Paint colour selection advice from Duncan Stuart

The colours we choose for our homes are shaped and influenced by the prevailing breeze of public opinion. Take your time choosing colours carefully when painting your home advises Duncan Stuart and for heaven's sake keep an eye out for Barbie!

Painting a villa in New Zealand
COLUMN Duncan Stuart

Take your time and choose colours carefully when painting your home advises Duncan Stuart and for heaven’s sake keep an eye out for Barbie!
I am amazed at how the colours we choose for our homes are shaped and influenced by the prevailing breeze of public opinion. Our first renovation project, carried out in 1981, took place during a seismic shift in colour sensibilities. We were lurching out of the 1970s with its sunburst gold appliances and bright yellow bench tops, and succumbing to the charms of a pink and grey palette. For a number of years the interiors of homes were dominated by a rather nasty chalky pink, topped off with grey  “I can’t believe it’s not marble”  bench tops. Now we laugh.
But surely the stone and tussock-inspired colours of the past decade are going to go the same way. How long can this drab era last?
Right now my colour radar is on full because our next project is underway and I’m determined to come up with a winning colour that blows the grey craze out of the water.
With our homes, the sense of adventure has become very conservative. As we rove the neighbourhood for inspiration we find that all those fox greys, and  “tea” painted bungalows have created a norm. It is like naming a baby, only its 1950 when the only choices, it seems, were John for boys and Susan for girls. It was not a good year to name your child Zac.
With our last renovation project I decided to break the mould and create, for my street, something of a colour revolution. Just as everyone was starting to paint their villas taupe or grey, I went for a pinky-brown shade that was warm, distinctive and full of bold personality. Take that you masses, my little villa would say.
There were two problems. One was the time of year when we chose to paint the house. The renovation project, due for completion in February, had spilled over into April and the nights were turning cold and wet. We had a window of about seven days to paint the house. Our decisions became rushed.
The second problem was the colour chart. It had exactly the colour I wanted, and when I held up that little square of paint and envisioned my entire house in Tuscan terracotta the whole thing looked rather good indeed. I proceeded to buy a super tanker’s worth of the paint, buckets of the stuff, and in the evening when I opened up one pail to breathe in those magic acrylic vapours (I love the smell!) the colour was exactly what I pictured. At least it was when it was wet.
A few days later the house was painted and after being out of town on business, I was dying to see the startling fruits of my bold colour choice. I have to admit it, but there’s a certain cachet when you get it right. To be complimented on your house colour is right up there with other compliments in life – about the intelligence of your children, about the inspirational way you live. I was ready for this kind of talk.
Alas, en masse, the pink took on the same nasty chalky hue of the 1980s, mixed in, I swear, with a hint of Barbie. And too late! The house was finished and the painter paid. For the next 12 years we lived with my bold colour experiment. My partner never said a word. Friends asked when exactly where we planning to cover up the pink undercoat of primer paint.
That’s something good that can be said about the process of weathering. Paint fades and at last begins to peel. Last year we finally had to repaint the house and this time we were more conservative. We ended up with a shade of tussock brown. Everyone loves the colour.  To be honest, I felt like I’d sold out.
I still think there is much more room for truly unique expression, but for heaven’s sakes get a test pot first and don’t rush your decision.
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This column featured in issue 002 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.

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