The Decorating Blues

We continue to settle in and enjoy the process as much as one can. There was no structural work required, but we had to make some aesthetic changes in order to feel at home. Lately I’ve come to realize something is wrong with my karma, as it seems my destiny for 30 years has been overcoming the blues when it comes to interior design.

The first time I faced the challenge was helping my parents prepare my grandfather’s house for sale. If you’ve ever undertaken DIY projects at your house, you’ve no doubt stood at the counter waiting for your paint to be mixed. While standing there, have your eyes ever lingered over that collection of unclaimed cans stacked in the corner? You may have wondered why they’re over there, or perhaps you’ve noted that some unfortunate person came to his senses before having such hideous hues in his home. For whatever reason, the cans wait indefinitely like white elephants on the Island of Misfit Toys for someone to buy them. Who would? I know who.

Grandpa lived in a very cool house with pocket doors, a formal dining room, large rooms and a porch long enough to hold several sitters. Sadly, his design choices were a matter of economic convenience. He was known to apply coats of paint to perfectly good surfaces better left alone. I stripped an iron bed and a floor lamp, and a furniture refinisher in the family removed layers from a beautiful old tea table. All items had been painted layer upon layer from the same can each time. Grandpa was of the opinion that everything deserved a coat of paint at some point, and to his credit, he was not afraid of color like a lot of people. Of course, he might’ve been colorblind and no one knew. That would be a better explanation when we drove up one spring to see the decorative wrought iron trim painted Pepto Bismol pink. His genetic frugality got the better of him when he ran into the hardware store manager who was trying to get rid of those unfortunate cans while still making a buck.

We arrived the following summer to find the kitchen painted the color of Windex. At his advanced age, he had managed to paint the walls and ceiling, getting a fair amount on the light fixture in the process. After he passed away, I was home from college, drafted for paint duty as we prepared to sell the house. Even with primer, blue is as unforgiving as red.

I have lived in apartments with blue carpet, and have spent time and money covering the offending floors with rugs if I couldn’t get a landlord to replace them. After years of renting, I finally bought my first house. It was love at first sight when I saw those high ceilings, French doors, large rooms and wood floors. I loved that house even though I battled the plaster walls and ceiling of an enormous bathroom, which had been covered in layers of blue. It looked like the changing room at a public swimming pool before I had my way with it.

For several nights, I stood on my sturdy green ladder, applying numerous coats and retouching until the blue no longer winked at me beneath the layers. I lived in that house for four years and continued to see tiny spots of blue taunting me as I walked by. Visitors would never have noticed it, but the roller couldn’t defeat the wall’s texture in those places where the blue refused to die.

I had won another battle with blue carpeting in the last house, so our new house sensed my reputation as it silently begged to be transformed. The potential was obvious. I studied photos during escrow so that I could plan accordingly. Were the walls blue or was it just a reflection of the floors and those countertops? Perhaps it was a trick of the camera or lighting. I wouldn’t find out for certain until we arrived as new owners.

The living room before the blue was ripped out.
The living room before the blue was ripped out.

I’d made an appointment with the flooring installer before leaving Los Angeles, and I was just finishing my first cup of coffee on that first morning when he arrived to measure. When he left and the sun rose higher, I got a closer look at the walls—and the ceiling! They were not white, but a light gray painted hastily over pale blue in order to prepare the home for sale. We knew the previous owner had been a merchant marine; perhaps the blue provided a sense of being at sea. I could speculate for days, but let’s agree that old sea captains are not experts at interior design unless decorating Long John Silver’s.

The solution was 14 gallons of paint. We spackled and masked surfaces all evening, and we painted all the second full day in the house. Standing on the same green ladder I’d used 15 years earlier, I began covering another offensive blue ceiling. Within a week, the walls were transformed and now the floors have been done.

The living room today.
The living room today.

We’re saving the bathrooms for later projects. I’m tired of painting for the moment, but officially I’m saying that I want to ponder solutions for those rooms a while longer. The gray/blue aura remains in those rooms, reminding us how far we’ve changed the rest of the house for good.

The bright lights in the bathrooms work with the blue to make us feel like we’re getting ready in a science lab at the CDC. I keep insisting that if you can manage to look good under those harsh conditions, you can leave the house with confidence. I’m not there yet.

© 2015 by Patrick Brown

Visit my author page at to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”

14 Replies to “The Decorating Blues”

      1. This is an unbelievable transformation, Patrick. You under-rate your Interior Design credentials. The make-over is worthy of Architectural Digest. [P.S. BLUE??? carpets?????????? What was the man thinking????]

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’d say you’ve made some dramatic improvements, paint wise and otherwise. Looks good…..can’t wait to see and hear more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful! You under-rate your gifts as an “Interior Designer” Patrick! What you have done with this room deserves a spread in Architectural Digest. Well Done, Sirrah!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the green, and that floor! I’m envious! To Gary – remember all your mom’s blues? But, Patrick, it was tastefully broken up with neutrals here and there. 🎨

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love you room, Patrick! Why don’t you get into the interior decorating business? (Remember when we painted your office in Duncan?)


    1. Funny you should mention that! I was telling the story of that time when we were selecting paint. High ceilings and how we got it done. Thankfully I didn’t have to install scaffolding this time!


  5. Patrick your writing just gets better and better. You keep sanding away the layers just like in your painting projects to reveal the true beauty of your clean clear witty voice . It is a lovely piece and so universal.
    Blue paint has been your nemesis forever following you from one place to another like Glen Close waving the dead rabbit at you the whole time.
    I feel the same way about brass. Wherever I have moved my life burden has been to replace one dated frilly brass light fixture after another. Each time I moved the light fixture got bigger and more hideous and more expensive and difficult to replace. At my current house it was the brass chandelier over the dining room table at the most focal point of the house.
    Of course these fixtures aren’t purchased at the local dollar store. They are costly especially if you don’t want one that looks like it was used on How to Redo for Only Ten Dollars on HTV in between the realitor shows.
    I tried everything to cover it up till I could replace it. I sprayed it a flat gold to bring down the brassiness. I pulled off the little dusty shades and replaced the bulbs with round frosted ones.
    It looked like a dirty brass chandelier with no shades.
    Yes there are albatrosses we all carry for our lives when decorating our homes. They are like zombies they never die and always return looking worse each time.
    Your story was terrific and your before and after pictures show what an incredible mature decorator you have become. Your home looks like you warm and inviting and easy to love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Roy, what a wonderful response to read first thing in the morning. Thank you, and I know how much you understand being taunted by brass!


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