I love paint chips. I love that their names are so evocative. Nonchalant White and Jersey Cream. Flamingo Feather and Equestrian Green. Borrowed Light and Cabbage White.
I love the ones that have five or six shades of the same hue, dark to light. Surf Green fading into Composed into Hazel into Waterscape into Dewy. Down Pour melting into Leisure Blue into Respite into Take Five into Balmy. I love the way, when you fan out a manufacturer's deck of chips, you can see all the colors in the world.
And, yet, all the walls at Sandhill are white.
There is a very good reason for that, of course (There was a very good reason for every design and decorating decision I made while building Sandhill, often to the chagrin of the contractor and subs.). The fact is that white is never just white. As we learned sometime in elementary school, white reflects all the colors of the prism, so a white wall changes with the kind and amount of light it reflects -- from the soft pearly light of morning to the bright yellow light of noon to the smoky lavender light of dusk.
Sandhill faces south. The sun rises in the bedroom windows and sets in the living room and kitchen windows, which means that the white walls actually change color throughout the day. And throughout the year. By choosing white for the walls I actually chose an entire spectrum of colors.
But how to choose which of the hundreds of whites?
Despite the fact that I'd spent years adding torn-out pages from magazines into a notebook, I'd never come across any instructions for answering that question. I was, then, dependent on my own ingenuity, which resulted in attaching to first one Sheetrocked wall and then another the paint company's brochure of all available whites.
I don't remember in which room I started, but I took the time to go over to the house-in-progress at least three times at different hours on a given day to look at all those whites. One by one I drew a line through the ones I didn't like in that room and in that light before moving on to the next room and repeating the process. After a couple of rounds I'd narrowed it down to Pittsburgh Paints Vanilla Milkshake.
Fifteen years later when I undertook some repairs as a result of wind damage from three hurricanes in a row -- Charley, Frances, and Ivan -- the white was Benjamin Moore Decorators White. This time, it looks like it's going to be Sherwin Williams Ice Cube.
The life lesson in all of this -- because a highly verbal, slightly bossy first-born is going to find a life lesson in everything -- is, first, that I clearly prefer cool whites and, second, that different people (or companies) are often going to call the same thing by different names. And while I think that names, for everything from babies to fingernail polish, are significant, it's important to remember that a name can't reflect everything there is to know. About a baby. Or fingernail polish. Or paint.
Or a grown person whose parents favored names from 19th century British literature. You have to get to know him or her before you can make a real choice as to whether Ebenezer or Honora is for you. You have to spend time with Algernon and Louisa-Margaretta in different circumstances and different lights to know if you'd like to invite them to your birthday party. You have to, in a way, pin them to the wall and live with them for a while.
And, then, when you pick, it's a choice you can live with for a very long time.