Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Blush Pink for the Master Bedroom

I almost named this post "In which my husband agrees to a blush pink bedroom, because the Victorians said so." But that title was far too long. Plus, I thought it might imply that my husband lacks strong opinions about interior decor. That would be misleading. In fact, he's so committed to historically appropriate decor that he agreed to paint our bedroom a color that looks suspiciously like ballet slippers, in spite the fact that he doesn't really like the color.

Anyway, let me provide some background before I bore you with paint color research.

Last night, I came across an email I wrote to my sister-in-law. Among other things, I mentioned that we would be working on our master bedroom over the weekend, hoping to make significant progress. That email was dated March 6. It's now solidly July, and the master bedroom is still a work in progress.

Since the day we bought this house, the master has been one of our favorite rooms. Thanks to five large windows, there is abundant natural light throughout the day. As an added bonus, it has beautiful baseboards and trim surrounding the windows and doors (the same trim we're trying to replicate in our guest room). But along with all those positives, it also boasted many of the typical old-house problems: floor-to-ceiling floral vinyl wallpaper. Plaster walls that were badly cracked. The ceiling had suffered water damage some time in the past. The woodwork had been coated in layer upon layer of paint. Many of the windows wouldn't open -- and one of them wouldn't close. 

Here is a shot of the room from when our house was on the market. See that red fabric stuffed under the left window? That's the window that doesn't close, and the red flannel shirt was wedged under the lower sash to block bugs/draft/etc. Only the finest materials are used at The Papered House. 

In March, my husband started to repair the plaster walls and ceiling in the master. This took at least a month; it was so long ago that we can't quite remember. Then he spent two more months prepping the woodwork for a fresh coat of paint. For far longer than we liked, the master bedroom looked like this: 

Once the tedious prep work was (mostly) finished, we started to consider paint colors.

If you’ve met me in person, you know that I take a shine to the color pink. I have several pink coats, not to mention fuchsia luggage, a hot pink water bottle, and light pink cooking utensils. It’s probably no surprise that I’d eventually paint a room pink. On the other hand, if you’ve met my husband in person, you know that he has no particular affinity for the color pink.

When we chose a color for our entry hall, we used original source materials to help us select the color. We took the same approach to determine what colors would have been used in a Victorian bedroom. I came across this passage from Ella Rodman Church’s 1880’s guide on interior design. She was speaking about wallpaper selection, but her thoughts on color were helpful nonetheless.

According to Church, "wall-paper in a bedroom must in a measure be determined by the fact of a northern or southern exposure. In the former case, a delicate pink, pale green, or dainty buff will give a more sunny tone; while French gray, blue, or cream-color may be used where there are floods of sunshine" (81).

We're not going to install wallpaper in this room, simply due to the cost. However, we're applying the same color principles to our paint selection. It seems that common color choices in an 1880s master bedroom would have been light green, beige, or pink, followed by dove blue or gray. We ultimately decided on pink through the process of elimination. Here’s how the decision unfolded:

Green: We’re planning to use green in the living room and dining rooms – and perhaps in the kitchen, as well. Having yet one more green room seems a bit much.

Blue: The master bedroom is sunny enough that a Victorian reader following Church’s advice might have chosen a dove blue color. However, in looking at the particular shades of blue paint available from the historic Victorian color collections, none of them seemed to match the subdued, calming color schemes that Church describes. The only Victorian blues we found were bold and bright (like this one from California Paints), and they all seem too saturated and dark for a bedroom.

Beige: We considered beige, but decided that it seems too neutral and safe. Given that we are decorating a Victorian home, we figured we should take advantage of our opportunity to use some vibrant colors that we otherwise might not if we were decorating a non-historic home.

Gray: Ruled out, for the same reason we won’t paint the room beige.

So, since we’d already eliminated our other options, that left us with pink. Here are a few paint chip samples of the colors we considered: 

I was particularly interested in the color Calamine from Farrow and Ball. It’s a light blush pink with cool undertones and the color looks subtle and welcoming, without being overly pink (by which I mean, too delicate or too girlish). We compared the color card to the wood tones of our furniture, and the colors seemed to complement each other. And the best part? According to Farrow and Ball's description, Calamine is similar to colors that were used starting in the 1870s*. The only problem is that F&B paint retails for about $100/gallon here in the US. Online reviews say the cost is worthwhile. That might be true, but at this stage in our restoration, when we’re still saving towards so many big projects, buying super premium paint just doesn’t feel like a good use of resources. 

So, we turned to a few other paint lines to find a color that would be a good approximation of Calamine. Historic Colors of America does not offer any Victorian pinks. Benjamin Moore’s Queen Anne Pink was pretty, but too peachy. Valspar’s Champagne Glee and Tender Shell both looked quite similar to Calamine. Plus, both of them were on the same color cards as Victorian pinks (Lyndhurst Victorian Rose and Lyndhurst Roseglow, respectively). The Lyndhurst shades are from Valspar's collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, so we convinced ourselves that using a lighter shade of the historic color could be appropriate. After trying samples of both on the wall, we went with Tender Shell, as it seemed to have the same gray undertones that we liked in Calamine. 

The walls are shaping up nicely with Tender Shell. We're quite fond of the end result. Rather, I'm thrilled with the color and my husband tolerates it. So if you average our reactions, I think "fondness" is an accurate description. But in all seriousness, one of the things we enjoy about this color is that its appearance varies dramatically depending on the time of day. The first shot was taken in the early evening, and the second shot was taken on the same day, just a few minutes later. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I took those photos in late May and we've made some significant progress in the master bedroom since then. We've refinished the floors and we're finished painting, with the exception of minor touch ups. We still need to fix the windows, but we've made enough progress in this room that we were finally able to move our furniture in here and start hanging some pictures. I'm hoping to share more photos soon. Thanks for stopping by!


Church, Ella Rodman. How to Furnish a Home. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1882. (link to electronic copy)

*It appears that the Farrow and Ball online description for Calamine has since been updated and no longer provides a historical context for the color. However, the physical color card does mention that it was popular starting in 1870. 
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  1. I thought I posted yesterday, but maybe it didn't go through. Sorry if you end up getting this twice. I love the color you chose. It looks great. I think it will be wonderful year-round. It's a cozy color. (Farrow and Ball is $100/gallon?!? Whoa.)

    1. Thanks so much, Stacy. I'm really loving the light pink. Like you said, it makes the room feel so cozy and we're finding that it looks great both with natural and incandescent light.

      I was really surprised by the price of FB paint. And they also recommend using their proprietary primer, which is costly as well...maybe someday!

  2. This color is so beautiful! I love the way it looks different depending on the light filtering through those gorgeous windows throughout the day. I hope your weekend has been relaxing, Coco

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Coco. We're really enjoying the new wall color!

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