The Surfaces That Surround Us

The Surfaces That Surround Us

Part V in a series.

It seems like eons ago that I was standing in the middle of a demolition zone trying to envision what Horizon, Stone and Pebble would look like on the walls of the 1920 Cape Cod cottage in Jacksonville that my husband, Terry Moore, and I are renovating.

Professional colorist Annie McIntyre, owner of McIntyre Interiors in Ashland, had opened her black case of color samples and was holding up one swatch after another. It was a stretch to envision these gorgeous, nature-inspired hues on anything resembling finished walls when all we had were studs covered in old wasps' nests. But Annie persevered, nudging me toward a decision.

"I like the Stone," I said. "It'll be nice and neutral, and the white trim will pop against it."

I had it all figured out — keeping everything the same color in our 1,180-square-foot house would make things flow; consistency would virtually create space!

"I like it, too, but don't you want some contrast?" asked my charismatic friend, who boldly (and aptly) applies colors with names like Paprika, Terra Cotta and even plain, bright yellow to her own and other people's walls.

Suddenly I started getting that feeling of exquisite tension that arises when an important decision needs to be made and I don't really feel qualified to make it. What if I'm wrong? What if I hate the colors once they're on the walls? Surely some horrible fate will befall us, leaving me to piece together my marriage and life in the aftermath of shameful color choices.

As you can see, having assumed the role of general contractor on this project was taking its toll on my mental health.

"This really is one of your colors, Jennifer — it'll look good with your skin tone and with Terry's," insisted Annie, holding the Horizon up behind my face. "How about we just put it in the dining room? And maybe the powder room?"

A tense inner dialog began: "If we consider this shade of blue, we should look at every shade of blue to make sure it's the right one."

I was about to suggest this strategy when Annie, who knows me well enough, gave me a steely glance that said, "I'm the professional colorist here, missy."

As I often say, sometimes in life you just have to close your eyes, step on the gas and go for it, swallowing any fear of, in this case, choosing Stone over Pebble "… while adding a new color to the mix.

And so, today Terry and I are surrounded by Stone and Horizon walls. The ceilings were treated with a "quarter shade" — Annie's brilliant design trick to optimize vertical space (just ask the guy at the paint shop to mix a quarter of the wall shade into white paint). We used high-end, eco-friendly Devine paint colors as inspiration and had them matched with Miller's line of less expensive, low-VOC Acro Pure paint. Bathrooms, all trim and doors received semigloss paint while the rest of the house was done in "eggshell," lending a slight sheen to the hand-textured walls.

Speaking of texturing, every wall and several ceilings in our house are brand new: The team at Advanced Drywall in Central Point installed made-in-the-USA sheetrock, then owner Mike Nutting and his son applied a light texture. Although I'd wanted smooth walls, Mike said the home's vintage character forbade it — too many dips and crooked lines would show.

To enhance and enrich the dusty-blue powder-room walls, we chose 12-by-12-inch marble floor tiles with a 3-inch marble baseboard. Mark Clyburn of Precision Installations in Medford expertly installed the tile, adding an Art Deco touch with diamond-shaped accents at each intersection.

Mark installed the main bathroom tile, as well. He urged me to consider a more decorative pattern, but I wasn't budging — I wanted the bathroom clean and plain; we can add flourishes later if we want. The floors, tub backsplash and shower walls are all 18-by-18-inch Italian white tiles with smaller 1.5-by-1.5-inch tiles on the shower floor.

My brother, elementary-school teacher Andy Strange, who moonlights as a carpenter, generously installed the very cost-effective, stone-colored 12-by-12-inch tiles on the utility-room floor. We matched the color and affordability with a $70 prefabricated counter top, which Andy placed on plain, white IKEA cabinets.

Andy also helped Mark cut down and install the Swanstone double sink vanity top in the bathroom — Terry and I love the creamy "bisque" color against the Stone paint and white trim.

In fact, Terry and I love all our surfaces. Thanks to some help from friends and professionals — and a few deep breaths followed by a leap of faith — we seem to have made the right choices!

Next month: In the last installment of her six-part series, Jennifer talks about the finishing touches, including surfaces, cabinetry, fixtures, hardware and Hakatai glass mosaic tiles.

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