Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Choose a Neutral Wall Color

Finding the right wall color is tricky business.  Even finding the right neutral is challenging.  Every paint store and every brand has it's own selection of "white" or "cream" or "gray".
As an artist, I've been studying color for a long time, and I have a favorite way to find the right wall color: I take a minimum of 30 sample cards home
Sounds like quite a greedy handful, I know, but that's what the cards are for, and it's the easiest way to discover the right color tone.  Two or three or five color cards will not provide enough of a comparison to differentiate between the the subtle varieties of warm and cool tones.  And the store lighting will fool even an experienced eye.  
I take my fist-full of cards home, tape them side by side onto a large piece of cardboard, and hang the collection on the wall of the room I'm working on.
Suddenly 30 shades of "white" start to look very different - some lean toward green, or yellow, or pink - some will look too cool, or too warm, or too stark. 
I can immediately choose several that are obviously wrong and remove them. 
Then I walk away - refresh my eye and come back later (3 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever) and look again. Once I've winnowed it down to the top half dozen, I start to move around the room, trying the samples on different walls.
White samples are difficult to photograph well, so here's an example using 20 gray sample cards from different stores.
So many possibilities! Laying on my floor in the afternoon light, by a window with a southern exposure, they look like this, but in any other location they will look different, reflecting a different type of light from different surroundings.
 I placed white paper in the middle to demonstrate the contrast any of these colors would have with white woodwork.  And the wood floor demonstrates how the colors would read against stained trimwork.  Some cards can be quickly eliminated from a project if the contrast is too high or too little.
This is method I used last weekend out at the lake.  In the end, we settled on a color called Tailor's Chalk from the Martha Stewart collection for the interior walls and ceilings.  It's a soft white that works well with the creamy colors in the limestone fireplace and walls.
One more item to check off that long, long list of decisions!
It was grasshopper heaven out there this weekend - big, two inch or more, jumping, flying, leaf munching bugs.  They have sturdy little feet that grab onto hands and hair and clothing.
I managed to catch a picture of one lunching on a mesquite tree before I stepped in a fireant compound and had to beat a hasty exit. 
Last year's hot dry summer and warm dry fall was just perfect for grasshopper mating.  They like to lay their eggs in dry undisturbed soil close to a food source like meadow land or fallow fields. The following summer, up they pop.  Grasshoppers do have natural enemies - they are tasty meals for robber flies, skink lizards and digger wasps.  Hopefully we have a good supply of those.

There were mounds of purple bindweed growing along the seawalls, but I only found one flower the grasshoppers hadn't lunched on.  It is such a pretty wildflower, an Ipomoea, just like Morning-Glory.

These Clasping Coneflowers were springing up everywhere.  They are identified by their downward curving petals and tall brown crowns.  Clasping Coneflowers (Rudbeckia) are not related to Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), but they like the same types of conditions, and they would look pretty mixed together in a dry, sunny border. 

Our temperatures are now in the 100's, so we'll see who survives and who cooks in the plant world.

Our new place in the city has a tiny front garden which includes three small hydrangea bushes.  We were told they wintered over & looked very promising in the spring, but now they require several waterings a day or they hang like damp laundry.  Given that, I still could not resist buying another one - look at this color!!

I could not leave Central Market with taking one home!  I'm keeping it inside until it can go to the lake.  It's named Hydrangea macrophylla 'New Wine" (patent applied for by Bay City Flower Company, Inc).  Macrophylla means "big leafed", and it is that. 
Here it is placed next to the hydrangeas in the front garden.

Gorgeous, gorgeous purple!

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