Piece of Mind: A search for more color passes only the smell test

Several hours ago, having fallen under the spell of a magazine spread that seduced me into believing I could renew my bathroom just by picking up a paintbrush, I broached the subject with the family accountant. Could we find the price of a gallon of paint in our open-to-buy column on the budget today?

It’s hot and arid enough to be good painting weather, I reasoned. We’ve been looking at that same ivory color on the bathroom cabinets, drawers, moldings and doors for at least 15 years. I’m tired of trying to avert my eyes from a two-inch chip in the paint that reveals the wood beneath. There’s also that old, faint violet stain where someone’s (anonymity is called for here) hair dye dripped down the front of a cabinet during a rushed beauty treatment.

I still like the wallpaper, as ancient as it is. Chosen by previous owners of our home, it is of a fine quality and timeless design that has held up remarkably well. So I’m not inclined to remove it. Although I’d be delighted to rip out the shower and start all over with new tile there and, while we’re at it, install a new countertop, those are not projects we can tackle at this time. Besides, the article assures me, a simple coat of paint in a new color is the ticket to happiness.

Probably relieved that I’m only seeking approval to buy a can of paint, my partner agrees. Since he’s been pressed into service over the past few years as our pool cleaner, he needs to make a trip to the big box home improvement store today anyway to buy the necessary chemicals. He invites me to accompany him.

Once there, he leaves me in the paint aisle. I’m dazed by the innumerable color choices before me. I’ve arrived with a hue in mind, which helps narrow the selection, but I’m still a little overwhelmed. Another woman swoops in suddenly, seemingly sharing my mission. She’s also apparently decided on a similar color scheme and fancies the same collection I do. So, out of a 20-foot display of paint chips, representing the offerings of a few different companies, the two of us are vying for sample cards located within a span of about three inches. We do the dance. I take a card and step back to consider it; she moves in closer to the display. She chooses a card and budges slightly so that I can resume my hunt. This continues for a few minutes until I grow weary of the game and decide that one of the colors represented on a chip I already have in hand will be going home with me.

Someone once told me that a color on a paint chip always looks darker once you’ve painted your walls. So, I choose the lighter of two shades of a soft coral I like and, rejoined by my husband, make my purchase. Once home, he heads outdoors to tend to the pool and I walk with my new gallon of paint into the bathroom to tackle the job before me.

Now it’s the afternoon of Day One of the Bathroom Happiness Project. The nine drawers are emptied, as are a couple of the cabinets. I’ve scrubbed surfaces, removed handles and put up masking tape where needed. I pry the lid off the paint can and dip my brush. The work begins. I paint a couple of drawer fronts and the section of the cabinet just below the sink, then stand back to assess the exciting change I’m bringing to our lives.

I don’t know if it’s the lighting in the room or the paint I’ve selected, but I can’t detect a difference between what I’ve just applied and the ivory on the sections I haven’t touched. Instead of giving the bathroom new life, this paint, once applied, seems to be invisible.

I’ve committed, so I’ll continue on course. Once the project is complete, perhaps I can claim some degree of contentment. The room at least smells freshly-painted.

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor. She can be reached at carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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