My colouring lesson

We have been driving about our city on weekends, snooping through open houses. Are we looking to move? Maybe, because we have a soon-to-be empty nest. But it's been nearly 25 years since we bought property.

I thought, let's find a cute bungalow or Victorian cottage, one floor for the coming years.

We toured magnificently-fluffed houses. Everyone, tutored by HGTV, puts out artful bowls of green apples, installs granite counter tops, unfurls crisp shower curtains. One untouched exception, a funky little place that smelled like a dank dishcloth, reminded us we don't have the grit for a gut reno.

There's nothing wrong with our house, except that one floor is now superfluous. The neighbourhood is vibrant, our elderly cat knows the sunspots on the floor, Le Duc's wisteria climbs, finally, as he wishes.

When I watch HGTV, I'm astonished by the renos people undertake strictly in order to sell. This seems like going through labour in order to get free coupons for baby gear.

Touring houses, I felt like a mark who sees the con but gets seduced anyway: vintage barkcloth drapes, cool! Look at that collection of flasks! These effects decamp along with the former owners.

A shrewd buyer ignores the art direction, notices the wonky window jams, the panel screwed onto the bedroom wall hiding... what?

I decided to stage our house and live in it: redecorate the tired bedrooms, put my shoes on racks, order fresh towels from Garnet Hill.

We spent a Saturday afternoon pouring sullenly over a ham-sized deck of paint (note: that word contains pain) chips. I dreaded making the decision.

Providentially, we met Canada's colour guru, Janice Lindsay, of Pink Colour and Design at a dinner party hosted by our friends Richard and Maria.

I booked a consultation; in under two hours, this consummate pro read us and developed sumptuous colour schemes for the most-in-need rooms.
What a worthwhile service, and a delight to witness an artist at work. We're confident, relaxed and eager to begin.

If you'd like to mine Janice Lindsay's colour mojo– from the science and psychology of colour through inspirational examples of decor– hunt down her gorgeous book, "All About Colour", published in 2008. One used copy is on sale on; the book is sold out on and Hello, library! (Note: asks $250 for a copy. What? The list price is around $30.)

And click here to see Pittsburgh Paints' Coming Home Collection, chosen and described by Janice.

I can't wait for her eye on the rest of the house. But one or two rooms at a time. We're here for awhile.


mette said…
Buying a house/apartment, etc. is one of the most important decisions in one´s life. Since you have lived so long in one place, it is very difficult to just move to a new one. I think you decided wisely to cancel the plan of buying a new house for now. As I wrote yesterday, there are times ( winter ), when I think I would even pay someone to just take this house. But, most of the year, it is great to live here, at home. It is a good idea to accept professional help, if you have any doubts. In the long run, you actually save time, work and money. Eventually simplifying one´s living is ahead for everyone of us, but I refuse to think about that today.
Susan B said…
HGTV can be both inspiring and frustrating at the same time. We're by no means do-it-yourselfers (we have neither the time nor the skill), so big projects get expensive quickly.

Still, we just replaced our bed linens and bath towels during the January sales, which visually freshens up those rooms with minimal cost and effort.

We just signed with a landscape architect this week to totally redo our front and backyards to make them more water conserving and liveable. The weather here is so nice most of the year and we aren't utilizing our outdoor space nearly as much as we could because of how it's currently landscaped. However, unlike HGTV, no one brings you pretty plans and ideas to compare until you sign on the dotted line and hand over a deposit!
Embarking on a new adventure! So exciting and yet terrifying at the same time...and I cannot imagine saying goodbye to your home...I know it comes to us all one day but I am such a sentimentalist....I would be packing with one hand and wiping tears away with the other.
Belle de Ville said…
Having barely survived gutting a house and a total rebuild on a large scale, I wouldn't even attempt it now on a small scale.
I like the idea of staying in your own home and freshening it up a bit with new paint, linens, etc. Besides, isn't it nice to keep the extra bedrooms for when you sons come to visit.
Anonymous said…
rushed over to Amazon - ordered the BOOK - now I am looking forward to put some knowledge into what I _feel_ when using colors ! Thanks for the post and title of book ! kind regards, Martina
Beatnheart said…
Just found you and thank you so much for all your valuable tips, information , fashion , food. and poetry...A wonderful mix, not fluff, something a woman my age appreciates...I am an antique dealer and newbie blogger...I am designing and fabricating my own jewelry...I am trying to cater to women of a fabulous age...I think jewelry helps and so I want to create something unique and sophisticated...Thanks for being you..
diverchic said…
I am in the middle of staging my huge house for sale, which of course means getting ready to move. My DH has one piece of advice: DON'T MOVE! Live there until you die!
You have a great idea to stage it to live in!
materfamilias said…
I think this is a great idea! Why do all that work only to move -- beautify your house for your own enjoyment while you're still in it . . . will you share some of your projects and colour combos (and how lucky are you to have such a great resource to consult!)

Loved your analogy re labour and the free baby coupons -- ha!
BigLittleWolf said…
I must say - color really enlivens the spirit.

I adore the red kitchen you have in the photo, and almost any time of year, I have a white bowl with green apples in it on my kitchen table. I find something minimalist and welcoming in it. Not sure why, but it always seems to work.
Rubiatonta said…
Duchesse, this is the home-decorating version of "shopping in your closet" -- hope you have lots of fun! It's wise of you to express your creativity and refresh your house on a scale that won't overwhelm you and Le Duc.

After 18 months of living with my folks during a major career transition, I'm dying for my own space, with my own colors, and my own taste. Since it may be a while yet before I move, I've decided to stay away from HGTV, decorating mags, and IKEA catalogues. Too much like standing in front of a bakery when you're on a diet!
Duchesse said…
metscan: Le Duc is very attached to the house, it is most difficult for him. So, we stay and refresh the place.

Pseu:HGTV: I love what they do with $2K but of course no on is paying labour! Landscaping is such an exciting project, please show us!

hostess: Ah, you remind me of my mother who bagged to go "home" (our house, not heaven) near the end of her life... of course, long gone. But home is home.

Belle: I'm having fun picturing you in a house like that of Meryl Streep's in "it's Different". Nice to start but then fabulous?

Beatnheart: Welcome and I'm interested in learning about your jewelry. (This is a pearl site with many discursions.)

diverchic: I'm coming over to see what they did. Readers, diverchic lives in a beautiful old Victorian in my city.

materfamilias: Janice Lindsay is a national treasure. Pics eventually. Have to find a topnotch painter.

BigLittleWolf: I learned a lot about visual appeal going to the open houses. Pulling up my socks!

Chatelaine: Good for you and pls tell me how you like it. Think it will be your cup of tea.

Rubiatonta: Know what you mean. Did not watch HGTV for years but got into it doing treadmill. Worked to (their) desired effect: after 15 years busy living in house, now seeing many opportunities. I like Ikea!
Anonymous said…
We're in a similar spot. Our son is still at home, a house we bought very quickly after an even quicker transfer. I guess we can afford to move; however, like the Duc we hate to move.

So...we look to renovate and re-paint. I too ordered the book.

Thanks Duchesse.

s. said…
What a wonderful idea! I do hope that you'll share some before and after photos from your house so we can see your "fluffing" at work.
Tiffany said…
What a great project to be undertaking! We recently bought a house that was unfinished - all the building done, but no floors, ceilings, plumbing or other finishes. People these days are so accustomed to the done up version of houses that you describe that no one except us (apparently) could see the potential. We had the joy and pain of finishing it in just three months and it's now almost exactly as I envisaged. It makes up for the endless hours choosing colours and tiles and benchtops etc! Good luck with it.
Glennis said…
I decided to stage our house and live in it

Great idea!!
Tish Jett said…
My chere Duchesse,

I've done all my catch-up chez toi -- I hope you don't object to the toi and not the vous? -- and what a week.

Thank you for all the up-keep, better than that really. All those products. I think I'll have the Little One send me a care package. I soooo agree about polished shoes. They speak volumes.

How exciting to stage your own house. Will you keep us au courant with before's and after's and all the details?

Have a lovely weekend. I hope it's as beautiful on your side of the earth as it is here.
I'll be looking for this book in the public library system (Montréal libraries + La Bibliothèque nationale du Québec). Since I moved into the coop, I've kept my flat all white, not knowing quite what to do, and enjoying the luminosity. We also have to do major structural work so many of us have held off until that gets done (hopefully this summer). I do love colour, and while I have a background in fine arts, it is very different doing a painting or series and covering every surface in colour that I and others will have to live within.

Some of the colour books are a bit gadgety, but I don't think this one is.

The only problem with an overly-large house, other than the taxes and other expenses it can entail even if paid off, is that it can get to be a burden. Are there likely smaller houses in your own neighbourhood? I love the little house in the picture - here you will find some houses of that style in parts of Nôtre-Dame de Grâce (NDG) in the west end. I'd love to see some houses similar to yours in your area - of course I understand the security issues involved in posting your own!

One facet of "home staging" that always annoyed me to no end was that the householders showing their house were supposed to hide their library away in boxes. I have at least eight wooden bookcases including one that is at least 8 feet tall - hate to think how many I'd have in a family-sized house!

Tish, we've had almost no winter, even here in Montréal which is a good zone colder than Toronto, so spring came very early and there have been some downright hot days. It is cooler now, but everything is green and beautiful.
Duchesse said…
Tish: In a similar manner, when we are in France we stock up on Terre de sommières. I should have mentioned it- pure magic.

lagatta: Guests came over last night- everyone has a colour mistake story! But it's only paint.

I rarely show my possessions, for various reasons. Thank you for guessing some of them.
A glorious early spring here, too!
Frugal Scholar said…
I paid someone a ridiculous amount (for me) to choose colors/fabrics for an ungainly and difficult room. The best money I've spent in a long time. I NEVER would have found the fabrics or chosen that color. I'm happy whenever I walk into a heretofore depressing space. AND my mother--who discovered this woman and encouraged her to go into business herself--was likewise blown away when she saw it. It took Susan about 1 second to pick the colors--which would have taken me FOREVER and not produced a good result.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: I suppose some colour consultants charge more than others. My bill was $250 for one room plus a tweak to a second room. Great value as far as I'm concerned. Plus a coupon for free gallon of paint.
mat said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sallymandy said…
How exciting to be re-colorizing some rooms, and fortunate to have met with Janice in person. I've known of her book for about a year, but have foregone buying it because it would probably make me want to redo everything--alone. And that would be overwhelming. For that kind of project I need serious hand-holding.

I hope you post results on your blog.

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