Color Therapy, by Candance Booth | It All Started with the Bathroom Wallpaper

What I got this month was more like anti-color therapy, and all because I wanted to change the wallpaper in a bathroom.

See, we have two bathrooms and a powder room, and they all had wallpaper when we moved into the house. I really hated the wallpaper in two of them. It was flat, dark blue. It was a particular problem in the master bathroom, because the dark color reduced the amount of reflected light available for shaving or putting on makeup or checking for ticks. If I want mood lighting, I’ll light a candle.

So this summer, I stripped the paper in the half bath. Due to the fact that the wall wasn’t prepped before it was papered, I also stripped the plaster off the drywall. That meant calling in a construction crew. At the end of that job, they said to me, “If you ever want to do this again, there is a short cut that costs about half as much money.” This interested me no small amount. According to these guys, drywall is just paper on cardboard (I can vouch for that). And assuming you have a certain kind of wallpaper, you can tape and plaster the seams, put on an oil-based primer to meld the paper to the drywall, and then paint over that. So I told them to “have at it.” Overnight the toilet is out, the walls are prepped, and a bunch of guys are standing around waiting for me to pick a paint color.

There was no help from my husband, who claims to be color blind. (He seems pretty able to tell when I run a red light, I notice.) “Don’t look at me,” he says, throwing out his arms out in front of him to ward off the thought. “It’s completely up to you. You pick whatever you think looks good.”

Apparently, what I thought looked good was a terrific match for the color of vomit.

The painter left me one of those paint chip sets—hundreds of swatches to sort through and compare to the carpet, the wood trim, the tub and counter, the stained glass window, the foliage outside the window, the bedroom you can see from inside the bathroom . . . I’m telling you, I agonized over those stupid paint chips and narrowed it down to what I thought was a greenish gold. To get to this point, I bought and tested four quarts of paint, because the paint chips naturally don’t match the actual paint. Having decided on a color, I thought a slightly darker shade would be better. But I didn’t actually test a further different quart of paint.

Which is why, when I get home from work the day the paint goes on, I’m standing in my bathroom saying, “Oh my god, it looks exactly like throw-up! I cannot possible live with vomit-colored walls!” And I proceed to cry on and off for three days. When I am not crying, I am raging against the dyeing of the light. Pun intended.

So I have to schedule the painter to return, and I go through another five quarts of paint. By now I have enough paint to refinish all the bedrooms and the living room, if only I actually liked any of the colors. And I’m desperately trying to get help from the color-blind man. “Just look at this wall and tell me which of the two colors you like better,” I say to my husband, ushering him into the bathroom.

“Are there two colors on the wall?” he says.

“This one and this one,” I point out. “Not the original color up there. Just these two down here and here.”

“They aren’t the same color?” he says.

“One is blu-u-u-u-ue,” I say very slowly, “and one is yel-l-l-l-l-l-low.”

“They look exactly the same to me,” he says.

But I am desperate not to end up with another mistake, and I have no one to ask. So, like a moron, I go back to him the next day and say, “Okay, come look at this sample. What do you think of this color.”

“That looks nice,” he tries.

“You’re looking at the vomit color,” I say. “The sample is on this other wall.”

“I wish I could help you,” he says. “Can’t you get a friend to come over?”  But I am leery of doing this. What if they advise me on a color. and I try it and hate it? I’m sure I would carry a grudge.

So I keep at it. And to make it harder, it rains all weekend. So I’m forced to choose a color that I’ve never actually seen in sunlight. On one of my last trips to the paint store, I said to the guy behind the counter, “I guess I should have hired an interior designer.”

“Oh, no,” he says, “they never work out. People are always coming in here after using a designer and saying stuff like, ‘What were they thinking!’ Personally, when I paint my house, I’m just going to use black and white and gray.” I didn’t point out that there are four million zillion shades of gray to pick from.

I left the painters in my bathroom on Monday with very little expectation of success. My plan was this: sunglasses. I would just wear sunglasses whenever I went into the bathroom. I would get glasses tinted in such a way as to make the colors match. It would be a little difficult, feeling around for sunglasses in the middle of the night when I needed to stumble to the toilet, but it would be worth it not to flip on the switch and spend the rest of the night gritting my teeth over another horrible color choice. Which is exactly what I would do. Once my mind gets a grip on a bad idea, it likes to work on a committed relationship.

So it was a miracle, really, that the color turned out just fine. In fact, I like it a lot. It’s called “Warm Patina,” if you want to know. Which doesn’t tell you a darn thing, of course. It’s pleasant but not perky, sunny but not bright, and I have no idea what color my husband thinks it is.

In a cloud of dark blue methane,
Neptune rains diamonds.
Atmospheric pressure dissolves
hydrogen bonds, causes
carbon atoms to bind together.
DeBeers is losing money there.

And everything is blue.
People crave orange drinks
and warm pink for their sinks,
which continue to sit empty,
since there is no water,
just buckets of diamonds
and blue sky.

Too much of a good thing.

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