Color speaks to most of us easily. We know what we like and don’t like, and more importantly, we know what looks good on us. I was told in the 80s that I have a winter complexion. Hot colors look best on me–reds, hot pinks, purples, and whites. Color can also define a home. Certain colors look better on some houses more than others. And colors can really define style.
My old home, where my husband and I began our married life, was what was referred to as a shotgun cottage. Located in Historic Oakwood, a downtown Raleigh community, we spent the first ten years of our marriage there. It is my understanding the term “shotgun” came from the way the hallway ran right down the middle of the house–like the barrel of a shotgun–with rooms on either side. It was causal, cute, and quaint. I don’t think “shotgun” as in a “shotgun wedding” had anything to do with the term for this style of home, and since it took us nine years before we had our first child, it didn’t apply to us, anyway. ;~/
Our little cottage fit us to a tee. However, with less than fifteen hundred square feet, we knew we would need more room once we started a family.
After ten years living in our cottage, my husband and I moved to the burbs. Our oldest child was one at the time. We knew we wanted more kids, so we were looking for a place to grow. We wanted enough space for play-sets, swings, sandboxes, and of course, a garden.
The house was almost perfect. Sitting on a half acre lot, our suburban home faces west. We had a long list of desires, like the shape and size of a flat lot (Raleigh is somewhat hilly), we wanted a basement (not common in the South), and we had a hankering for more of a house than our former home. I suppose we settled, like most people do when most of the list’s desires are found. My biggest settlement was the formality of the house. My style is formal from the stand point of symmetry, but informal when it comes to style. As a country gardener, I wanted my home to match my style of gardening. But the house we found– the home that took us a year to realize–was not the least bit country.
Our home is a very formal, 1972 faux Georgian, 2 story brick home, with a flat second story, porch roof.
We don’t always have the home and garden we dream of making. In my mind, my dream home and garden are perched along the English Channel, at Dover perhaps, dangerously near the White Cliffs. The house is white with a pale blue roof and a white picket fence. There’s an arbor above the entrance gate with an ‘Old Blush’ rose dangling down, leaving pink petals on my sleeve whenever I pass under it. The wind blows, throwing my hair back as if I were in a photo shoot. And as long as I’m imagining, my hair is still the chestnut brown of my youth. But there were more checks on the pro side than on the con side.
Adding country adornments would come naturally to me; I gravitate towards country-style flowers, trees, shrubs, as well as vines, and accents, so I knew my garden would become country even if I tried to make it formal to fit the style of the house. I tried for a while, and then soon realized everything I did made it more formal. I had to go another route. I needed to make the house itself more country.
My solution to alter the formal style wasn’t immediate. I wish I could say it was. I did it with color. Yup, color. Now when I work with clients, color is one of the foremost thoughts I have to just about any solution in design.
There were other cosmetic elements that created strong formality to our home, but color was a relatively inexpensive change I knew I could afford. So I toned down the formality of my home with color. Color can affect the style of a home, and in my case, using a country color would make my dressy home more causal. Evaluating my home, I realized not everything needed painting, just certain accents.
The house had painted black shutters and front door. The columns are vellum; the brick is a very nice terra-cotta-like color, with a soft cream-color mortar. Painting the brick would have helped a lot, but we didn’t leave a high maintenance, painted clapboard house, to begin that level of commitment again.
I considered tearing down the second story flat porch roof, but I knew the porch itself would have to be re-worked once that occurred. To do this would cost some real money. I wanted a cheaper fix. Instead, I toned down the formal black with brown. The color brown is an excellent country color. Not that black isn’t, but the more formal a structure, the more black beefs up the formality. Brown, however, tones down this formal flair.
Last spring I told my husband I was going to paint the shutters. He was kind enough to set the ladder up; I have a phobia of extension ladders, and that was what was needed to reach the second floor windows. I also had to get him to help me move the ladder from window to window. Apparently at one point, I went inside to get a drink of water, and a friend drove by. I heard from her a couple of days later. She mentioned she wanted to stop by, but saw my husband hard at work, and didn’t want to disturb us. I wasn’t quick to correct her; because I was truly glad to get the help. He does have a knack of holding something when people stop by, appearing to have just completed a major project while I’m off somewhere fetching the final touches. ;~\
After the shutters and the door were painted, the house immediately went from formal to causal, matching my style perfectly. I then painted the back door, all the furniture–the front porch table and chair, the back porch settee and chairs, and the porch swing. Everything just melded together in a cohesive country style.
Later, I painted the urns in the garden and even the birdhouse poles. Anything that was once black, I painted brown. As I planned an outdoor event, I even had all the chairs I use for outdoor soirees painted brown.
My garden accents tend to be of a rusted material, even the Love Shack has a well worn patina, with a pop of red. Brown was the perfect choice to go with the style of my garden, and me.
Everything became brown. Does it sound like a bit much? No more than introducing any other accent color. I didn’t make anything more brown that was already black. Well, maybe if you count the rusted stuff, but painting with one unifying color made everything look less chaotic.
I guess in the confession of full disclosure, my dining room is also brown. In my defense, it was brown years before the outdoor trim was brown. The hall is cork, kinda/ sorta brown. Then one day I brought a brown throw rug for the bathroom. My husband walked in, raised an eye-brown, and asked the question, “Brown?” My brown days are over. I have had enough. No more additions of brown, but I will keep all that I have. Brown was the perfect solution for country-fying my formal home. Now I have a home to match the style of my garden.
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