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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When White Isn’t White Anymore

I have a rental property that I’m planning to have painted this summer. My painter stopped by to discuss, and left behind a Sherwin Williams color book as thick as a cement block.

Great! I thought. Lots of colors! Anything my little heart desires!

Immediately omitting black, orange, purple, and brown, pondering the pinks and the blues and greens, dismissing most of the yellows, and momentarily considering a shade in the beige family, I finally settled on something easy and classic: white.

Classic? Yes. Easy? Ho ho.

Here are some of the possibilities:

Marshmallow. Downy. Snowbound. Pure White. Extra White. Ceiling Bright White. Alabaster. Pearly White. White Duck. Natural Choice. Creamy. Dover White. Ivory Lace. Antique White. Shoji White (shoji, FYI, is a Japanese rice paper screen). Eider White. Incredible White. Aesthetic White. Reserved White. Site White. Original White.

That’s from section one.

Incredibly enough, it goes on: Smart White. Quartz White. Dreamy White. Gauzy White. Hush White. Gorgeous White. Polite White. Nice White. Everyday White. Modest White. Reliable White. Pacer White. Devine White. Navajo White. Moderate White. Panda White. Nonchalant White. Ethereal White. Frosty White. Spare White. Spatial White. Discreet White. Nouvelle White. Patient White. Intimate White. White Beet. Alluring White. Eggwhite. White Mint. Aura White. Soothing White. Heavenly White. Spinach White (spinach white???). Touching White. Feather White. Welcome White. White Willow. White Iris. White Lilac. Minuet White. Whimsical White. And my personal favorite, Ibis White. For those of you who aren’t ornithologists and/or don’t have a dictionary handy, an Ibis is any of several large wading birds of the family Threskiornithidae.

With all due respect to Sherwin Williams and the people who sit around in little cubicles drinking coffee and coming up with paint names, are they kidding?

I remember being taught in grade school about primary colors of the basic wheel: blue, red, yellow. In those days, a piece of paper was white, a bowling ball was black, a stop sign was red, grass was green. Period.

In all, there are over twelve hundred hues in the Sherwin Williams color book. I counted them. And I have to choose a white for my house from sixty-four options, all variations of what should be a straightforward and classic color for an American home. I want white…not a spinach white, or a polite white. I don’t want my white frosty or spatial or discreet, I don’t really care if it’s hushed or soothing or whimsical, I’m not particularly thrilled about it being alluring or intimate or gauzy, and I most certainly do not want it to be the color of a large wading bird from the Threskiornithidae family. White, Sherwin Williams. I want the house white.

In the end, I’m leaning toward Nebulous White (yes, that’s actually one of the SW colors) because about my painting project I am clearly feeling hazy, vague, indistinct, or confused.

Having choices in life is wonderful. Having this many choices is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that not one of the little color swatches out of twelve hundred said simply: “White.”

Sherwin Williams, are you listening?


Rose 10e said...

I think they must lock a bunch of writers in a room with color swatches & let them have whatever they want from the mini bar & room service, but they aren't allowed to leave until all the colors are named!

Sarah Allen said...

Oh wow...good luck!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Kathleen Yasas said...

Thanks, Sarah. Maybe I'll just be like the Rolling Stones...and paint it black.

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum