Which White Wins

Hello! I’m going to have to admit that writing my usual longer blogs is taking up a lot of my time at the moment and I’m not quiet getting through them every week like I did before the house. So that’s a good reason, right?! But I don’t wait to give it up or make you wait weeks more for FABULOUS content, so I think I might start doing little mini blogs if that’s ok? Musings, perhaps? Let me know if that’s suitable. And I’ll still do the occasional Big Blog when the subject calls for it, promise.

I’m currently painting my Dining Room.

It has, unofficially, become the centre of the house. This is mainly because it has a large flat surface (aka table) so things can be dumped on it and it can also take a computer for me. It’s on the way from the front door through to the kitchen and the snug (or, let’s be honest, the telly) so it’s the perfect place for kids to kick off their shoes and throw their bags over their shoulders.

The Dining Room is the oldest part of the house (c.1830/40s – STILL to do the full research) and it feels like its heart too. It’s lovely to sit in here and watch the world go by because the local bus service drops off and picks up from pretty much outside the window. I can also see all of my various dog-walking friends passing by. Last week Alan, who lives in the village, brought a little box of his metal-detecting finds for my daughter to see. I hope he’ll come round and take a look in our garden some day soon as it’s in the grounds of an old motte and bailey castle so there might be some interesting discoveries?

I feel very comfy here because, despite the fact it’s freezing most of the time and even just cool on a hot day, it’s a friendly kind of room. It has three doors (one leading to the cellar), four cupboards, an alcove and a marble fireplace and just one window which feels quite well-balanced. I don’t know why, it just does.

Lovely alcove

When we first moved in, I got a bit excited about painting this room. I had big ideas about this being the one place in the house where I could get ahead and finally wield a paintbrush. We had a roof to fix and heating to save for so the likelihood of being able to fulfil my frustrated gay interior designer dreams is fairly low but surely I could manage one room?

So, off I went to Homebase with big ideas of deep blue walls and fabulous rosy metallic highlights thoughtfully dotted about. I got five tester pots of various blues from some most prestigious brands and slapped them around in different locations, almost panting with feverish excitement.

And they looked terrible. Murky, indeterminate, lacking depth. It gutted me because I love a good, dark colour. But not in this room, it seems…

Shortly after that we got the packet of papers along with the title deeds from the solicitors that showed us a) our secret cellar and b) the house had been owned by women since at least the 1880s. There was an unfortunate hiatus in the 1930/40s when it was owned by two brothers but they graciously died within a short time of each other and left it to the second brother’s widow (my husband got a little nervous when he heard this, don’t know why…). It felt like the room was demanding that I move in a different direction.

My deepest blue dreams seemed like too much strong arming in what was essentially quite a pretty, feminine house. Now, don’t get me wrong, women are strong too. My team recently won the mum’s tug-of-war at the kids’ sports day so I’m happy to do a gun-show for anyone watching, but this house just demanded something else. I’m currently thinking chinoiserie but this may change and I’ll update you as I go along.

So, I had a complete meltdown for a while and then got a hold of myself. We’re hopefully going to actually have some heating by the time autumn rolls around and there’ll be any amount of plaster-loss, floorboards up, and unsuspected holes to negotiate. In the meantime, I still feel that I need to achieve something so I’m going to paint the walls for two reasons: 1) to cheer myself up and 2) to disguise the ancient shadows of old pictures on the wall and smudgy smears.

Aaaand I’m going Banana Split yellow!

Might need to deal with a couple of cracks first too!

Now you’ve dealt with that shock, I’ll continue…

I desperately needed to paint all the woodwork in the room because the shiny white gloss that had been used before had yellowed over time. And not in a good way. It was almost the same cream as the walls and just looked a bit knackered with all the chips and dents. This is where the painful journey of choosing ‘the right white’ comes in.

Door surrounds painted in Dutch White, doors themselves still ancient high gloss ‘cream’!

It shouldn’t be painful, should it? White is white, right?

There must be a million middle class blogs taking the mick out of Farrow and Ball colours, the names as well as the confusing vast array of shades of white. There are probably as many again about people considering a redecoration of their house and then facing the choice of white paints in B&Q and wilting inside just a bit.

I understand this angst because I have felt it too. But I love it just the same. Farrow and Ball, for example, will give you a little background to the history of their colours on their colour charts. If you go to their website, they’ll tell you a little more. This purple has a touch of charcoal in it which turns it slightly grey in some lights and cuts out the sugariness. That green has a yellow base which warms it up.

They’ll also give you a few hints for good colour matches, white or otherwise. Hint: barely any of them are purest Dulux glossy white. The brilliant, eye-blinding white that we know and use widely today, called Titanium White, was introduced commercially in 1921. Prior to that it was lead paint for whiteness or various shades of near-white available through lime washes or chalky pigment blends. This is what F&B and other heritage paint lines are evoking when they give a range of different whites.

See the range of whites here!

So, should I choose a heritage ‘bright’ white like chalk? Or maybe a white with a touch of ochre sit gently alongside whatever colour comes along on the wall (including Banana Split)?

In the end, I chose a Craig and Rose colour called Dutch White. Described as a pigmented white with clean clay tones, it was inspired by the Georgian and Regency era, for timeless, peaceful spaces. Which seemed just about right for the room and the age of the house. As I sit here now, admiring the small patch I’ve actually painted, I can see how it will work across the whole of the room. The gentle eggshell finish glows rather than dazzles and the white is clean and fresh without being obviously new. It chimes in with our approach so far which is to respect what went before whilst giving the place a gentle uplift…

…with ‘nanas!