A Decorating Disaster

“Paint is the cheapest, most transformative thing you can do to any room” says Abigail Ahern, an interiors entrepreneur and author whose blog I’ve followed religiously since embarking on Project Pebbledash. Her advice is of course spot on but the exception she fails to mention is if I’m involved. Then paint becomes bloody expensive and transforms rooms….and it turns out gardens…. in ways not intended.

You might remember me mulling over shed and fence colours…..a prolonged dilemma impinged by my notorious indecision which becomes, it would appear, particularly paralysing whenever colour enters the equation. This particular decision was made all the more complex when it became evident that obtaining the same colour for both masonry (the fence has concrete posts and baseboards) and wood was going to be more difficult than it might at first sound. Following my recent post lamenting this fact a kind reader suggested trying Next who include within their range an exterior paint which does indeed suit both applications. The paint had, she reassured, been tried and tested with much success in her own garden. The suggestion however, was met with trepidation from S. In his eyes the brand has yet to shrug off its estate-agent-weekend-wear image and the concept of buying paint….any kind…. from a clothes shop was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. All primed to fight its corner I backed down only when I discovered that it wasn’t possible to buy tester pots. I might, I thought rationally, plunge head-expensively-first into a bad colour decision. Meanwhile indecision continued.

As oft happens with problems the solution (appeared) to come when I started to think differently. Lunch out with a friend where I was, to the bemusement of the waitress, inspired as much by the restaurant’s fence as their food encouraged me to think about staying with wood for the fence and applying a stone colour to the masonry…..baseboards, posts and our earth retaining walls which form the terracing to our garden.
Google then revealed that Earthborn, a brand we used with varying success inside the house but whose green credentials we continue to aspire to, do a breathable silicate paint for masonry which might, considering that earth-retaining issue, serve us well. This combo would also give us an excuse to use Osmo oil another green product used within the interior to which we have become converts.
I ran my proposal past S. He readily agreed.

Without further ado samples of the paint (we opted for a cheaper version of the breathable paint from Mike Wye) were ordered, slathered onto the walls and Burnt Umber selected…a creamy white which I believed, based on two admittedly small tester patches, would tone with our stone. 10 litres promptly arrived and sat for a few days patiently waiting for one of us to gather the energy required to tackle the uninspiring job of painting concrete. This week, irritated that I couldn’t work as planned thanks to a no-show internet connection I decided I would waste no more energy on losing battles and instead tackle one I might win. Grabbing the sun cream, painting gear and brushes I proceeded outside into blazing heat to give the masonry, and unwittingly a blueberry bush, its burnt umbered makeover.

I primed. I painted. I hydrated and then I painted some more. Six hours and three circuits of the garden later I put down my brush and stood back as the glare of the sun, disappearing behind the trees, faded gently.
I blinked.
I looked again.
Burnt Umber….in our garden and with our light and our shadows…..looks purple.

We are not unfamiliar with the hue. Recently next door painted the front of their house an unpalatable and chameleonic shade which looks white by day and glowing lilac by eve. S and I plus pretty much every other person who ever comes to our door comment on its repulsiveness.
Now we had a garden to match.
I cried.
Big. Fat. Tired. Tears.

Arriving home from work S tried to make light of it.
“It doesn’t look like next door!” he attempted to reassure, “it looks….fine. I think its just your eyes.”
I was inconsolable.
“But it looks almost orange here” I wailed pointing at the nearest wall, “purple there and neon on the back wall there!”
“It’s just the shadows….”
But his words fell on deafly distraught ears.

The next day J, our gardener, arrived to fashion a bench from sleepers for the plot and attempt to fix next doors fence which appears to be lolling unnervingly our side of the boundary.
“What do you think?” I asked hesitantly. “Do the walls look purple? Or is it me?”
“They look ….bright” he said cheerily “but that’s what you want. You want to lighten everything up!”
I chewed at my lip. Did I?

A little later our next door neighbour stopped by to assess the relaxed nature of his fence.
“I’m liking the garden” he said appreciatively. “You’ve done a great job.”
“Does it look purple?” I asked.
“I like that….the front of my house is purple….”

And that was all the confirmation I needed.

The colour has to go. What will replace it I don’t know. I’m tempted, once again, by AA who encouraged recently to go dark on fences and walls. Whether I’m brave enough and can convince anyone to believe someone like me who apparently understands so little about colour is another thing entirely.

So for now more samples are ordered and the indecision continues.
Meanwhile sunglasses are recommended.
Sample patch painted….burnt umber is the one on the left

So far so good….I whistled happily as I worked….

I kid you not….the lilac in this image is not much exaggerated by the camera

White at first glance…look again and you see purple. Or red…..as I contemplate painting the whole blimmin thing again….


10 thoughts on “A Decorating Disaster

  1. Saw your comment on Abigail Ahern’s blog and totally understand how bloody difficult it is to pick paints- I have a lifetime of paint disasters & do not trust myself AT ALL to choose a colour now! Consequently my entire flat has remained unfinished for years. My worst effort was a bathroom in the late 90’s my friends called the “Changing Rooms bathroom” (as in the TV show). It was supposed to look a bit Mediterranean but the colours I picked from Dulux looked naff as hell. I went on Abigail’s design course recently & the effect of all that dark paint is incredible. I’ve been dithering whether to paint my fences (same as yours) off-black but am encouraged by her comments today & remembering how blown away I was by her house before even stepping inside. Thanks for sharing, makes me feel better to know other people make mistakes & totally sympathise with having to re-do all that work. I’m sure it will look fantastic when you’re done – it’s a lovely garden.

    • Thank you Sam, that’s so encouraging to hear. My husband hasn’t run a mile at the suggestion so I think I’m in with a chance! I’ll admit I’m terrified at the thought of the fences as well but I found a pic on Pinterest which had similar walls and fence and it looks incredible so I’m hoping I’ll be brave!
      Your bathroom story tickled me. We painted our bedroom in Dulux Just Walnut which is insipid blue/grey as opposed to anything remotely walnutty. Maybe we can blame Dulux?!

      Been inspired by a dark colour image for that room too but don’t dare mention it to the other half in case he laughs me out of the house!!!

      Thanks again for your encouragement …and I’m so jealous of the design school. Think that’s going on my Xmas list…!

      • Seriously, do the school! I felt terribly guilty and overindulgent when I booked it as I need every penny to renovate my flat but it was such fun & so inspiring. Best of luck with the fences – bet they’ll look fab.

  2. Geniunely…I can’t see it :s looks both white and lovely to me! (Note: I realise it could be entirely different if one is actually stood in the garden and not looking at it through a computer screen!) x

    • Awwww thank you!!!
      It’s such a weird colour, grey sometimes, lilac another. Problem is I’m hating it more and more each day! But a plan is forming….

  3. Yikes, that is one purple fence (sorry!) I’ve found in the past that paint looks much much lighter outside than it would do inside (yes I have used normal emulsion on fence panels before…) Go dark! You know you want to…

  4. Oh you poor thing. I was scrolling down the pictures thinking “it’s nice; I like a lilac/grey” (as my house can attest) then I got to the lilac picture. I have, as I say, a LOT of lilac at home but that is a bit intense even for me. I am a big fan of the painting the inside of a box to see how the paint looks when it reflects on itself. Can feel a bit of a time-waster but I have avoided a few disasters that way.

    • That sounds like an excellent idea….it is the way light throws around the space isn’t it? Changes everything….!

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