It’s easy to underestimate the power of small changes.
Now that I’ve seen the transformation that bigger updates and renovations can make, like when we replaced our doors and trim, I have been reluctant to make a simple, surface change, like wall color. It feels too small, puny, and obvious to be worth the effort. I was especially reluctant this time around, since this is a rental home for us, and, therefore, temporary. I didn’t want to invest the time or money.
But as the weeks went by, I just wasn’t feeling the yellow in our new family room.
I did paint several rooms in our last house yellow when I first moved in, which might explain why I was already tired of it after just a few months. (Remember the yellow phase I went through?) But mostly I didn’t like that a dark color was sapping the light out of an already dark room. Funny that even yellow can function like a dark color, at least it can when the space is small, the ceilings are low, and the natural light is scant.
But I was also turned off by the way the color detracted from the unique architectural features—the exposed wood beams, the log-cabin wall, and a classic stairway with great bones.
The red accent wall in the stairwell didn’t help with the lack of light, and it brought unneeded color contrast into a room that already had awesome dark-light, black-white contrast in the architectural details. So the extra color felt like unwanted visual noise.
Once the kids started school, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. Other than the money and time spent on paint. But besides that, it was super low-risk. And I’m a person for whom these small details matter. A person who spends time thinking about this stuff. I don’t know why that is, but that is the way I am (clearly, I’m still wrestling with voice #1 from my Create post). So I bought some paint.
I went with an extremely neutral, almost white, almost gray, slightly beige color: Winds Breath by Benjamin Moore. It’s a perfect light greige (gray-beige) color. And it’s exactly the backdrop I wanted for this room. It’s a barely-there color that shows some contrast with the white trim but doesn’t shout its name (“Hi, I’m yellow!”) or suck up light.
This color is paired with our same old, same old Craigslist, Goodwill, DIY’d furniture, which is more banged up than ever after bouncing in the back of a moving truck on our cross-country move. But the new color makes our old stuff look as good as it can. (Also, I obviously cleaned between the before and after photos. A good de-cluttering goes a long way too.)
I painted the alcove that used to be an exterior window white to match the rest of the trim. I’m not really sure what to do with this space. If I owned the house, I’d add a few shelves here. But for now the twigs are filler. And they just may end up being permanent as long as we are here. At least the window is no longer a dark hole that sucks up light, like it was when it was dark green.
The picture below is what you see now when you walk in the front door. This photo shows the everyday mess in the next room—disregard that—but I think the more subdued color lets the fun, old-timey, imperfect cabin features take center stage. And that’s how it should be in a house with this much historical charm and character.
The new look even inspired me to attempt more Dana Tanamachi-inspired chalk art. (It’s really hard not to put the word art in quotes.) It’s a long, long, LONG way from her work, but it was super fun to work on so that counts for something. More imperfect charm, perhaps?
It was good to be reminded that even if the most simple, most inexpensive change is the only one you can make, it’s still worth making. It might be the right amount of change, especially if you’re like me and you’re someone who cares about these things. All it took was one can of paint and about five and a half hours to paint the room and the stairwell. It’s not a big investment into a room that now feels more restful and welcoming to all of us, in a place that feels more like home all the time. So maybe it’s not so small after all.