"Colours", or "How to scare a French Painter"


We just got back from a meeting with the painter who will be painting the apartment (which we have baptised Le Relais du Vieux Beaune – a stroke of genius on Franck’s part).

He gave us a queer look as we walked in the door.

After the customary “bonjours” I kneeled down eagerly in front of the four huge pots of paint stacked by the front door.

“Are these the colours?” I asked, feeling like a kid in a candy store.

“Ahhhh…yes,” he said, slowly.

Our two village houses, La Maison de la Vieille Vigne and La Maison des Deux Clochers both sport mainly yellow walls, albeit Les Deux Clochers a more lemony hue and Le Vieille Vigne more like creamery butter. I love yellow, and it is always tempting to use as it is so easy to live with, but there are just so many other colours out there…besides, when we finally get around to redoing our website and make it photo-rich, as per our plans, I want people to be able to tell the difference between the three different properties. If they are all yellow, it may get a tad confusing. So at the start of the renovations of Le Relais du Vieux Beaune I took the very bold step of declaring the apartment a Yellow-Free Zone.

I started opening up the paint pots one by one – a cornflower blue (kitchen and hallway), dusty lilac (living room), mauve (one bedroom), and a gorgeous bluey-green (other bedroom). I sighed with delight. The painter stared at me, confounded.

Franck laughed. “She likes colour. At first I was very worried about it, but it always turns out looking great when its all done, so now I just shut my mouth and trust her.”

The painter looked unconvinced. “Well,” he said. “I guess I’ve seen worse.”

Oh, he of little faith.

I have always been drawn to colour. White walls look very nice in magazines, but when I am living within them I always feel vaguely wary, as though a blood test or a rectal exam might be in the offing.

More importantly, when there are all these glorious colours out there just begging to be enjoyed, how can I possibly resist? Maybe it runs in the family – my older sister Suzanne has a long-standing love affair with pistachio, and one of the happiest days in my youngest sister Jayne’s life was when she bought a new red couch.

I remember when I first painted the green bedroom in Les Deux Clochers seven years ago. I had always dreamed of an apple green room, but as it turns out I was a bit of an oddity in that respect. I had villagers stopping in the middle of the road outside the house staring into the bedroom, and then going and getting their friends to come back with them and look some more.

I continued to valiantly paint away, assailed by doubters on all sides. Franck swore that he could never sleep in such a bedroom because the colour tickled his brain.

Franck’s father Andre dropped by one day as I was almost finished and surveryed my work with a grim look. “Maybe it won’t look quite as green with furniture in it,” he said, at last.

But very quickly that bedroom became Franck’s favorite room, and Andre was actually right in the end. Coloured walls look very overwhelming in a bare house or apartment but when the room is furnished, with pictures and mirrors on the walls, the colour fades into the background. It sets the mood with a whisper, not a shout.

And this will be the same for the apartment, or at least I hope…