The Color Pink: Fall Project

by Robin Bonner

New Roof and Skylight
It all began when we had our attic converted to a master bedroom suite, about 20 years ago. Well, okay, maybe it was later than that, when said bedroom was no longer new—When the nails began popping out of the drywall in random places, the walls were cracking from floor to ceiling, the skylight was leaking rainwater onto our quilted bedspread, and the roof was begging to be replaced. Yes, maybe that’s when the project began.

Gary picked off sections of drywall around the skylight, at the juncture of the housing and the ceiling. Where was the leak coming from? For a number of years, he climbed out onto the roof and replaced the flashing, all to no avail.

We’d need to get a roofer in to repair—no, I mean replace—the roof, Gary said. We could purchase a new skylight and Gary could build the housing for it, but he wasn’t doing it himself. So Tom Killoran, a local roofer, did it. That was September 2010.

Are you still with me on this?

Spackling Hell
Fast-forward to September 2011. The new skylight and new roof are long in place (and even paid for). Gary had built the skylight housing, insulated it, and put up new dry wall. Then he spackled. He spackled the drywall around the skylight, and the corner where the skylight housing meets the ceiling. He spackled every crack (from settling during the past 25 years, and unsettling from the recent living room project during which he jacked up the supporting beam). He reset popped nails and spackled every hole, and then the plaster walls lining the steps as they receded into the drywall. Gary lived in spackling hell for almost a year.

Quite long enough.

I suggested we set a deadline. We would paint the room Labor Day weekend. Although we had been considering taking a camping trip to ME that week, the way things were going, that room would be spackled into eternity. So, whatever shortcuts we could implement, we would; then, we’d plan to paint, both of us, that week. No matter what. That gave us a goal to work toward. I helped with some of the spackling. Gary began to make judicious decisions about how much of the plaster-into-drywall of the stairway to spackle, even employing wire netting—spackling it right to the wall.

It was beginning to look lovely. Really!

Picking Paint
It was beginning to look so lovely, in fact, that it soon became time to pick out the paint. Now, the walls have been what I considered a stylish grayish tan, with trim a few shades darker. I was going for neutral, all those years ago, and thought I did a great job of it. The white lace valance window treatments weren’t my favorite detail, and the bedspread wasn’t something I picked out myself, but I was proud of the paint. “What color do you want to go with this time?” I asked Gary.

“Anything but that awful beige!” was his reply.

Wow! Surprised, I replied, “Um, so what color would you like?” and squinted my eyes at the quilted bedspread. I saw pink, beige, and teal amid some less distinguishable colors. Beige had just been nixed, and teal wasn’t my cup of tea for walls. “How about pink?” I asked, waiting for the obvious reply (of “What, are you kidding?”).

“Sure—anything but beige.”

Hmmm, would Gary really be happy with a pink bedroom? He must hate my multiple shades of “coffee beige” desperately, I thought to myself. It’s too bad I didn’t know about this many years ago. There’s nothing I love more than color, and I could probably have had it all along.

But pink? I’m not sure even I could live with a pink bedroom.

Growing up, I had shied away from pink. From a blue plaid grade-school uniform to my two favorite velvet Christmas dresses—one was red and the other purple—I don’t recall ever choosing an article of clothing, or anything else for that matter, in the color pink. Sure, I owned Barbie dolls, probably with pink dresses (and most certainly with the requisite pink convertible and Barbie Dream House), but for myself? Nah, you can’t build forts and fight boys wearing pink.

Well, I’ve been fighting with this boy for 30 years now, in pink and not, so what in the hell is wrong with a pink bedroom? Today, pink ribbons fight breast cancer. You can get a whole line of Victoria Secret lingerie with Pink proudly stamped on the butt. There’s a pop singer named (just) Pink. There’s even a Little PINK book for business big-gals and a Pink website for tweens. And, a Pink celebrity blog (not well written but interesting just the same). Pink means beauty. Pink means power. Pink is out there, all over the place. I decided I wanted a piece of the action.

So, I went to work, picking up paint swatches. What color pink to go with? A dusty, not really salmony but not really purply, pink. Not bright, but not too dull. Not too light, but light enough. Finally, I picked the paint (drove a half-hour to Lewis Paints, in Lansdale, our tried and true paint store, and found a semigloss called “Rosewater.” We decided on white glossy trim, like a little girl’s room. Yikes! Was I really going to do this? Gary so hates painting projects, but even moreso when I change my mind.

Big Weekend
It took us 2 days just to empty the room and prep the walls, transferring everything movable out and covering all that was left with rolls of lightweight plastic. I was nervous about painting—that I’d mess something up—but I gamely dug in with the primer. I didn’t want to saddle Gary with the entirety of this job. He cut wide swathes across the bedroom walls with a roller, and I duplicated his efforts in the bathroom. It was good to spend this “quality” time together. (Instead of camping in ME that week, when we set down our paint brushes at night, we camped out in our daughter’s old bedroom on the second floor.)

Finally, the priming was done and it was time for the first coat of wall paint. I was splitting my efforts between my home office and the bedroom/bath, alternately answering emails and grabbing a brush. Although I was technically “on vacation,” I needed to hand off projects to others and also to monitor my email (which never seems to give me a rest). Steady Gary, though, 100% on vacation, grabbed brush or roller early each day and was in it for the duration. Such was the case one day when I finished up some early morning business in my office, headed for the stairs, and opened the attic door.

The walls were pink.

Not that I shouldn’t have expected that. But, I’m not talking about the not-too-dark, not-too-bright pink I had envisioned (the pink on the swatch). I mean the dark, bright pink-pink that I had deliberately selected against. That’s what was emanating from those walls as I took in the semilit staircase. Outside the heavens had opened with rain, so sunlight wasn’t exactly pouring in the windows. Then why was the pink so bright? I made my way up the stairs with just a little trepidation. The stairs to our bedroom are in two sets of eight, with a little landing midway between them. Up one flight, turn at the window, then up the other flight. I rounded the bend, and voila!—pink spanned the entire room. One word immediately came to mind.


I hoped Gary wasn’t thinking the same thing. How could he live with this? So, of course I blurted out, “Wow! Looks like a boudoir!” I had to look that one up, as I wasn't really sure of the definition.(Merriam-Webster says of Boudoir: "A woman’s dressing room, bedroom, or private sitting room.” Thank goodness it wasn’t the same as “brothel,” which was what I had thought at first.) I walked around, taking it in. Hoping it would grow on me. I had never seen so much pink in one place, close to me, in my life, and by my own choice. And, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

“Haha! A boudoir! You’re going to have to come up here via the fire escape from now on!” Not that we had a fire escape, but it was a funny thought: Gary climbing stealthily up a rickety outdoors stairway, planning to whisk me away from my boudoir. “I don’t need a fire escape,” he noted wryly. My rock-climbing husband would just climb up the side of the house. A comforting thought.

I really did hope it would grow on me. The pink, I mean. And, on him. Although he seemed nonplussed by all of it. It was just a paint job, and he just wanted to be done with it.

Big Week
You haven’t experienced couplehood until you’ve spent a week painting a room together. I carried up to our alarm-clock CD player anything I thought Gary would enjoy listening to. We burned through them quickly: Nancy Griffith, Tom Paxton, Bet Williams, Dan Fogelberg, The Indigo Girls, John Denver. Gary pulled out his iPhone and rigged up some speakers: Jimmy Buffett, then Simon & Garfunkel’s 1981 Concert in Central Park were a couple of our favorites from his iPhone collection. Between coats, I pulled out my own iPhone and googled bios of the artists. We listened to RadioLab, a favorite of ours, a fast-moving, science/philosophy/sociology audio smorgasbord produced by WNYC. We talked, about anything and everything, as we were up there for hours on end. (Well, it was mostly me talking; Gary doesn’t do much of that.)

And, we took breaks. Monday, Labor Day, was my birthday. So, I decided I was allowed to slack off some. I decreed we’d do “something fun” in the evening. Of course, when we made our way toward evening, breaking early was terribly inconvenient, so for dinner we ended up with Asian food at nearby Mr. Lee’s Gourmet, whose owners were none too happy to have us pop in just before closing. (We could tell from the vacuum cleaner running and loud music blaring.) Instead of a nice birthday dinner and a movie, we did said quick meal and a red-box special. Don’t even ask me the title of that film. It looked like fun, with an all-star cast (Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson), but the script was amazingly inept. A great cast does not always guarantee a great movie, for sure. After suffering through the movie, we went back to painting until 2:00 a.m.

And, so the week went.

We didn’t take a day off to go hiking, as we had planned, because the rain persisted. It was just as well though, because it took the whole week to get to the point where we could even think about moving back into the room. When it was over, we achieved reentry in stages—at first using only the bathroom, then getting the bed cleaned off and most drop cloths put away and essentially sleeping in the room but also still working in it—painting trim, touching up, and cleaning up some more. After we finished painting the bathroom walls, we decided to move an outlet and then to look for a medicine cabinet and light fixture to replace the mirror (a side project that turned into a holy grail of sorts, but that’s another story). Gary had to patch the new hole he made, spackle, touch up the paint, and so on. All looked great in the end, but every set back costs time.

Living Pink
With the painting virtually done, it was now time to accessorize. I had sworn I would scrap all the old furniture, but to tell the truth, once the pink walls were in place, I started to envision accessories for what was there rather than big replacement pieces. I was never one for new furniture—I like the eclectic mix: the bedframe Gary built when we were first married, his parents’ old round leather-topped table, and the art deco vanity my parents found somewhere. The valances had to go, though; that was a given. So, I concentrated on that. I needed something to match the pink quilt that inspired the original paint swatches. But, where to get new valances? Country Curtains came to mind: It’s one of the few catalog companies I’ll order from. They always use high-quality fabric and rich colors. What, they now have a store in Warrington, just 40 minutes away? It was worth a look-see, if only to have a chance to roam around the store.

I did my homework, reviewing the Country Curtain catalog beforehand, and fell in love with a multilayer floral pattern called “Country Garden." It had an underlayer in stripes (à la Laura Ashley). We visited the store to check things out and bring back swatches. This was no rash decision; it was risky to work with two different patterns. (Trying to exactly match upan old floral comforter with a new floral valance by a different manufacturer would prove futile.) However, laying the fabric swatches on top of the comforter and watching them disappear convinced me that my experimentation with different patterns in the same color family would work. To seal the deal, once I decided on the valance, I also chose a new pink-striped dust ruffle and a throw pillow for the bed, which would tie in with the bottom (striped) layer of the valance. For $400, I took everything home (together with spiffy new glossy-white 2-inch drapery rods with “finials”), and Gary and I set about putting things in place.

Wow. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be an interior designer. That plan never materialized, but I was sure glad to be happy with my own decorating decisions right now.

Today, at Thanksgiving, we’re living in the beautiful pink boudoir—and Gary seems content enough, generally disinterested in the color but happy that I’m happy. Paint cans still sit in one corner, some trim “cutting in” still needs to be done, and a medicine cabinet is in the process of being revamped with a new light fixture, assembled, and stained. We will get there eventually. But, every time I walk up those steps, I take in the very pinkness of it all, experiencing the sweet rosy beauty, and wonder: How could I, for all those years, not like pink?

Don’t get me wrong, though. I won’t be wearing any of those “I Pink” sweatpants . . . not that Gary wouldn't love that.

Robin Bonner is editor of Empty Nest. For more about Robin, see About Us.

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