My Woodlawn Blue Dining Room

I am finally done obsessing over this project.  I did all the painting myself and am very tired.  I am going to share too many pictures and then never mention it again!

When I was looking for a color for this room, I knew I didn’t want a neutral because I have those everywhere else in my house.  I wanted the house to feel cohesive, so I copied a color scheme I saw in this blog post.  I had plenty of brown and beige, and decided to add navy blue, colonial blue, and burgundy to give the house some life.  I thought burgundy would be too intense, and navy too dark, so colonial blue was what I chose to paint this room.

What is colonial blue you ask?  I don’t know.  But Woodlawn Blue was pretty, not too crazy looking, and had a colonial name.  Good enough for me!  (I am making this choice sound very casual but it was, shall we say….not.)

Woodlawn Blue is one of Benjamin Moore’s historical colors, which all seem to be a little bit gray to keep them from looking overly modern.  (Which, as it turns out is not really accurate, as 18th century paint colors were actually very vibrant.  Anyway.)  As an avowed color-fearer, something with a little gray was what I wanted.

This room faces northeast and northwest, so it gets light early in the morning and late in the afternoon in the summer.  In winter it gets some afternoon light but is mostly shadowed.   Woodlawn Blue looks like a pretty, calm blue gray when there is no direct light:


When there is direct sun, it warms up the color to more of a blue-green, and the gray seems to disappear:




The white I chose for the bottom half is Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, one their whitest whites, with no gray.  I would typically go for a warmer white, but I wanted something that would brighten up the gloom of this room and not look dull or dirty in the shadows.  And Chantilly Lace is obviously a beautiful name and must be obeyed.  It doesn’t match my existing trim at all.  I will repaint that trim when I work up the energy, probably when the garden is done.


In the background is a throw pillow I made this spring (three of them in total), and it matches!  As does the ocean painting above the bench.  Color scheme success.

Now it needs some burgundy.  I ordered this tablecloth, which should arrive next week.  Will it look right?  I think so.  Was it way too expensive for a house with three kids, one of whom eats hot sauce on everything?  Yes.


I have some burgundy flowers timed to bloom shortly as well.  (The sunflowers here are called Procut Plum, so are not quite right.)

And now I promise not to talk about paint colors until 2019.



The Power of Paint Color Names

Since I am searching for a paint color for my dining room, I have entered the strange internet world of choosing a paint color.  There is a lot of obsessing and not a lot of actual information.  Photographs do not accurately portray colors at all, and descriptions are fairly useless. These are facts that everyone knows but no one can accept. I am endlessly searching for real life pictures of colors I am interested in, just to find that they all look totally different from each other and from the paint chip.


But an odd thing that I’ve noticed myself doing is latching on to a color I have read about and wanting it to work in my room. This, my friends, is an example of good marketing.  A consumer being attracted to something and deciding it is “them”, having it take hold in their mind, and finally making them want to buy it.

And what is so powerful about certain colors that they appeal to me when I haven’t even seen what they look like? The name.

Isn’t that totally absurd? Here are some names that I think express my inner self: Kensington Blue, Homestead Green, Jamestown Blue. I guess I am a colonist, in some type of elegant plantation home, or maybe just the owner of a British estate. There are similar colors called Del Mar Blue and Scenic Drive, but those names don’t work for me.


Here are some other good ones from Benjamin Moore: Collingwood, Edgecomb Gray, Heritage red, Hale navy. What’s interesting about these names is that they aren’t terribly descriptive.  I read an article about named paint colors, and the namer said that they are always looking for descriptive names, like foods. The example given was strawberry parfait because everyone can picture what that color will be. A lie, or just bad marketing. The best color names don’t describe, they evoke.

When we painted the nursery I had picked out a beautiful soft yellow called Windham Cream. My husband took it to Lowe’s and found that it matched, pretty much exactly, a color Lilting Lily. Now that name is okay. But I had the name Windham Cream in my mind and I have never loved the color since. Lilting lily is just not the same feel. It does not say British country house.


Sherwin Williams is abysmal at naming colors. Our builder uses Sherwin Williams and we were allowed to pick a grand total of one color for every wall in the house. I wanted a linen/ oatmeal neural that would look good with white or gray, not too cold but not too warm. What fit the bill was Accessible Beige, a grayed down beige. That name though. Terrible. They have a few other colors that are pretty with awful names. Livable green, a beautiful shade I want to paint my girls’ room. Hate the name. I also like the beige/ gray/ green tones of Techno Gray and… get this….Chat Room. No.


So to cure my discontent over Accessible Beige, I have renamed it in my mind. (This is totally insane.)  It is very close to a Benjamin Moore color called York Gray. Now that works for me. Even better, it’s part of the Williamsburg Collection. Yes.  I like it better now, and that is the sad truth.


By the way, I starting painting my dining room. It’s Woodlawn Blue, and the color looks beautiful so far. Even the butler agrees.


Staging Home or Making Home

Do you like going to model homes even if you aren’t in the market for a house? I do, and if I am ever on an errand alone I slip into one if it’s nearby.  (There is always one nearby in our area.)  I don’t really enjoy the architecture of most of them, but I do like the decor sometimes. What I really find interesting is the staging.

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(A crystal gazing ball is essential to keep the towels from…blowing away?)

I love seeing things like fake fruit in bowls, cookbooks open on the counter, the never-used dining room table set invitingly. Sometimes there are bottles of champagne by the bathtub and Victoria’s Secret bags in the closet. The kids’ rooms generally have a boys room with an airplane theme, but no toys anywhere. The girls room is always princessy, and pink. I just find it all very interesting.

What is the purpose of all this stagecraft? To sell the house, obviously, but why include these silly props when they are not for sale? A lot of people will say it helps the buyer imagine how to use the rooms. I’m pretty sure the buyers are not that stupid. Or to make the buyer comfortable.  But being in an uninhabited house with the occasional sign of life is not comfortable. It is actually pretty creepy.


No, staging is used to sell the feeling of a brand new life. The home itself sells clean, storage space, new.  The staging sells happy marriage in the bedroom, neat and well dressed children, evenings entertaining at home. Of course, buying the house does not get you any of these things. The evenings drinking champagne in the bath will never happen.  It was all an empty promise.  We know this intellectually, but it is hard to separate the feeling from the product. We want how it makes us feel, so we buy it.

(I do firmly believe that a well designed home feels good, but ironically tract homes are very unlikely to incorporate any of the features that can accomplish this.)

And of course, this purchasing things based on our feelings is the root of advertising and consumerism. Advertising (good advertising at least) does not sell beer, or pillow covers, or houses. It sells a life, a feeling. It tells you “You have always wanted this. You need this to be who you are.”.  We don’t buy fondue pots. We buy the feeling of being a good hostess. Not picture frames, but a well collected family home. Not a porch swing, but idyllic family summer afternoons.  I say this as a person who owns all of these things.


(Why might a pitcher be above the fireplace?)

There are of course things we need to buy. Many things are useful tools, or truly beautiful and will improve our home. Sometimes it is hard to know if we are looking for a thing for our home, or a feeling. Impulse purchases driven by advertising are almost always based on emotion.

A homemaking book I like,  Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson puts it well: “Decor usually gets too much attention at the expense of other influences…there are ways of living in your home that make it homey as well…you want to provide pretty and good things and do something with them, beyond merely buying…When you talk, read and write, play music or games, or sew, you leave traces of this in the room…Faked signs of life make the room feel desolate and lonely.” (28-29)


(Like what is the point of this table in my house?  How much more homey would a simple bookshelf be, filled we things we use? This was an impulse purchase no doubt.)

It seems that only way to make a house feel like a home is to have it be a home.  You have to live in it, and occasionally buy things you like and need.  But you can’t buy them for the express purpose of making it homey.  I guess if we need a container for the blocks on the floor, and we want it to be an attractive basket, that’s fine. But if we see an attractive basket and we think “country…charming…the good old days”, well that is just another empty promise.  It might as well be a bowl of rubber pears on the kitchen island.  Buying a feeling will disappoint you every time.


Spring Wreath Conundrum

The hardest part of saving money is that I continue to want things.  All the time. This time, it was a wreath for above the fireplace. Specifically, this one, from Frontgate:


It is $149 for the thirty inch version. Of course I wanted the big version, we have ten foot ceilings and the proportions would be right. I was feeling very snobby about artificial flowers and figured an arrangement of dried herbs and flowers would be tasteful.

So I asked for it for Mother’s Day, and was told to go ahead and order it. I just could not actually bring myself to do it. It was too silly.  And then I learned that it would only last a year, or two if I were lucky.  Nope.  Not paying what amounts to over $10/month for a stupid wreath. I continued to stare at my mantel, which really needed a focal point.  Poor me.  We have a lot of beautiful, original art that Matt’s grandmother painted, but he did not want to hang a picture above it because it would require drilling into the stone.

Then, in my basement of horrors, I found this thing that I made probably six years ago. I’m sure at the time I thought it was beautiful. It is only 22 inches is diameter, but there is was, unused. I had even been wanting some more red accents in the house.


It takes a special kind of skill to take a blurry photo of a stationary object.

So I took off the ribbons and flowers, and put them up with my wrapping paper to decorate presents.  I wired on dried cornflowers that were hanging in the mudroom. The old me would have run to the craft store for more tasteful fake flowers, but instead I pulled apart what I had and added tiny sprigs here and there.


So it is done. It is small, and hardly noticeable because the flowers on it are so tiny.  No one has hung up a hook in the stone yet, and I am not going to ask.  So there is sits.

In the summer I will have statice and celosia from the garden, which both dry very well and will add a lot of life and color.  My sage is getting big, and I think that might look pretty too.  And in the late autumn I can just rip off the old dried flowers and start wiring on holly and ivy.  One less thing purchased, one less thing in the basement, and all throughout garden season I can have bundles of things drying in the mudroom.


Very…shall we say… subtle.  But it is free, and good enough.  And instead of feeling yucky about spending a bunch of money on something stupid and disposable, I feel good about using what I have.  Happy Mother’s Day to me!


Springtime Homemaking

Switching out things for new seasons is one of those fun homemaking activities that seem hard to come by on some days.  Not spring cleaning, just spring puttering.  Save the deep cleaning for winter.  Here are some things I have been doing now that the weather has turned.

Seashells and sea glass from the kids instead of pine cones and acorns.

Blue and aqua pillow covers and placemats instead of olive and burgundy

Spring scented dish soap and cleaners

Wildflowers from the children placed in the kitchen

Hummingbird feeder on the deck, where we can watch from the living room

A little furniture rearranging to have seats that face the windows

Sweeping the porch and back deck and straightening the furniture

Windows and glass doors cleaned and opened

Wool hats and mittens put away, sun hats and bubbles by the door

A basket in the kitchen to bring out seeds and bring in eggs

Bookshelves arranged and books that I want to reread set in their own section, to grab and bring outside

Sewing machine put in a closet to revisit in the winter: now is not the time

Searching grilling books for meal plans, it feels summery even though nothing is ready from the garden yet

Making sure canning supplies are ready for the summer

The humidity hasn’t set in, pollen doesn’t bother me, and nothing in the garden has disappointed me yet! A wonderful time of year.  Soon it will be time for fireworks, tomatoes, sunflowers, and days in the pool, but for now we are enjoying the present.

I am coveting a big wildflower wreath for above the fireplace mantel, as it looks so bare this time of year.  I also think a big crock in white or cream would be beautiful to set on the hearth and fill with flowers, but I don’t see it ending well with a baby in the house.

I would love to hear what you do around your house as the season changes!