Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Room That Laughed In My Face

 Some places are beautiful and easy going.
 But have you ever been faced with a difficult room?
A room that laughed in your face or spit in your eye? 
A room with shadows and shifting pools of light.
A room that would not submit to paint, much less your dreams.
Dr. Will knew this room was trouble the first time he saw it, 
though he couldn't (or wouldn't) articulate why. 
This room has three windows, three mirrors, pickled cabinets, black-brown-tan speckled counters, a slightly coppery/beige tile floor with black inserts, a tub surround with beige and navy tile, and yellow walls. It should've been easy to decorate.
Let me begin by saying that I love the cabinets, though I wouldn't object to painting them. They're well-built, and I love the drawer space. They've been paired nicely with the floor and counters--a perfect match, really. But that wall color worried me.

I told myself to wait. (I didn't like the tub, either, but I was told it was a pricey therapeutic thing, so it will stay. As will the tiles--whoever installed them knew what they were doing.)
I've been waiting for over a year, and all the while I was thinking.

The walls were easily remedied, I told myself; however, I underestimated the power of the diverse tile colors, along with the surprisingly harsh nature of the light and other reflective surfaces.
 Lighting can be just as assertive as tile color.I knew the wall color had to go, along with the window treatments,
but I got distracted by the trim.
SW's Caviar went on a tub panel. I was home with the flu and got updates via email and phone. It seemed as if the Caviar was a smart looking match for the black diamonds in the tile floor. But when I finally dragged myself over to the farm, I realized that Caviar was too weighty and masculine. Pretty, but wrong in this light 
and in this space. So I looked through my fan decks and scoured Pinterest (my favorite hang-out).

I found a beautiful photo on Houzz that sparked my imagination. It's not really the look I'm going for (a little formal), but I love the wall color; the beige flooring was a little similar to mine (minus the orange streaks and assertive black diamonds), so I thought it could work in my space. I'd love to add a little definition to the tub area--an arch or something to separate it from the sink area.
It's strange how the little black diamonds on my floor completely derailed the Palladian Blue. 

Here's another similar color scheme from Houzz.
Pretty but way too formal (my husband is going to freak--he loves formal things) for me. But I wondered if the wall color would cancel the orange.

I tested SW Moderate White (lower left), SW Creamy (upper left) and BM Palladian Blue (far right). Palladian looked blue-green on the paint chip. But it was baby blue in my bath.

Everyone agreed that Moderate White was too white. But I just didn't believe it! This color is the paint world's version of a creamy vanilla ice cream cone, mixed with a hint of caramel.
It's a beautiful color. I wanted it to work, so I enlisted Bandwidth's help and we kept painting.

Now let's step back.
We have Moderate White on one panel and Caviar on the other.
(The rag on the floor is from an oopsy-daisy spill--we quickly cleaned it, so no harm done!)

What do you think of this northern light? I do love light, but I don't like what it's doing to Moderate White or the other paint colors.
The small ledge of granite, if it's granite, seems to clash with the tile, not to mention those navy blue inserts.

Why isn't this working? 
What am I missing about this room? 
It's talking, but I can't understand the lingo.

I'm starting to wonder if the coppery valance
and yellow walls are confusing my eye. 

Let's try a dab of Moderate White again.

On the very bottom swatch, you can see the creaminess of the paint. It's not white at all. Yet the room is sucking the life out of that color.

One last hurrah--Moderate White and Caviar.
Maybe it's the mirror that's confusing me.

I love the color of this room.
Come to think of it, this is the look I want. But can I do it with what's alread in place? Without ripping out anything?

The above color reminds me of Macadamia, a deeper version of Moderate White, and I could glaze the cabinets with Thatch Brown, an even darker shade on the Moderate White strip. Bandwidth is painting a sample right now, so I will soon know how Macadamia holds up to the light--and if the overall result is too beige. I'm not sure I will love that; but this room is offering limited choices.

Here's an example of Macadamia.

And here it is again in a brighter space.

I thought about trying Wythe Blue, but halfway to the paint store, I turned around--I just knew it woudn't work. Not with all of those weird beige/navy/black/whatever tiles. 
(Just for the record, my contractor, Mike Cox, knows a way to paint the navy tiles beside the tub, so this color will soon be gone.)

For now, the bathroom wins.
It is laughing in my face and high-fiving itself.
 Credit: Will West
I am totally out of inspiration.
Argh, argh. Argh.

If this was your bathroom, or you were the designer of this room, what would you do?
What am I overlooking and/or not understanding about color and tones I feel snowblind.

See you tomorrow evening for Foodie Friday, and the winner of the $100 Amex gift card will be announced--there's still time to enter (deadline is midnight tonight, central time).


  1. I think upgrading the lighting and replacing the mirrors with new larger ones in a different shape (perhaps a darker color) would set the tone for the bathroom. Have you thought about plantation shutters to deter some of the weird light you are having a problem with (have had them in my past three houses and love them). This might also help tremendously with selecting paint colors as you wouldn't be dealing with how the light affects the paint.
    It is going to be lovely, you have wonderful taste and a good bones house to work with.

    Mary L

  2. Mary, I like the idea of plantation shutters!

  3. I agree with Mary - honestly aside from getting rid of the navy blue tiles and changing the mirrors and doing plant. shutters I would leave those awesome pickled cabs and that wall colour alone, to be honest - I think it looks awesome.

  4. I think that yellow paint is causing problems when you look at different colors. Here's a thought, bring in one of those lamps that has the bright white light (Ott type lamp) to see the colors clearly. A north facing room tends to look grayer anyway. I think the Macadamia is a beautiful warm white that would blend nicely with the tans and browns in the tile and counter tops.

  5. I was going to suggest shutters on the windows too. Large size.

    Paint? Most of our house is SW Moderate White. It's a warm, creamy white that changes from daytime sunny to overcast to night. Night is my favorite time to see the walls. It is VERY hard to photograph (at least for me) as the color is ALWAYS washed out - looks WAY whiter in photographs than it is in person.

    Most likely, the vanity mirror is too far from your face for you to see for make-up (sorry, a fact of getting older!) I'd take down that mirror, leaving only the one over each sink. Put a counter/make-up mirror if you want one for primping.

    How do you feel about a very light glaze on the cabinets? Like wipe on all over, then wipe almost completely off - leaving very little all over (not just in creases). I did this to Madison's kitchen, then lightly sanded over that with sanding block. Gave her kitchen cabinets a vintage feel.

    I'll think on it more the next day or so - gbaby spending the night tonight.


  6. I have no advice. I know you will find the perfect solution.

  7. we have macadamia in our bedroom and master bath and love it...i love the size of your bathroom and all that lovely light...i'm sure you'll make a perfect decision!

  8. I would suggest taking down the valances. They are distracting to my eye and then see what you see. Also when I take a break, sleep on it, and come back and look the next morning, I see the solution that is right for me. Plantation shutters are fabulous as others have suggested and solve a lot of things.

    Good luck and sleep well :) knowing the answer will come.

  9. Plantation shutters seem like a good option. Have you tried Anonymous in this room for the walls? It may be a good contrast to the floor tile and walls as they are now.

  10. KW, I was thinking about Anonymous last night. It's worth a try--I have the paint.

  11. Sam, my husband is going to help me take down the valances tomorrow. My eye keeps going to the orange-copper.

    Ladies, it looks like plantation shutters will be THE solution for the windows.
    Which slat width should I get? 4"?

  12. I think the room needs a bit of neutralizing. Paint out the cabinets, either white, cream or black. Paint out the tiles that clash to make them consistent. See what that does. The counter tile may be too dominant and needs something more neutral. Then, figure out what color your walls should be. I think you could ignore the floor and shower if you take care of the other stuff. The tile is orange and the walls and cabinets are yellow and are dominating everything else.

  13. Tracey, you're right! They are dominating, and it's confusing. Thanks!

  14. I would remove the valances and the white framed mirror. You will find that things will be easier to look at then. If you have to, paint the walls the white and go from there, but get rid of the yellow.It won't be any more expensive than testing a bunch of colors on the walls. The copper valances and yellow walls are throwing off what you are seeing. Get rid of all distractions.

  15. I would go with at least a 3 inch slat on the shutters. A 4 inch slat is nice too, just depends on what you like.
    I would have a mirror over each sink and not one over the vanity area. Like I mentioned earlier I would choose mirror frames that are a darker shade and really chunky. It would look striking in that space!

    Can't wait to see how it turns out. Beautiful I am sure.

    Mary L

  16. Mary, I'll look at 3" and 4" slats.
    That's two votes for no mirror over the vanity. I'm starting to feel better about this room!

  17. What about a coffee with cream type of color?

  18. I think you should just paint your favorite color of white. I think all the yellow tones are throwing you off and once the walls are white and you take away the yellowy mirror, you will see more clearly! It is a beautiful space and you will do a great job making it sparkle! karen...

  19. I would take down the valances and prime everything white and go from there. I think those two things are distracting you and it would be easier to work with a clean pallat.

  20. Right away I would at least figure out how to paint the black diamond in your tile so distracting and you will be surprised how much it will change the look. Other wise it has some really good aspects and it looks like you have some good start on color choices.

  21. The picture of the inspiration room is lovely and I think you can come so close without tearing everything out. Definitely the valances are wrong. They look limp...sorry, best word I could come up with.

    Have you considered shutters, just half ones?

  22. The photo you showed us of the tone on tone is beautiful and I think you should keep with it until you get there. But I have to tell you, those mirrors drove me nuts every time I got to one of your photos of them. They're all wrong. Round mirrors in an oddly shaped room. No. I'd replace with vertical mirrors and they need to have a gorgous brown/bronze something finish. Paint the black on the tile to match as close to the tile and then your floor won't be the issue. Then you can get down to the business of getting the paint right and the cabinets. Just saying. Carol

  23. I think you have a wonderfully spacious bathroom and know that you will make the right decisions. I think I would like a creamy shade like a pastel peach, very light as it would compliment your tiling and maybe change your mirrors so that they match - something with framing that matches the copper accents, then change the drawer pulls to tie it all in - just suggestions. The wonderful thing about this bathroom is that there are so many possibilities and as you said the tiling was done by a pro. Why not play it up?

  24. I so love the first pic from Houzz....I have Macadamia in the lower level of the house...I love the color...I think if you removed everything (mirrors, valances, etc) in the may feel better...they seem to be getting in the way of your creativity!!!

  25. Oh you are having so much fun! I agree with the others about the mirrors seem a little off to me. One easy fix for them would be to paint the trim of the one oval mirror a darker shade that coordinates with the granite. Additionally, the only other thing I would suggest about the walls is that the color it is now doesn't seem to be reflected in the granite either which it should. It may just be the camera pictures but they seem to have too much yellow in them for the softer beiges that are in granite? So you could pick up the lightest shade from your granite which looks like it could be the Macademia you like. However, all that being said..uh oh..I think THIS is the room that could really handle the darker shades of paint as in the the accent tiles. Just a thought. LOL! I think the shutters will be pretty too. Overall, I think it's a beautiful bathroom!

  26. Take the mirrors down, Michael, and take down the curtains. Eliminate them from the equation. They are distracting you.

    It seems that there are a lot of elements which the shadows/light are influencing. If it were me, I would prime everything in the white you like, and then see where you stand. The white is going to reflect the colors around it, but if you think it is too white, is there something on the color deck with it that's a little darker? Or is there a way to cut between it and the next darkest shade? Maybe make up a quart and see. I think trial and error is still the best path, and the Palladian Blue is dreadful in there. It's too playful. You want something that is a lot lighter and more sophisicated and maybe greener if you go blue in there. Almost a distressed color. Maybe even a little muddy. That blue does laugh in your face. You are right about that. It's clownish in that space.

    There is one thing you can do that you probably haven't thought about. If you were still thinking blue, I think this would be easier than trying to match what's on the paint deck. I did this with a large urn I needed for a party, and I still love it. I used a jacket that I loved, and I matched it with craft paints and sort of distressed the urn that color. I bought a darker shade, like turquoise, and I cut it with white and with a baby blue till I got the shade I wanted. It was a dead ringer match. And I had copper paint as a base and let it bleed through.

    Why don't you buy some poster board and craft paints from Michael's (no pun intended) and try mixing up colors until you get one you like. Then take the poster board (or what is that other stuff that is stiffer???) and put it up in your bathroom or just paint it on the wall and see if you can get the color you want. Bunny Williams said that she mixed paint in coffee tins to get the color of the walls in her foyer (as I recall), and it was a color she saw in Tuscany or some place in Europe.

    So start with a Tabula Rosa and go from there. In other words, prime it in white and go forward. It can't hurt unless you want to keep what's in there. Mix the paint in the room if you have to in order to see it in that light. I can't help you with white, but you could start with pure white and then a dab of this and a dab of that. THEN, if you finally come up with something you like, take that sheet of paper to the paint store and have them MATCH it. Painters used to be able to do this in the old days. Think, the Blandings and their dream home. ;-)

    Try something aside from Benjamin Moore if you have to in order to get what you want. Martha's paints tend to be greener when she does blues. Or try Pratt and Lambert whose pastels require more coats from what I was told (but SO beautiful!).. But see, there I am with the blue again. ;-) The main thing? Pick a color that is going to flatter YOU. Dr. Gollum won't care as long as you're happy (I hope he's not reading!), and I think a color you love might be the start. If you like yourself in beigey, creamy white, go there, and if you like yourself in blue, go there. But start with a blank slate and remember that the relfections on the paint will come from all the surfaces... the shadows and light, the floor tiles, the wall tiles, the counters, the cupboards, etc. You've got deep shadows in some areas, bou want the bulk of the area to be what you want. I would save to solve it by putting up wallpaper, but I don't like wallpaper in a full bath. The steam makes it curl... take it from one who knows and takes showers so hot that I look like a lobster aferwards. Mr. Magpie doesn't understand how I can stand it, but that's the only type of shower I like.. ;-)

    I've blathered on and on, but I hope this helps and doesn't confuse. I want to drive up there and paint it for you! Believe me, I get it. I truly do.



  27. One last thing, the picture you love is very symmetrical. This room is not, and that is possibly distracting you, too. You need to think about having two mirrors over the vantiy area and the sink that are the same size. And possibly removing the little shelf. I think you can do things to disguise the things that aren't working for you, but the first thing is to take down the mirros, the curtains, to paint out the blue tiles, and to paint it all white. I'm going to do some more snooping online and see if there's an answer.

  28. I think all of this tile is jumbling things up way too much. I know it is costly but maybe you could consider Carerra marble in the future in place of all that tile. I would like to see this room simplified and I believe the tile work is driving the eyes crazy.

  29. Have you seen the Colour Me Happy blog by Maria Killam? You will find information there that will help you narrow down the options. Also, take down the curtains.