As I have mentioned a few times during Home Improvement (HIMP) Month, my husband Rob and I knew we loved our house from the get-go (i.e. from the first time we saw the photos online), but one thing we didn’t love from the get-go was the color of the house’s exterior. It was yellow-ish with brown accents:
I am sure this paint job was stylish at some point, but it just wasn’t speaking to us. Fortunately, Rob has a way with photoshop, so within a week after we made an offer on the house, he “painted” the house grey with white accents on his computer. It sure looked fantastic on the screen: we gazed at it often while waiting for our closing, a process that took six months.
Though our house was built in ’65 and the interior has a very Mid-Century Modern vibe, the outside doesn’t really look all that mid-century modern. It is a long-and lean-ranch, but slightly boxy. The fact that the converted garage/studio ceiling is lifted up contributes to that boxier profile. Anyway, in darker tones, we thought it would look a lot more Mid-Century Modern, or at least somewhat dwell-ish (as in Dwell Magazine, which is our standard for all housey/design things that are nice.)
We knew this was one of the first changes we were going to make once we got in the house. So, as soon as we moved in, we got three estimates and chose the painter who came in mid-priced between the other two. We set the date, and he came to put on a sample. Here is the house with a soul patch:
Doesn’t that brown strip around the middle look like a belt? The seventies called and asked us to return it. Instead, we’d be going with our own two-tone effect: a lighter shade on the top, “rock gray (1615),” and a darker one below, “stormy sky (1616),” both from Benjamin Moore.
Rob was in Seattle for work when the painters got started. A few hours in, I went out to check the progress. I walked down the driveway and turned around to get some perspective. When I did so, I experienced a strange and very upsetting sensation. My face probably turned red, and I swallowed hard.
I realized, in that instant, that it was the EXACT same color as our neighbor’s house. Apparently there are fifty shades of gray and we had to go and choose the exact same one.
These are the people who live the closest to us, right behind us, albeit facing a different street, so their house is perpendicular to ours. Admittedly, we had wondered about this, so we had held the paint chips up to the window while looking at their house and determined that what we’d chosen was very different – we thought their house color was much darker and had a lot more blue in it. Now that more of the paint was on our house, it looked identical. It would of course feel far less scandalous if we were painting our house a more common color, like white (the color of two other houses near us), but this color, at least for our neighborhood, was rather unique – now there would be two houses right next to each other with it. Rob and I pride ourselves on being individuals, creative-types, somewhat unconventional, and here we’d copied our next door neighbor’s entire facade.
Oh, awkward moment! We hadn’t even met these people yet. I dialed Rob across the country. We decided I had to go over there right away and explain the situation. It wasn’t easy to walk over there – I did so quickly and without thinking too much, so I could get this weirdness over with. I knocked on the door. When she answered, I introduced myself as the new
dingbat owner of the house next door. I was all nervous laughter and self-deprecation. I stammered…we’re painting…and it’s turning out…and we don’t want to offend…and the last thing we want to do is upset…and if you want us to stop…and change…
I mean, I knew we had every right to that color and I was very tied to it (not to mention that all the paint had already been purchased), but I couldn’t get that excited about it if I knew these people in such close proximity were going to hate us because of it. Not a great start to neighborly relations, especially in a house where we planned to live for a very very long time.
Whether it was genuine or not, she was cool about the situation. And quite complimentary. “After all,” she said, “I see your house more than I see mine. And I obviously like that color. It’s a lot better than the other one.”
When is all is said and done, I don’t really know if we flattered them or offended them, or some combination of both, but I do know that it took me a while to get over that social gaffe. Though I did feel like an idiot, and the whole situation made me cringe for weeks (and still does, a little bit), I do love the way the color turned out. Here’s a Before shot from another angle:
And here’s the current look (notice that we also got rid of the shutters):
Funny addendum: Just this Fourth of July, we had some dear friends over for food and fun in The Enclave (that post here). Their adorable four year old daughter looked out our big picture window and pointed through our backyard, quite confused: “Is that your house?” she asked.
“No,” I said, laughing at the understandable confusion, “you’re standing in our house, but ours looks a lot like that one!”
Oh well. So much for being originals.
Do you think we’re jerks for continuing with the paint job? Or is imitation the best form of flattery? Stacey @ the Goode house wrote a very thoughtful post on a similar topic a few weeks ago…It’s certainly a “gray area”!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned – HIMP Month will be wrapping up next week. (And yes, in case you’re counting, we’ve been celebrating that for about six weeks – hey, if you “declare” a month I think you can also redefine how long a month is, right?) The Home Tome is going to move onto more of a design focus for the next “month” AND we will be making a very big, very exciting announcement…queue drum roll.