Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I'm days late for Monday's white, but white's all I've been surrounded by this past week. It'll disappoint some to know that the orange wall from last week is a "before" shot: it wasn't nearly so lovely in real life, I promise. Wholly underqualified for the task, we started with ten litres of undercoat. By yesterday, punch-drunk with victory, I idly suggested to Andrew that perhaps we should knock on our neighbours’ doors to see if anyone needed a touch-up.

Over the week, the job grew in proportion to our confidence. At first, I suggested that perhaps we'd just tackle the orange. Then we decided on a single coat over the other three walls, minus the window frames. By Friday, I was taping the glass; on Saturday, Yeup was poly-filling the frames and suggesting silicon caulk. Isaac and Andrew felt that it'd be a shame not to do the ceiling beams, which is lucky because even with the extender pole I can't reach them. The last beam nearly broke us when the paint lifted off in great, wet sheets on Sunday night, and there was nothing to be done other than re-sand and seal. This was when I got cranky, and even Andrew's imagining of the Scrape 'n Paint, a two-in-one tool that scrapes and paints in one fluid motion couldn't shake my gloom.

This morning, I washed the white streak out of my hair, which Isaac described as more Paulie Walnuts than Susan Sontag. The windows need a little more work, but other than that, we’re done! And, fingers crossed, it seems that The Move Part II will take place this Sunday.

The week of painting gave me ample time to think about white. I thought I’d lucked out at Bunning’s the Saturday before last with a paint specialist on hand. But he knew far less than I did, identifying cool whites as warm and vice versa, so I was on my own. Turns out I’m a bit of an armchair paint maven, courtesy of Martha and years of shelter porn. I’d love to pitch out for a Donald Kaufman shade, or Aalto Colour, or a custom-mix from Porter’s, but I decided to stick with Dulux, a standard Australian brand.

One of the first things I noticed looking through Dulux’s white selection were these two shades: Chalk U.S.A and Antique White U.S.A. As an Australian living in the US 1994-2005, I never identified a particular shade of white as American. (At least, not a paint colour.) A white named Santorini I’d understand. U.S.A: nothing resonates, I’m afraid. Perhaps an American reader might have some ideas about this? I did however, dally with Antique White U.S.A, but ended up selecting Fair Bianca. I went through this process painting our bathroom three years ago, and chose Fair Bianca that time as well, so I guess this is the slightly creamy white for me.

I’ve always envied those responsible for naming colours, and I’m often amused by what they come up with. But I don’t think I’ve ever been struck as forcefully as I was this week, idly flicking through chips for a line of outdoor weatherguard paint. In the midst of utilitarian Pot Blacks and Garden Posts was a solid, no-nonsense grey named Simone Weil. If you happen to be a socialist, teacher, resistance fighter, factory worker, labor organizer, anarchist, Christian or philosopher you need look no further the next time you paint your outdoor retaining wall.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm very much enjoying your latest adventure, and VERY glad it's vicarious. Seems our house is always in various states of almost-paintedness. My dear husband insists on starting in the middle of a wall and then the edges, somehow, often get overlooked. For months.

I can't answer for all of the U.S., of course, but here in the Southwest the ubiquitous rental apartment color is Navajo White, a sickly yellow-white that looks as though people have been smoking there for years, even in a freshly-painted room. Geh.

Bon courage!

4:16 AM  
Blogger Ampersand Duck said...

Heh. My loungeroom is a clear sign of my relationship with paint and DIY chores. We had major renovations a couple of years ago, and whatever the builders painted looks great. We were meant to paint the doorframes, window frames and wall of bookshelf ourselves, but... we just don't look at those bits. I'm sure visitors do, but that doesn't make us do anything about it. I think it's because I keep thinking my house is just a temporary thing, but I keep living there! Plus I can never stop for long enough to take all the books out...

If you like paint colours, keep your eyes peeled for an Australian (Canberra) artist called Kirsten Farrell. Her work speaks about systems and classification, quoting Borges et al, and is manifested in playful pieces using paint colour tags and names.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Meg said...

Maybe USA in those colour names stands for something other than the country?
Congrats on nearing completion. Bet it makes you want to race home and sew up some curtains!

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The land of Dulux:
Dulux is a worldwide conglomeration. Bizarrely, the colour reference system, or naming system, does not get imported with each country. So every country has it's own naming and referencing system. So naming a colour after a country might well correspond to the fact the colour originated in the US, and is a US formulation rather than a british formula, for example. Ask for an australian formula in the uk, and you'll get a completely different colour....
As another aside, to continue your education about Dulux, they have different tools to explain the colours in different countries as well. Here in Australia we have colour fandecks, a master pallette, and a colour atlas (how I love the colour atlas) which is a massive book full of every single Dulux colour produced in Australia (forget the selection in Bunnings, please!!) - page after page of greys and whites :)))) In the Uk they only have a fandeck - so restrictive :)End of lesson.

11:15 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

my sister always dreamed of becoming one of those who names paint colours... hope the move part II runs smoothly...

2:03 PM  
Blogger Di said...

Great work- I can realate soooooo much. I'm sure the end product it worth all the effort.
So pleased about the white you chose- I used Fair Bianca also on my flat, and have just selected it for a project at work. A great light, bright white, with a titch of sunlight to it. Actually I felt really ripped off when I bought it and all they did to tint it was add a squirt of yellow ochre to the white tin. I really wanted it to be more intricate than that.
Looking forward to seeing the new studio some time soon!

7:56 AM  
Blogger Suse said...

Was just going to chime in with the USA explanation but see that Alison has already done so. Mr Soup is a painter, and uses Antique White and Chalk quite often.

Me? I like Fair Bianca because it's the name of my favourite white David Austin rose.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there girlprinter, I'm Kirsten Farrell and I was casually googling myself and came up with Ampersand Duck's post on this page, kindly talking my work up. Normally I wouldn't be too keen to admit to such narcissistic browsing, but feel moved to let you know that I recently painted my house Fair Bianca at half strength. Snap!

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dulux released a lovely warm white named Chalk and I used it liberally. There are animals running down the street in Dulux Chalk.

Years later I purchased Dulux Chalk and it was yellow, a pale daffodil, the colour of baby vomit after milk and a little lemon.

The shop admitted that Dulux Chalk is not Dulux Chalk but is Dulux Chalk 2.0. The real Chalk is now called Dulux USA Chalk.

I presume the horrible yellow white was invented by a British Duluxer freezing bodily bits off in a London winter and wishing for the light from a pale imitation of sun. The original Dulux Chalk was designed by someone in the southern states of America where people have a life outdoors and recognize solar radiation the same as Australians.

On some freezing Australian winters, when I am seriously considering switching from tshirts to long sleeve shirts or adding socks to my bare feet, the warm tone of the Dulux USA Chalk adds 1.25 degrees to the ambient temperature and that is enough to leave the carbon burners switched off.

The comment about people not knowing warm colours from cool colours is right. One paint company released a colour chart featuring only white but they gave up because they were confusing the colour consultants.

I tried talking burgundy with Web designers and received brown, brick, purple, maroon, and everything except burgundy. Have they never looked past their flavored vodka to burgundy?

Our eyes can perceive 12 million colours except when we are selling paint or clothes or designing digital cameras.

There must be a genetic selection process. Those that can see colour, try to buy waht they want, and those that cannot, sell.

10:02 PM  

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