Nancy Roman

Color Coordinated

I pride myself on having a very good eye for color.

A classy love of monochromatic design, an understanding of bright and complimentary colors, and even a finely tuned ability to mix patterns with panache.

I can discriminate between the subtle tone variations – a discriminating palate for the palette, so to speak.

But many years ago I made a ginormous color mistake.

My husband and I bought a house when we got married. It was an 1840 farmhouse, although all the land except for 2 acres had been sold off long ago.

Here we are the day we became homeowners.


Our first house. (and yes, brown curly hair)



We pulled out the overgrown shrubs and planted healthy small shrubs and lots of myrtle. Then we spent the next two years turning over my paycheck to the mason who re-pointed or replaced the entire foundation, 3 feet at a time.

Then finally, finally, we were able to think about painting. I didn’t want a beige house. I wanted a cheerful house.

I wanted a yellow house.

And so I looked at hundreds little cards with paint chips.

I held all those little cards up against the house

yellow paint sample

And I picked the perfect color for a cheerful house.

It was called “Cheerful.”

The thing is that my ability to visualize color was impaired in putting that little inch and a half against a three-story house.

And cheerful came out a little brighter than we expected.

Sort of like this:

yellow house

I’ve heard this color called “School Bus Yellow.”  We tended to call it “Highlighter Pen Yellow.”

Why, you may wonder, didn’t we just stop once we had 8 feet done, or 20 feet, or one side?

I have no friggin’ idea.

We told ourselves that given some time and exposure to sunlight and air, that the color would “calm down.”

But the paint company guarantees its paint for a reason. It stayed nice and bright for YEARS.

Our neighbors told us that they needed their sunglasses to drive by.

Moth and ladybugs and insects we didn’t recognize stuck themselves to the clapboards.

My brother called and offered to send me some tickets to the opera that he was not going to use. I asked him if he had the address handy and he said,

“I just figured that if I wrote ‘That Yellow House in Plymouth’ – the mailman will know.”

He was probably right.

We held out for five years waiting for the paint to fade. Then we finally gave in and repainted – a light yellow color called something like “Subtle.”

I’d like to say that we missed Cheerful. But in truth we did not. And we were rewarded because when we put the house up for sale, someone eventually bought it.

But I was reminded of it today, when I drove down a road near my current home, and saw that some nice folks have put up a sweet picket fence.

Painted purple.

picket fence purple

The neighbors must be enjoying it.


  1. You should go to Bermuda or Newfoundland where houses are painted bright orange, purple, green, etc. it is very cheerful looking like your yellow house!


    • You’re right. The mistake was not the color; it was living in New England.


  2. This strikes a little too close to home for my, ummmm, taste.

    Six years ago, we stained our vacation house. We wanted a grey, seaside color, with a hint of blue. Importantly, We were at home in Virginia when we decided on the color. Doug, our painter, called us up.

    “It’s blue’

    We’ll, yeah, we thought. Gray with a hint of blue.

    Nope. Blue. Very, very blue. You might even call it cheerful (but I probably wouldn’t). It is starting to fade.


    • That reminds me of another story. Years ago my father repainted the little room where my parents kept a crib for the grandchildren. The color turned out much brighter than he expected. A week alter my mother laid her toddler grandson down in the crib after he had fallen asleep. When she heard him stir an hour later, she walked into the room and the little guy said, “Grandpa painted BLUE!”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Too funny and relatable. We still have an “accent” wall that reminds us of baby poop. I think since it’s such a pain in the ass to finally pick a damn color and to do the whole painting process (at least it is in my house), it’s just easier to leave it. I have been bugging my husband about repainting though. 🙂


    • With this house, I agonized over the colors – I had years to do it, since we built this house ourselves. The agony was worth it…it’s all fine…. except…well, there’s wallpaper in the dining room I no longer like. But it’s STAYING.


  4. We have lived in our house not quite 3 years and our kitchen has been painted 5 different colors! What we have now is staying!


    • Has the room gotten smaller with that many coats?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha. I was thinking just that and this house is so small already we cant afford to lose any more square footage!


  5. Ah yes, those little color cards. We had a grey lounge and decided to brighten it up. We bought a large tin of white paint and a color additive for a ‘dove grey’, some 5 shades lighter than what was already on the walls.
    Yeah, Right. we couldn’t have matched it better if we’d tried…. when dry it was EXACTLY the same!
    The following year, we decided on pink, well clover actually according to the tin. Hubby painted a ‘smilie’ on the wall knowing it would be covered.
    Yeah, right. Three coats later and definitely not a ‘rose blush’ but a brighter than expected PINK, you could still see it when the lights were on. Ooops!


    • You could use it to scare your guests with creepy ghost stories…..


      • Ah, that was four properties ago and luckily the buyer only saw it in daylight, so you never know, she may have felt she was being watched!
        Whenever we decorated thereafter it was either white or magnolia and we introduced color with accessories.
        Everything on the boat is a light varnished wood trim, so no paint thank goodness (apart from the outside of course). All very neutral, just how we like it.


  6. Yellow is a tricky color. My mother painted her white house yellow and like yours, it ended up much brighter than that little card said it would. Ever since that if I chose yellow, I only use the lightest of the colors on the card. Of course my current house has a siding called prairie sage. Sounds like a grey-green, right? Most people refer to it as either the blue house or the grey house. No one ever uses the word green to describe it. I think there are color fairies that monkey around with the paint cans after you buy them. PS: Love the curly brown hair!


    • I have a lipstick called “Rich Topaz” – and it’s not yellow.


  7. Christine

    I definitely remember the yellow house. There is one that is close to it in color that I frequently drive by in Orange. But the yellow is subdued compared to a house (since repainted) that was diagonal red, white and blue stripes that used to be fairly close to us. While the yellow was unintended, the owner of the patriotic house must have wanted it that way.


    • You have to appreciate how much work went into those stripes.


  8. Thirty four years ago I bought a can of lovely pale peach paint to do over the spare bedroom in anticipation of the child I was expecting. Three coats later – over formerly dark blue walls – I had a pumpkin orange nursery! I ‘fixed’ the problem by wall papering one wall and buying blankets and other accessories in a Winnie the Pooh motif – because Pooh was the exact same colour as the walls.


  9. Luckily, I know my limitations when it comes to color choices, but still I hope I will be right every time we paint. My living room was painted at least 5 shades of blue, my daughter’s room was painted 3 shades of pale orange, and the outside trim had 3 shades of brown. I usually give up and either call in my daughter-in-law who has a wonderful eye for color, or find out the name of the paint color my sister used in her home, and use that one. The last time, I hired a decorator to choose the color and had a professional painter do the actual painting. Worked out perfectly. First time. Worth every cent.


    • When I was a teenager I painted my room bright lime green. My mother had a high tolerance level for my creativity.


  10. So funny. I agree holding up a tiny paint chip to determine the color of a house can be daunting. And I even understand the need to believe the color will somehow diminish or calm down with age. We’ve all been there. (I kind of like the purple fence, though).


    • I like the purple fence too, but I’m glad I don’t live next door.


  11. I like to think that I am good at choosing colors too. Many years ago, I saw a picture of a bathroom painted cobalt blue and decided it would be the perfect color for our powder room. Despite my husband’s warning that it would be too dark, I went ahead and painted it the color I wanted. It was like a cave. Just so I wouldn’t give my husband the satisfaction of being right, I pretended that I loved it and lived with it far too long before finally giving in and repainting the walls.


    • Both my husband and I pretended to like the bright yellow for a very long time.


  12. I love yellow too! We did the same when we painted our first living room. Very BRIGHT.


    • We didn’t learn our lesson completely with the yellow house. When we built the house we live in now, we did a yellow hallway that was really too bright (once again)… but this time we didn’t wait. We repainted the next day.


  13. Ray G

    OK, I have waited for the “color” comments to be posted, with admirable patience (my definition, of course). So I ask, what is wrong with basic white or off-white? Absolutely every other color will coordinate with it, as will every possible hue of wood furniture. Plus, it makes whatever is of that color look larger, and more spacious (win-win, hint-hint).


    • White and off-white with 3 cats????? Cats who are pukers??????


    • I went to Home Depot once and said I wanted several gallons of ‘off white’ paint (for the house we’d just bought and needed to paint from top to bottom, end to end in a hurry). The nice man handed me a fold out ‘color card’ with FORTY FOUR variations of ‘off white’. YIKES! (We ended up with ‘Winter Bird’ – because my son liked the name!)


  14. Hey Nancy, I lived on Lake Plymouth for 10 years. Just from your description I know I passed your house 100’s of times. Wish I knew then it was your house, we could have caught up many years sooner. I am enjoying going through your archives, loving many of the memories you and I share


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