bought is the one on the far left. I painted one coat on one wall before deciding that it wasn’t something I could live with. It’s not a bad color for an asylum or an androgynous nursery, but it was a bad color for our kitchen. Not wanting to pay for a new gallon, I did something I never thought I’d have the guts or occasion to do: I started mixing. I put various proportions of white ceiling paint and wall paint into a bowl until something better emerged. That “something better” was the second to last color on the right. It’s about 2/3 white paint, 1/3 (not-so-)White Rain.

And after! I like it, I don’t love it. It’s not quite a baby blue (phew), but it’s sort of similar. A little bit greener (the darker hues on the White Rain paint chip are definitely of the green persuasion), and a little bit grey. I wanted something a little greener/greyer without crossing into minty or sage-y territory, but I’m not sure that color actually exists outside of my mind. Also, the Orange Glo light, when illuminated, lends the walls a much greyer tilt (this picture is just sunlight), so that’s something to consider as well. The trim is Benjamin Moore “Simply White” in semi-gloss, in case you were curious.

I’ve talked about it before, but just to be clear: I’m usually all about white paint and more modern colors, but the fugly 80s pink-ish floor, countertops, and cabinets sort of betray any possibility of the kitchen being cool and gorgeous. So the game plan in here is more 50s-60s-70s-mod-and-kitsch. Happy, fun, and sort of cute without being a kitschy mess. If you catch my drift.

And yes, I do have a step ladder hanging on two hooks in the kitchen. I know it’s not the most attractive thing, but I’m really short and our cabinets were built for giants– they go all the way up to our nine foot ceilings, and because it’s a small kitchen we can’t just pretend those top couple of shelves don’t exist. There’s really nowhere else to put it where it’s out of the way, so in plain sight it sits. How postmodern.

I also painted the ceiling, which looks way better, even though it just went from a poorly slapped-on coat of semi-gloss white to a smooth and expertly applied eggshell finish (BM’s off-the-rack “Super White”). It’s always shocking what a difference a fresh coat of paint can make, even if it’s just a variation of the same color.

The Orange Glo ceiling medallion got all caulked up and painted in the process. Also a big difference from before. I love that damn light.

P.S.- Sorry for the lame “after” pictures, but there’s a little (like, teensy) DIY on the other side of the room that I figured warranted its own post. Keep your eyes peeled for that in the next couple days!

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 9.28.10

    I agree 100% about painting. I always think painting is fun and enjoyable until I actually start and then I’m reminded how much I hate painting. I know mixing paints isn’t recommended but sometimes a guy’s got to do what he’s got to do in order to get it done right?!

    Ps. I’m short too and have a stepping stool in my pantry so I don’t judge. If it was up to me the stool would be out all the time. Unfortunately I usually pretend the top shelves don’t exist and shove everything on the lower ones. I even have to resort to climbing on the counters when my stool gets “misplaced”.

  2. 9.28.10
    Lauren said:

    Hey, so I painted my bedroom “white rain”. I had originally painted it in our last place and loved it. But that bedroom didn’t get any light and for some reason the color worked. So in this place I decided to use up the can and painted it again. But, it’s been bugging me since I finished. That’s why I’m completely redoing the space. The color is nice, but for some reason when the sun comes in its almost toxic. But good job on the mixing, that’s what my mom does all the time. She’s convinced you can never get color out of a can and have it right. She even mixes from wall to wall depending on how the light comes in.

    I’ve learned that making color mistakes is the best way to do things, yes costly now, but in the future you’ll get a better grasp on paint and what works and what doesn’t. I’ve moved 7 times since I was 18 and I’m only 26 and I’ve painted every place. It does suck and it is not fun, but it’s so rewarding when you find a color you love. :)

  3. 9.28.10
    Juliab said:

    I have been painting for the past 2 days, with another at least 2 days to go before I’m finished. I am actually enjoying the painting at the moment – might have something to do with the awful 2 days prep over the weekend – but I know by the end of tomorrow I will be hating it. Can’t wait to move all the furniture back in and relax. The colour looks great BTW.

  4. 9.28.10
    Kati said:

    As someone who LOVES to paint (yes, I do, but I never said I love prepping to paint, did I?), and as someone who believes in customizing colors where I can, may I caution you about mixing your own paint when it comes to inevitable touch-ups? Of course, you’ve got to make your paint choices work, especially when you’ve already spent for them (paint is cheap, but not free, right?), but please be sure and save some in a well-sealed can. A recent (ongoing) renovation ended up chipping some of my custom-mixed paint… I thought I’d been so smart in saving the paint all those years ago. But it wasn’t sealed properly, or some such nonsense, and now I have to try to reformulate in order to patch a tiny spot on the wall. It’s a mega-drag, and one that I don’t look forward to dealing with. So, please, save some of your paint. Unless you want to have to repaint the entire space again for some silly accident.

    • 9.28.10

      I did save some! That is a drag– can you take the dried up stuff you saved to Home Depot or Lowes and have it color matched? I’ve heard good things about this, but I’ve never done it.

    • 9.30.10
      Kati said:

      Sadly, it is too far gone. Luckily (or not luckily) it’s a plaster wall that’s chipped, so I can simply chip a little more away to try to match the (not one but) two colors I customized to save some money. Live and learn.

  5. 9.28.10
    Cait said:

    I always forget how much I hate painting! Thankfully we still like the colors we painted with and won’t be painting for awhile, but we did paint the kitchen twice. The first time we used left over paint from the bedroom, and lived with it for awhile. Oi. That was definitely not a good kitchen color! (I think it was the way the light bounced off the glossy white cabinets onto it.) Thankfully it’s a much tamer, more muted color now.

  6. 9.28.10
    chezerbey said:

    Yes, painting sucks. After our 9-day painting extravaganza (which included two 17-hr days) I never want to paint again. Or at least anytime soon. Also, I quickly learned that painting white on white is not good for one’s mental state.

    Happy belated birthday!

  7. 9.28.10
    Annika said:

    Always nice to see what you are up to!
    I really wish I could paint my apartment. Renting here in Norway does not really leave me with a lot of possibilities – you would think that the landlord would be thrilled that I offered but no, not a chance. If I were allowed to paint I would probably explore al the colours of the rainbow, so maybe it’s for the best that I am stuck with boring white walls… It would not be so bad if I were allowed to actually put stuff on the walls. Maybe I should be a bit more rebellious?

    • 9.28.10

      Our landlord did give us permission to paint so long as everything’s “back to white” when we move out (which is sort of silly because except for the kitchen, which had been painted more recently, I’d never call our nasty shiny beige-y paint when we got here “white”). I’m ALL for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with landlords, especially where painting’s concerned. Of course, I’ve never actually moved out of an NYC apartment, so I’m hoping I haven’t done anything that compromises our security deposit! Fingers crossed.

  8. 9.28.10

    Wow- every time I’ve tried to mix paint it’s ended up disastrous- yours looks really good!

    And thank you for hating painting as much as I do. Whenever bloggers say something like “I just gave it a fresh paint job and had a new room like voila!” it makes me want to die from feelings of inadequacy.

  9. 9.28.10
    Mom said:

    Maybe now that you have become such a pro, you can re-paint that disaster of a paint job you and your sister did in the basement bath. I leave it as a reminder….about why I hire professionals. But, now that you are I can hire you. No offense, darling.
    Maybe now would be a good time to confess the hideous bathroom sponge job we lived with in the old house for way too long…

    • 9.28.10

      Pink and purple sponge painting in the only main floor bathroom for 5 years was WAY worse than a slightly-too-minty basement bathroom nobody uses. And I had NOTHING to do with the first one.

      But sorry about that basement bath… we tried.

  10. 9.29.10

    ‘Mom’ always leaves the best comments.

    I hate choosing paint colors and I suck at it. If I ever hire a design professional, it will only be because s/he understands paint. Fabrics and furnishings I’m not so bad at but boy, I’m horrible when it comes to walls.

  11. 9.29.10
    Alice said:

    benjamin moore’s “camouflage” is a really good green-grey that isn’t minty or sagey at all.

  12. 9.29.10

    Painting is a pain. in. the. ass.

    Just ask my back porch.

  13. 10.4.10
    Susie M said:

    I hate painting with a passion but I love a freshly painted room. I also do not believe that people actually like painting but I suppose there are those who don’t mind doing it as much as those of us that hate doing it. Choosing colors is hard and I have had a few walls look like your swatch wall before selecting colors. Your selection looks good.

  14. 11.3.10
    aminah said:

    so i’m just finding your site and scrolling through — tell me about those hooks that the step ladder is hanging off of…are they coat hooks? where’d you get them from?

    • 11.3.10

      yes, they’re just little chrome hooks I bought at my little hardware store for about $4. They have two screw holes. Super basic and generic, nothing special! I can’t remember the brand but I’ll try to remember to check next time I’m there!