Milady. Rounding out the big three.

So, we had our number one colour, the most important. But one colour does not a painted lady make.

The next move was to choose what I call the frame colour. This would cover all of the framing trim of the house: eaves, window frames, door frames, corner framing. This colour would hold the house together.

I’ve seen painted ladies with a primary colour darker than the frame colour, and I don’t care for it. It looks, to me, as though the house were unachored. Not wanting our house to float away, we decided on a deep, saturated, marine blue.

About a year ago, I repainted the upstairs bathroom. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the flat, water-stained, mauvy heliotrope, but I thought we could do better. Enter Behr’s English Channel:

The fact that we have been living with English Channel in the bathroom next to Milady in the hallway for over a year makes this an easy choice. I can stand in the upper hallway, look into the open bathroom doorway, and see the two colours play off each other.

It’s a grey, rainy day today, and the lighting doesn’t make for the most vivid of photos, but you get the idea.

The third of the “Big Three” colours is the one that dominates the Victorian embellishments, in the roof peaks and along the tops of the upper walls. Not called upon to stand independently in the same way as the first two, this colour must, nonetheless, live in harmony with the more important primary and frame colours.

True, the third colour can be significanty invigorated by its interaction with the fourth and fifth colours, the accent colours, but trying to overcome an ill-considered Three with za-za-zoo Four and Five is a bit like trying to hide careless cooking with garlic and hot sauce. It might go down easier, but you’re not fooling anyone. One must choose Three wisely.

Three was the last one we chose, just yesterday, as a matter of fact. It’s also the only one where we painted a colour out and quickly made that air-sucking-through-teeth noise that says, “yeah….NO.”

We knew we wanted a mid-range pink, but which one? I was nervous about going too far (I tend to do that), so bought a quart of the colour two shades darker than Milady, Rose Potpourri, thinking they would go together naturally. I thought it neutral enough that it wouldn’t read PINK on a large scale:

It just goes to show that you can’t make decisions like these rationally. When I test painted the well (more on that another day), Milady and English Channel looked fab; the well glowed; we were thrilled. Then I painted out the Rose Potpourri the next day and…thunk. It looked too neutral, too silly putty, too…flesh. And it made the other two colours look bad.

The Man came home, took one look, and said, “we have to go pinker”. A quick trip to Home Depot yesterday brought two more pinks into play ($3 samples this time, not $18 quarts; even rats learn), Raspberry Lemonade:

And Glamour (which I called Gl’amour the whole time I was painting it…ah, gl’amour, gl’amour…):

Those look pretty similar on screen, but, take my word for it, the Glamour is quite a bit darker, writ large. The Man came home and it was unanimous: Raspberry Lemonade would be our third colour.

If this all seems nitpicky to you, let me just say that I am astonished by how quickly we have picked our colours. People take years to decide on their painted lady colours. Seriously. Swatches painted on walls. Many, many swatches. Years. Now, we may get halfway through painting and call an audible, but I think we’re in good shape.

It’s not just the colours you choose; it’s also which roles you give them to play. With the same five colours, you could paint many very-different painted ladies. It’s a matter of proportion and relativity.

I was becoming concerned that I didn’t have a concrete idea of how these colours would look in the proportions they would be on the house, and also how they would look next to each other, so I made a small cartoonish painting of a house face, using the colours as we are envisioning them.

I am no artist. Please be kind.

(Gail, stop laughing. Right NOW.)

I wanted to go ahead with the za-za-zoo right away, but I am resisting because I want The Man to see it like this. We need to embrace THIS colour combination, as it stands, in order for the thing to work. At least, that’s my theory.

And, then I’ll get to the za-za-zoo…


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