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Been there, done that

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

I was highly amused this week when the latest Pottery Barn catalog arrived advertising BRIGHT BOLD COLOR! The mango-y color on the walls of the room in the cover shot? It's been the color of my study for three years now. I still love the color, and it's definitely the happiest room in the house.

When we were looking at houses, all of them had been stripped of personality to an effort to make them more sellable. I understand that. The sellers wanted the potential buyers to see their own vision, and not be turned off by the seller's vision. Okay, fine. But the white walls in every room of every house were so boring. 

When we finally did find a house, I was eager to make it my own, and quickly. We were moving from 1000 miles away, and there was a delay between when we closed on the house and when we physically arrived. I started buying paint as soon as we passed papers and had several gallons really before we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line with our critical belongings. It prompted my husband to ask, "Will any rooms be white?" No, was the answer. No, no, no.

We lived in a pretty much empty house for a couple days until the moving van arrived. In that time we painted the kitchen (yellow), the family room (green), the upstairs bathroom (blue), and started on the living room (another blue). Clearly I am not afraid of painting colors on the wall. It's only paint. It's really a small investment for the amount of impact.

The house itself had some interesting thing going on with color. The upstairs bathroom had a red basin. Rather than pull it out, we decided to work with it. There's a downstairs half bath had gold tile, a gold toilet and basin, and an orange countertop. Then there was one of the upstairs bedrooms. It was the only room in the house not white: it had pink walls and grass green carpet. Seriously. As we met people in town over the next couple of years who had moved in about the same time we had, they all remembered the pink and green room. We all had the same stock of houses to look at, after all.

The study of the house was the most challenging room, and it's the only room I have painted twice. It was white when we moved in, of course, with an ugly old mauve carpet. It was also the coldest room in the house with electric baseboard heat that shot up to the high ceiling and left the middle of the room icy. The first winter, I tried painting it a terracotta color. I like the color generally, but on the walls it was just a little too pink. I left it for a couple of years, however, because it at least helped warm up the room visually. 

Finally, after four years in the house, we put in a new heat system for the room and hardwood floors. It was time to paint again. When I came home with the paint chip my husband looked at me askance. "You want to paint the walls orange?" he asked. "It's not orange, I said, it's mango," I replied. He grudgingly agreed. When we got the color up on the walls, and the late afternoon sunlight hit it, I saw him smile. 

The color was and is transformative. I smile whenever I walk in here. It's a great room on a dreary day. A friend even calls it my "happy room" and asks to sit in it when she visits. 

We've slowly worked on the house over the last several years. All the rooms have color on the walls, and we brightened all the trim work by painting it white. Although there still are things to do (including kitchen work, which I dread), I really like the color we have brought in and feel at home here. The pink and green room is now sky blue with wood floors. There is only one "room" that is white. The walls of the screened porch are white – but since there isn't much wall space between the screens, it doesn't much count, I don't think. Besides, the floor of the porch is a pale lavender, the garden outside is the real walls and I am plotting to paint the vaulted ceiling a gorgeous pale blue.

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