Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just White, Please

I'm deep in the middle of a house remodel. Once again I'm awestruck by the myriad of big and little choices one makes even for a "minor" change.

For example, I'm replacing the handles on the kitchen cabinets. Happily, the size of the handle is fixed, since the existing handles have screw holes 3 inches apart (the centers). Phew, one big decision out of the way! But now, do I want the chrome, bronze, stainless, brushed nickel, wrought iron, or plastic finish? Modern, traditional, funky? What design out of hundreds, even thousands of possibilities? How much do I want to pay? And how many stores do I visit to find just the right ones? And will they have enough of the prized handles of choice in stock, or will I have to order them and wait?

The whole house is ripe with promise and infinite possibilities. We're doing two bathrooms and three bedrooms, along with "minor" changes such as new carpeting throughout the rest of the house. Some of those possibilities can be reined in a bit by a few factors. Money is always the biggest factor, of course. Existing architecture plays a part, since the house is a "Mid-Century Modern" house lovingly known as an "Eichler" (the developer's name was Joseph Eichler). It's got post-and-beam construction and floor-to-ceiling glass. This is the San Francisco Bay area, and the house was built to luxuriate in warm California weather well before the energy crisis. It's got straight clean lines, not suited to Victorian frippery or Colonial whatsits. Let's just say that a Mondrian painting would look right at home here, or maybe a minimalist Zen garden. Anyway, that cuts out a lot of choices right there--unfortunately many of the choices currently in style for bathroom vanities!

But what I've really been thinking about is color. I'm in love with color, and lots of it (yes, the tie-dye obsession is kind of a hint). But when it comes to a house interior, well, I tend to gravitate towards white. White walls, maybe with a darker carpet that won't show so much of the dirt (gotta be practical, after all). White walls make a wonderful backdrop for the adornments of color that I put up on those walls.

I have friends who have a house they have painted all sorts of wonderful rich luscious colors, and I love it, but I can't do it myself. For one thing, while I know it doesn't have to be, I tend to view paint as permanent, rather than something I can change when the whim takes me (mostly because it would be yet another project I'd never finish). For me, paint is a commitment. Also, if I give in to painting different rooms different colors, it opens up an even bigger infinity of choices to make, and I become paralyzed and unable to choose anything. And what if I choose and I'm wrong? I'm committed to that color for life. Actually, my friends painted their livingroom a color that turned out to be more of a butter yellow than they had expected. They decided they hated it, and then they painted it again to a more pleasing gold color. I'm in awe that they could do that--I can't.

So I choose white. The contractor asks what color I want the windows: white. Well, actually it's almond. The sink? White. Well, actually it's biscuit. The bathtub? White. Well, actually it's... oh, Kohler says the tub is white. But their white looks a little more blue than the white of the white vanity top I see. And paint? Kelly-Moore alone has an entire brochure just of their "white" paint colors, and it only includes their "popular" whites! Do I want warm whites? Cool whites? Neutral whites? Bright whites? Dark whites?

Maybe I should head for bed and dream of a world that comes in just black and white. But would that be midnight black? Stormy black? Black hole black? Black black? "We're not kidding, we really mean it, this is black" black?

Ooooh, my head hurts.

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