No Such Thing As Tan Paint

Remember the “country look” in decorating? If you’d been in my kitchen as recently as last month, you wouldn’t have had to remember. You could have witnessed it firsthand.

When we bought our mid-nineteenth century farmhouse back in 1990, it needed some updates. Air conditioning, for starters. A working dishwasher for another. But we also took steps to “de-modernize” it by pulling up carpet to expose wide-planked hardwood floors and replacing contemporary-looking doorknobs, faucets and light fixtures with ones more in keeping with the age of the house.

And then we turned our attention to the kitchen. In knocking out a wall between it and an adjoining room, the wallpaper—a blue-and-white gingham that I really liked–was rendered unsalvageable. What to do but hang new wallpaper over the old? And what better choice for a country kitchen than more gingham? Instead of blue-and-white checks, which we soon discovered had been used to paper over gold-and-white checks, we chose red-and-white. Topped with a charming border of blue and gold Canada geese interspersed with big red hearts. I’m not making this up.

Fast forward almost a quarter of a century. The straw baskets and dried flowers that once hung from the kitchen’s exposed beams were long gone, along with the dishtowels and potholders and placemats decorated with kitschy farm animals. No more pig-shaped cutting boards. No more rooster-and-hen salt and pepper shakers.

But the gingham and geese remained.

Even George, who is—to put it mildly—“change resistant,” decided it was time for the nineties wallpaper to go. But what to put in its place? Simple. Paint, in a neutral color. But which neutral? Off-white? Too boring. Gray? Too depressing. Pale blue? Nope. The cabinets are blue. The only logical choice was tan. So off I went to various paint stores about town to collect color chips and make my selection.

I soon discovered there’s no such paint color as “tan.” Hmmm. How about “sand”? I found Sand-In-My-Heels, Sand Trap, Sandpiper, Arabian Sands and Malibu Dune, none of which was exactly what I had in mind. Perhaps a food-related color would be better. Belgian Waffle? Irish Cream? Macadamia Nut? Toffee Crunch? Onion Powder? Tea and Honey? Though they all sounded delicious, none of them was quite right.

Then I stumbled upon livestock-inspired colors. Calfskin. Buckskin. Cliveden Leather. Pony Tail. Happy Trails. Covered Wagon. Though I love horses and cows, I didn’t love any of those paint chips.

Maybe, I fretted, we should give up the idea of painting. Decorating styles sometimes circle back around. Perhaps gingham was on its way in again and I’d regret being foolish enough to get rid of my wallpaper. But then I stumbled upon a paint color that looked like it might be just the ticket. Not too dark, not too pale. Not too pink, not too green. Not too drab, not too cheerful.

Golden Ecru looks perfect on my kitchen walls. Too bad it has such a boring name.

(May 11, 2014)

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