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Friday, July 12, 2013

I Call It Wintry Ocean

Julie Owsik Ackerman 

After seven years of living in our house, we decided to paint the exterior. The house had always been white, so Carl’s suggestion that we change the color shocked me. I started looking at every home I passed, evaluating hues, trying them on in my mind. It was hard to imagine my house mustard yellow or split pea green, but as I walked around Ocean City, I decided our house could be blue-grey, like the ocean in winter.
The checkerboard

Our painter Mark asked for a few color choices, then painted a large square of each on an outside wall. I loved Coastline. Carl said, “I don’t want to live in a grey house.” I loved the name Blue Heron, but it was way too blue. Stratford Blue was just meh, In the Twilight we liked, but wondered if it could be lighter. Mark put up two lighter versions. No and no—too purple.

Perhaps sensing that I was a particular customer, Mark recommended I go to the paint store to speak with one of their consultants. At Sherman Williams, I told Nicole I wanted blue-grey, keeping the ‘ocean in winter’ part to myself. I brought home two samples, which the painters added to the checkerboard. Bracing Blue was too, well, bracing. Aleutian we liked. I thought we had a winner. Mark suggested we paint some larger areas before deciding.

The next day I came home to a large area of Aleutian and my heart sank: it was too periwinkle. I wanted to like it. More importantly, I wanted the decision to be made. I said nothing, went inside to eat, returned outside, called a friend. “I want to like it,” I said. She replied, “That means you don’t.

I summoned up my courage and admitted to Carl I didn’t like it. I could see his exasperation. “I still like Coastline,” I offered.

“I still don’t want to live in a grey house,” he said.

Back to the paint store.

This time Tony helped me. He assured me we could make a mix in-between Bracing Blue and Aleutian, adding if I didn’t like it, I could experiment with mixing shades myself. The next day, while I was at work, Carl put up some samples on the little remaining white space on our house. I loved Tony’s mix. Yes! Wintry Ocean! This is it! Carl disagreed. Where I saw blue-grey, he only saw grey.

A temperate summer night, we made some custom mixes while Daniel and Nalu played in the yard. Carl slathered them in-between all the other splotches. A couple walked by, shouted, “We agree on that one,” pointing to the horrible periwinkle. Haha, I laughed, seething on the inside. Our next-door neighbors liked our custom mix. It seemed the whole block weighed in on their favorite, as if we needed any more opinions.

Surveying the twelve choices, I pointed to Tony’s mix, telling Carl that I loved it.

Carl scrunched his face. “It’s too grey."

“It’s blue-grey. And that one,” I said, pointing at our custom mix, “is too blue.”

“I can’t even tell the difference between the two,” Carl said.

“So what are we arguing about?”

He proceeded to paint large swaths of the house in our custom mix, as if that would convince me. I hoped it would. I was tired of this discussion. I wanted to make a decision. I also wanted us both to be happy. I didn’t want to force my husband to live in a house he thought was grey. But I didn’t want to live in a purple house either. I was aware of voice within, perhaps inspired by my toddler, shouting—Color matters to you! We may not paint again for 10 years! Don’t ignore me to please Carl or the painters!

Too many times I’ve pretended things don’t matter because they seem trivial, or because people may judge me, or because I don’t want to be perceived as a diva. But if you’re spending $4000 on something, isn’t it okay, even responsible, to ensure you really like it? I decided it was.

I told Carl if he wanted another mix, he would have to go to the paint store himself, as I had to work the next day and the painters had finished all their prep and priming. I steeled myself for an argument, but was surprised by his sudden acquiescence.

“If I can’t see the difference between Tony’s mix and our mix, then let’s go with the one you want.”

Hm. Why the sudden acquiescence? Would he secretly hate the color and resent me for choosing it? I didn’t think so. Though I would have preferred that we both equally loved the color we chose, I decided if Carl was willing to live with my choice, I had to let him.

For the first week, the color looked shockingly blue to my eyes. Carl insisted it looked grey in certain lights, but we both like it. It might not be exactly what I had imagined, but I love what it is.

The finished product


  1. I love it! (both the finished product and your description of the process ;-))

  2. The house looks beautifully blue-grey. Congrats, and $4000 seems like a real steal. I like to imagine that D1 painted it himself. Grandpa had the greatest things to say about him after your recent visit.

    D2 aka the original D1 who previously went by just D because there wasn't another D.

  3. Looks beautiful. Your process reminds me that early in our marriage, Jim and I lived a few years too many with a blazing yellow bedroom and shocking pink bathroom. I had been going for warm sunshine and shy flamingo.
    Glad you held out

  4. Looks beautiful. Your process reminds me that early in our marriage, Jim and I lived a few years too many with a blazing yellow bedroom and shocking pink bathroom. I had been going for warm sunshine and shy flamingo.
    Glad you held out

  5. Mary FrancesJuly 17, 2013

    Lovely!I feel for your process. I took a year to settle on colors for my shore house . Now, I thinkI need to get in touch with your painter!