Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Color Me Screenless

Someone came in just now to tell me that my laptop had stopped charging. As it turned out, no amount of trying different outlets was going to make the frayed cord conduct electricity again. And in these days of heightened screen time, losing a screen is going to hurt.

It's not going to hurt me! I have barely touched my laptop in the past six weeks as it's gone from room to room, hosting Zoom calls, and Google Hangouts, and suddenly-online dance classes and piano lessons, and people's Spotify playlists, and the occasional Shaun the Sheep marathon. Indeed, my overall screen time has dropped during quarantine. Darwin is working from home in the library, a room with a) a door that shuts, and b) the family computer. He's using his work laptop and monitor, but if I step into the room during business hours to log on to our desktop, a trail of children follow in my wake, which defeats the purpose of the door that closes, and can be dicey in the event of a conference call.

So I'm not much on the computer during the day, and I'm not much on during the evening. I've taken all social media apps off my phone, and that cuts down screen time there. What am I doing with all this screen-free time? Good stuff, but little stuff. Baking more, and I'm happy to say that a bit of my kitchen mojo has started to return. Puzzles with the kids -- we're cracking through our 1000-piecers, and might have to resort to pleading locally for a puzzle exchange. Chatting with the kids. Watching family movies in the evening, sometimes (not screen-free, but you know). Reading, kind of? I'm trying to get through some improving books right now. The other night I sat down and read the first pages of Leisure: The Basis of Culture, looked up and saw A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer on the end table, and promptly took it up and read until 1 AM. I feel a Heyer kick coming on, but I want to read the good ones, not the formulaic early stuff. I dug up the Kindle and picked up The Spanish Bride, based on a true story of an English officer at the siege of Badajoz who rescued a Spanish maiden and married her.

Darwin and I are taking sanity walks every day after dinner, to get some time together and to revel in the spring beauties of the old American neighborhood. Time together, you say? Aren't you together 24/7 now? Yes, but we're also with seven other people 24/7, and they all have legitimate claims they need to press, except when the 11yo dabs on his siblings and everyone starts yelling because that's stupid. (Dabbing is this close to being banned, let me tell you.) When we are walking, no one fusses at us or comes up while we're chatting to ask a question, or even to start an interesting conversation that we're glad to have. And there is no small (but not as small as he used to be) person sleeping between us, flinging arms across our faces or jabbing our eyes, bracing his legs, and finally cuddling up to be the coziest warmest fellow emitting the sleep waves at us. As we walk, we discuss moving him, which would require a major household reordering of bedrooms, such an intensive project requiring the careful matching of personalities that would need to share a room, that we end up putting it off for another week, again.

We discuss paint, or rather, I discuss paint and Darwin nods politely because I am forever discussing paint. It's been on my mind a great deal because there's a hole in the house by the door where the mail slot should go. 

The mail slot is old and brass. Over time, the 90-year-old wood that it was screwed into has disintegrated, so that it's come looser and looser. We've tried to repair it several times with shims and wood blocks, but nothing about this mail slot has been simple to fix. Instead of trying to put the slot back in, we needed to mount it in a wooden frame that would screw right into the house.

First, I carefully cut a paper template to match the back of the slot, and then Darwin cut the frame out of plywood. There are screw and hinge mounts sticking out, part of what has made it so tricky to adjust in the house wall.

We checked the fit and made adjustments.

Then we inserted the door on the long hinge pin and made sure that it could swing clear.

This is a bonus shot of the cat that uploaded with the other pix.

The last step before mounting should be painting, and that's where the delay has come it.

Our glory and misfortune is that we live in a Tudor Revival house. One does not simply paint a Tudor house anything other than cream and brown, unless you are going to paint the trim white and color the fields. This house does not want the trim to be painted white. It wants brown -- maybe not this brown, but some brown.

As you can see, none of the woodwork on the lower story is brown. Everything is cream, and everything is peeling and needs to be touched up. Could we, I wondered, paint the mailbox and that trim a different color? I talked about it for days, and Darwin nodded hesitantly for days, and finally one day we realized that he thought I was talking about replacing all the brown with some other color, and we'd been talking at cross purposes all this time.

But still I vacillated. For all my searching, I could not find any examples online of a Tudor house with this severe style having any kind of trim color besides the timbering. I love color dearly, and always imagined that I would own a Victorian with, I don't know, a porch or at least a shutter with some good pigmentation. However, even with a Revival facade like ours, where the Tudor is only skin-deep (those boards are literally 1x6s tacked up there between a few coats of plaster) over the original Victorian bones, it would be clownish to slap on color without some very thoughtful analysis.

(One thing we're going to do, one day, is replace the brown metal roof with real copper sheeting. Copper is pricey, but at those small square footages, it's achievable.) That will give us, in the future, a true verdigris accent. But verdigris paint looks nothing like aged copper. I know this because I went so far as to order some sample quarts from Sherwin-Williams (carefully delivered to my car) and test some colors on the garage, which also wants touching up. The good folks at Sherwin-Williams, not having in stock a paint chip I wanted, generously gave me a whole color fan deck. Flipping through this thing has the intoxicating high of pure potential. The strips of gradated hues! The array of tones and shades and sheens! All this color out there, and it could be on my walls! The names themselves produce a buzz. Roseberry. Hazel. Delft. Studio Blue Green. Rookwood Antique Gold. Dover White and Turkish Coffee (probably the colors of my house). We sit around and challenge each other to pick one color from a random strip to paint the dining room. We delight in the blues, the greens, the neutrals. We ignore the oranges.

Alas, from my garage experiments, let me tell you that strong contrasting color on a Tudor is Right Out. What about complementary color? Could the trim be, say, Rookwood Antique Gold, or maybe Straw (both from the Historic Color collection, so's you know), tone on tone with the cream? I have not tested it on the garage yet, but more and more I fear it would be a misstep. Should the woodwork around the windows and door even be painted brown, or should it remain cream to give a solid foundational look to the first story? We have yet to decide.

Meanwhile, we still had a hole in the house, so instead of making bold color decisions, I sanded and painted the frame house white, and Darwin screwed up it. As soon as I sand down the filler over the screws and paint over that and the caulk, I'll share a photo. If we decide later on an accent color, I can paint i-the frame again. It won't be as neat as it would have been if I could done it before we put the mail slot in, but that is what painter's tape is for.

In the meantime, if anyone needs me, you'll find me dreaming over my color deck.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

If you're feeling a serious Heyer kick coming on, might I suggest mixing in a bit of Meriol Trevor as well? I'm actually working on a blog post now about how she's a sort of Catholic Georgette Heyer. Her Warstowe Saga and Luxembourg series are both available for Kindle. She tends to farily large casts of characters with lots of children running around and the series are composed of loosely linked romance novels where each subsequent book is a romance featuring characters who are minor or tangential in the previous novel. Sometimes literally minor, like the kid in the first book is now old enough in the third book to have romance on the mind and in the meantime you can see how that first marriage is settling in and now has a passel of kids running about. I really enjoy that feature, of seeing children as being a big part of marriage and family life. It's not so present in Heyer.

I absolutely love color strips of graduated hues.. a whole fan of them sounds glorious.

Emily J said...

This all sounds so ... familiar. We are playing pass the devices around here too - the kids are all more social than ever online. And I feel like I'm missing out on all of these great free performances and resources that are flooding the internet because I don't have time to get online in between their usage and their talking. And then our desktop died. After spending a few days trying to bring it back to life, I took it to the local repairguy and he confirmed its death. In honor of Earth Day, I am paying him to replace the hard drive instead of buying a new one, because it was a decent machine ... a few years ago. My husband wanted to order a new device right away, but we'll see - if this repair lasts 2 more years, it is worth the half price of a new desktop. Why not another laptop? Good question, other than I don't like typing on them.

I haven't ever read Georgette Heyer, but I'm thinking about reading something British here soon, as a shift from some of the contemporary books I've been reading.

Michael said...

several tudor revival homes in my neighborhood have had the trim painted black, and the result is absolutely appalling