Monday, September 07, 2009


Most art historians agree that Goya’s black paintings reflect the bitterness, anxiety, and depression of the artist’s later years, the years following an illness that left him totally deaf, the years following the Napoleonic wars where he witnessed unspeakable acts of human cruelty, the years after his self-imposed exile to a villa outside of Madrid. Goya painted the walls of his home with violent and bizarre images. They are called his black paintings both because he used dark colors and because he used dark topics (a coven of witches, the three Fates, Saturn devouring his son, etc). They are a haunting bunch of pictures, especially considering the artist surrounded himself with them every day of the four years he lived in that villa. How could Goya not have been pushed deeper into his own paranoia and depression by these walls?

My current problem is that I believe what you have on your walls not only reflects who you are, but also affects who you are. I think the pictures and photographs you see every day and even the wall colors that serve as a backdrop to your interior life can influence your moods and your behavior. This belief causes me great angst whenever I have to pick out paint for rooms in my home. What if I go for the daring red I'm thinking about for the office and it causes me to be angry every morning when I go in there at 5 am to write? (Will I write really angry essays? Stay tuned.) What if the fact that the family room walls don't match the carpet continues to gnaw away at me until I suffer panic attacks every time I walk down the steps? What if that ultra-bright green I let Ethan pick for his room begins to makes him physically ill? It’s almost too much for my decision-phobic personality to handle. And in the last three months, we’ve had to paint five different rooms, plus a stairwell and we’re still debating the color of the office and eventually Nora’s room. Does it surprise anyone that I’m really, really sick of thinking about my walls?

Here’s a tour of our villa thus far. No black paintings. Just very pretty colors. We ought to be oozing cheerfulness by now.

This is the family room. The photo doesn't do the walls justice. My sister Suzie did a lovely glazing over an old-world style texture. Nora is demonstrating how our carpet has so much nap that you can leave great designs in it if you run in circles. The boys have discovered you can rub carpet angels into it too.

This is Ethan's room. He wanted bright green. He got bright green. But not until we had tried several different shades and treatments because I will sometimes have to at least step foot in there and I'm sorry but I don't feel like spending time inside a ripe avocado. There are parts of his room that have (if you count the primer) seven coats of paint on them.

This room is shared by McKay and Gabie. I contemplated pulling a Goya and painting a mural of the two men fighting with clubs (because McKay and Gabie simply do not get along) but we're going for the slightly manipulative, peaceful blue. The boys picked the colors and Suzie did a magic treatment called "scumbling" which means you shut her into the room at 10 pm with three brushes and two buckets of paint (and one iPod) and when she leaves at 6 in the morning, she'll have produced walls that look like you should be posing family portraits in front of them. She's amazing.

My favorite color downstairs is actually the "faded seafoam" we did in the laundry room but since Ken is still in the middle of putting shelves in there, I'll save that photo for later. The bathroom is going to be (gasp!) white because maybe there's such a thing as too much color in one 700 square foot section of house. Maybe.

Nora wants purple walls. Yesterday we moved her into the boys' old room which still has a train painted around three of the walls. Suzie and I painted it 10 years ago and I hate to cover it but I suppose we don't want Nora growing up with wanderlust because she wakes up every morning with train cars barreling past her head.


Jenni said...

Wall color can seriously affect me. I once spent an hour in a kitchen that was painted such a vivid shade of purple (a bright lavender, really) that it gave me a severe headache. I didn't realize it was the room until I stepped outside and the headache was gone as quickly as it had come.

My own kitcen is a dark red, but not a lot of the wall shows. There is plenty of natural slate tile and wood ceiling and beams so that the red walls are really more of an accent.

I hope you find the right colors to make you feel warm, happy, and creative. The parchment paper effect on that first wall is beautiful and peaceful and even the avocado is not bad, though I think it might be a bit much for me. I think it's wonderful that you let the kids help choose room colors.

When choosing the color for the rest of the upstairs, I wanted something that would remind me of warm, sunny days. I think I suffer from mild seasonal affectedness disorder, and the warm walls really do seem to help. The paint is from Sherwin Williams, ambitious amber 1st coat with tatami tan mixed with 2/3 glaze on top.

The Lazy Organizer said...

So are you saying wanderlust is ok for boys but not girls? The green is my favorite. I think I would paint my studio bright green if it didn't show from the living room.

Jenna Consolo said...

Love it! I am deeply affected by color (and the lack thereof) as well. We only rent our home, so the walls were white for years, but then I just couldn't stand it any longer and we painted the downstairs. Some sage green, and some pale yellow. What a difference it made!

LaughingElk said...

A classic tesserae post! You showed some pictures of your home remodeling project, which is great, but then you linked it into an art discussion!

Boireannach said...

I guess you really won't know until you live with a color for a while. You ought to check out something on the psychology of color. Sometimes all it needs is a feng shui balance.