66. Sunlight, Shadows, and Metamerism

Spring brings such a great variety of green colors that all seem to go together so perfectly.


The greens of nature under an apple tree.

The greens of nature under an apple tree.

Inside, it’s another story — greens don’t always meld together indoors as they do in nature. In the natural world, colors just seem to harmonize; the best color matching is always a close copy of God’s own perfect design.

I learned a new word the other day. Metamerism

Metamerism. (met-TAM-er-ism) It is the effect that light has on color, specifically the type of lighting used to illuminate color and how it affects our perceptions of shades and matching.
Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove green

Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove

When I think of color and light I tend to get off topic (see post 15. The Color of Light) because the physics and metaphysics of light, color, and sight is amazing to me. How do I know if the beautiful shade of Blooming Grove green in my kitchen is the same color you see?

I don’t. It all comes down to our eyes and the light.

Sunlight on leavesThe varieties of light make colors change. Fluorescent lights, incandescent lights, LEDS, those squiggly bulbs…they all make the same color look different. That’s why decorators tell you to paint a giant swatch in your room. The same color that you love in your north-facing kitchen will look different in the south-facing bedroom. That same color will even change in morning light to afternoon light. Think of the sunlight on the trees and how it changes their colors.

And for another example, look at this photo of the kitchen in the late afternoon sun.

Whose kitchen is this anyway?

Whose kitchen is this anyway?

The green on the door and the green on the wall are the same, but look how the light has changed the colors. The wall looks yellowish-green because of the sun streaming in the window. And not only the greens, look at the different shades of white on the walls and ceiling that the shadows and sunlight produced. The walls, ceilings, and cabinets are all Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk, though they are different sheens. The sheen of paint –semi-gloss, matte, satin — also affects the color we see because different sheens reflect the light differently. I think (no scientific proof behind this at all) that our eyes adjust to some of this. We see the different shades, yet our brain knows they are the same color.

ceiling is painted Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk.

The ceiling and the cabinets and the crown moulding are all painted with Sherwin Williams Steamed Milk.

I’m thinking about colors again because as we are winding down the kitchen project, we find ourselves looking around, wondering what the NEXT BIG PROJECT will be. Granddaughter Olivia voted for the Dining Room/Living Room combo because, as she says, “You walk right from the kitchen into THIS.”

Under construction

Under construction… and yes, that is a clothes dryer right next to the stove! It’s good for hiding dirty dishes.

See the green wall on the left in the above photo? That is the dining room wall. The Dining Room/Living Room is an upside down L-shape and open to the kitchen. So it matters that the colors in the Dining/Living area co-ordinate with the bold green of the kitchen. I vaguely thought of this once, but now I’m thinking of it more… I don’t want Blooming Grove Green anywhere else in the house, except possibly as an accent in the mudroom. Apple Froth 409I’ve looked at the next colors down on the color chart from Blooming Grove; Apple Froth is a possibility, but it might be a little, well, frothy…(I do like the name, though.)

There is a great website for those who love color called Design Seeds. If you’ve never heard of it, definitely click on that link above. I am totally jealous of this idea — I wish I’d thought of it! Here is an example:

This is called Fig Hues from Design-Seeds. I love these colors, but Mr. H.C. doesn't like blue...

This is called Fig Hues from Design-Seeds. I love these colors, but Mr. H.C. doesn’t like blue…

She takes colorful photographs–from nature, architecture, food, animals — and separates the colors for a palette. Here are four palettes that I particularly like for the living/dining area.


Tropical Greens. All these greens melding in nature — this is what I had in mind. I think the one shade of olive brown would have to be cinnamon though (for our leather couch…)

Not sure about the light rose color here; it might work with our furniture. We have antiques.

Planted Hues. Not sure about the light rose color here; it might work with our furniture. We have antiques.

ForestTones -- Design Seeds

Forest Tones. This is my current favorite. I love how all the greens go together, and there is the rust of our couch in there too.

Bamboo Tones -- Design Seeds

Bamboo Tones. These three greens are quite nice together and the creamy color is very similar to the off-whites we’ve been using.

And so now, readers, we are doing some audience participation once again. Which of the above palettes is your favorite? Make your choice of the above palette by June 2nd, and, using your best words, say why you like it most. The loveliest worded entry will receive a FREE BOOK on decorating. (I get to pick the winner — it’s my blog after all…) The book is a copy of either Perfect English Farmhouse or Perfect English Cottage both by Ros Byham Shaw, and you can read my post on these books here. (One of the books belongs to my son-in-law, and he gets first dibs.)


    Please enter only once.
    This is a “like-new” book. I read it — hey, if you read my last post, you know why I’m having book giveaways…
    No one is responsible for this give-away but me, and no one is making any money on it, and I bought the book with good hard-earned money, and I’m paying the postage for the winner to receive it. :-)
    If you live outside the United States, it doesn’t decrease your chance of winning, but it does seem likely that you won’t get your book as quickly. (My son sent me a postcard from New Zealand in December, and I received it just a few weeks ago in April.)
    Choose your favorite palette below.

June 4, 2013 Oh, it was so hard to pick the winner — you all had such good comments, and lovely phrases. Thank you each one for commenting, and I wish I had a decorating book to send each of you. Full of Grace-DJ is the winner of Ros Byham Shaw’s book.

32. Imperfect Little Cottage

Last week my son-in-law lent me a book called Perfect English Farmhouse by Ros Byam Shaw. Ms. Shaw is a foremost English interior designer and has written several books: Perfect English Cottage; Perfect English; Living Colour; Old House, New Home; as well as Perfect English Farmhouse.

There were several items of entertainment and enjoyment in her book, as well as some inspirational pictures and good color ideas, so in order to adequately discuss these books, I tried to order Perfect English Cottage from the local library. There was only one copy in all of Allegheny County and it was on the holdshelf… So I forked out $$ and bought it, hoping I wouldn’t be sorry.

I will confess to loving decorating books, but I. don’t. purchase. them. I read them from my local library. Otherwise I would overspend my already large and out-of-control book budget. There is not a single decorating book on my bookshelves, unless you count Shelves, Closets, and Cabinets, a no-decorating how-to DIY. There is a lot of pressure to love this book.

I love antiques, real stuff made from real wood, real fabric, real metal, and my house is filled with them. Every one has a story. I’m a 100% kind of person — 100% cotton, 100% wool, 100% old. And here’s the thing : we think 1800s are old! When the English say old, they mean medieval — not like in the US where 100 years is old; some of these farmhouse kitchens have leaded glass windows from the 15th century. Makes the 40s cottage seem downright modern!

AGA Ranges

Every kitchen in this book has a wonderful old enameled cast iron stove called an AGA. Oh, I drooled on Pedro’s book! Turns out, one can still buy them!

This is a photo of an Aga from MurphyHeating.com.

They were originally designed and built in Sweden in the early 20th century and became a hit in England from 1925 on. They are never turned off, which makes them an extra heater in the kitchens of chilly England and Northern Europe. Chefs love them; Jamie Oliver says, “I think the AGA makes people better cooks; they’re generally technically better cooks because they understand cooking.” Each AGA has at least three ovens — a roasting oven, a baking oven, and a slow-cook oven. Devotees say they take the place of toasters, slow cookers, tea pots, and clothes dryers. I’ve never seen a demonstration, but they surely are beautiful. Perhaps luvly is the better word.

They come in gas, propane, or electric and some of them have dual fuel options — electric oven, gas “hobs”. (Burners, for all of us Yankees!) This photo is from the AGA website.

Just look at this pistachio one! There’s also one in English Racing Green! and Aubergine! Each of the traditional cookers is hand made in England after it is ordered and then shipped to you in pieces and installed by the dealer. There are nine AGAs for sale on EBay right now, and they vary in price from $1050 to $12,250 — a little over budget no matter how cheaply we got the cabinets, the doors, and the windows — A girl can dream…

Earthy Walls and Paint Shadows

One of the pictures in the book that made me laugh out loud was a photo in the chapter called ‘House of Leather’. The house is 130 years old and “…Much of Matt and Jax’s work on the house consisted of stripping off layers of ancient paint and wallpaper, and they have left this wall unpainted like a mottled map, showing the history of the various colours and patterns that have decorated it in the last 130 years.” Can you imagine? Our cottage is about 65 years old, and we are complaining about scraping off four layers of paint and one of wallpaper… And this wall they left made it into a very elegant decorating book. I love it! I have walls like this! So now I know that we can just leave the walls in the bathroom.

Bathroom wall — looks like old Italian plaster, eh?

They are kind of swirly, yellow avocado and pink–definitely looks like old Italian plaster! Holes might be a problem, but then again, they can just be covered with wall art and towels, yes?


Paint shadows around this closet showed us the original moldings. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to paint over the shadows though…

In a similar scenario, Botelet Farm is a third generation B&B in Cornwall. As son Richard was redoing an upstairs bedroom, he found a paint shadow of a mantle that his parents had removed when they were “modernizing” in the fifties. The old paint showed the details of what had been taken off. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, so it got left like that for a time. (My kind of reno!) After a while, he decided he liked it that way and just left it. We have those too!  As a matter of fact, the paint shadows show how the trim over the doors and the windows used to be, and that has helped us decide how to do the trim around the doors. And look at our fireplace…20121028-132239.jpgThe Cottage Book

The Farmhouse book was lots of fun — I loved many of the rooms and the general simplicity of most of them. The cottage rooms are less stark, but actually, just as shabby. Maybe more so. It just isn’t what I expected. This book is not about cozy, light-filled, chintz-covered cottages. There are saggy rocking chairs with torn upholstery; there are antique pieces with big varnish blotches front and center; and old upholstered chairs draped with scarves, quilts, and antique textiles. I should take comfort in this. I have shabby antiques and sagging rocking chairs. In fact, we are wondering how to make this look better:


That is NOT a varnish blotch on the drawer! (And the fake brick linoleum will soon be gone…)

I’ll be honest here: I don’t put stock in perfect things. But I would like the bottom of this kitchen island to look a little less shabby. (I think by the time we’re finished with it, it will.) If I had a lovely old cupboard with an unsightly varnish stain right in the front, I would fix it — no matter what it did to the ‘antique value’. And I can stand a lumpy rocker, but if photographers were coming to feature my home in a decorating book, I would get out my staple gun and staple up the hanging undergarments.

That’s not to say, I didn’t like any of the vignettes in the book — many of the rooms were charming with spectacular harvest tables, luvly painted kitchen “dressers”, and huge old stone and brick fireplaces. But I’ve got a decorating book for sale, half price…

(I’d like to show you some of the pretty rooms, but I don’t want to violate any copyright laws, and I’d be scanning the book to put up photos illegally. I actually requested permission from the publisher, but I am too impatient to wait for their answer. If they ever give me permission, I’ll repost this with photos of the charming spaces.)