Red, White & Beige

OK, I admit it. I am hooked on HGTV. That’s House and Garden Television for those of you who watch Masterpiece Theatre and don’t have cable shows like Decorating on a Dime. Add Color! and Divine Design are my guilty pleasure. Watching a team of experts come into a house and, in a tidy half-hour episode, transform a hovel like mine into a house that looks like nobody lives there – well, that’s my idea of entertainment.

Of course I don’t want my house to look like nobody lives here, I just want it to look like we don’t live here. Heck, I’d even settle for having one room that doesn’t look like it was decorated by Fisher-Price™ and a pair of wild raccoons. With that vision, I decided to redo our dining room.


On TV, the decorators usually start the transformation by painting the walls a warm, rich color. Paint, they say, is the fastest way to change the look of a room – but then, they’ve never met my kids. In just a few years, our walls have acquired a grimy patina of dirty hand prints, greasy fingerprints and a few inexplicable footprints near the ceiling. Underneath, is a meek shade called “White Coffee.” OK, it’s beige. My whole house is beige. Beige is safe. Beige is neutral. Beige goes with everything, even  greasy fingerprints and  wild raccoons.

But, inspired by HGTV and armed with confidence, courtesy of the Home Depot (“You can do it, we can help”) commercials, I was determined to break out of my flesh-toned rut and into the realm of color. So on Saturday morning, when my husband went on his weekly pilgrimage to the hardware store, I went too, in search of  the perfect pigment.

While Harris fondled cordless drills and weighed the merits of peat moss, I looked at paint chips. In the rainbow display at the back of the store I was immediately drawn to “Safari,” “Barley,” “Retriever,” “Clove Dust” and “Toast.” That’s because they are all beige.

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I realize that I am seduced by the romantic names on each chip and I would never have painted my walls “White Coffee” if that same shade had been called “Band-Aid”™ or “Indecision.”

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I worked my way through the rack of chips from yellows – “Lemon Chiffon,”

“Saffron,” “Paella” and “Squash” – to greens – “Sweet Pea,” “Key Lime” and

“Asparagus.” My stomach rumbled and I moved onto the reds.

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Last year, red was touted as the new neutral and everybody in my town seized the moment by painting their dining rooms “Sangria” and “Raspberry Truffle.” Everybody but me, that is. Now, I wondered, was it too late? Will “Watermelon” walls scream 2004? I compared “Tomatillo” with “Enchilada,” “Chili” with “Hot Tamale.” I craved a burrito. Maybe red really does stimulate the appetite. Maybe I shouldn’t paint the dining room until after I lose 10 pounds.

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This year, the folks at HGTV say that orange is the new red. So I stuffed “Cancun,” “Mai Tai” and “Tequila Sunrise” into my purse along with “Claret” and “Cherry Wine.” It was 10 o’clock in the morning, why did I want a drink?

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="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt">At home, I fan out the paint chips like I’m holding a royal flush on Celebrity Poker.

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“What color should we paint the dining room?” I ask my kids.

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“Light purple,” says my daughter.

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“Silver,” says the youngest, pointing to my wedding band.

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“That’s gold, you moron and it’s not even a color,” his sister points out tenderly.

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“Is too!”

“Is not!”

“Paint it black,” my teenage son suggests, unwittingly quoting The Rolling Stones.

“What’s wrong with the color it already is?” my husband asks.

“Well, nothing, really,” I say “But HGTV says that warmer, richer colors can actually increase the appetite, stimulate conversation and encourage guests to linger.”

“Those don’t necessarily sound like good things,” he replies, as I tack the chips to the walls.

Over the next few days, I consulted with the neighbors, conferred with friends and solicited the opinion of the mailman, the pizza delivery guy and the dog.

“Definitely red,” said the guy from Domino’s, pointing to a square called “Pepperoni.”

“Maybe light blue or green,” said my neighbor Denise, giving a nod to “Sea Foam” and “Sea Glass.” “Anything but red.”

I carried chips everywhere I went. I asked the opinion of the supermarket cashier, my gynecologist and the vet. I examined them in sunlight, flourescent light and candlelight. I held them up to the woodwork, the furniture, the drapes and the dog.
Then I went to the hardware store and bought a roller, a drop cloth and a gallon of scrubbable latex paint. I’m finally ready to show my true color, and it’s beige ... err, I mean “White Coffee.”


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