Friday, February 15, 2008

Oh Yes; The Windowbox

Top o' the morning to ye, Sippicanite. Or Sippicanette, as the case may be. If you use that third bathroom at the alternative bookstore, please write to me and tell me what suffix to use to greet you properly, too. We're nothing if not mannerly around here.

It's a long road that has no turning, as they say, so let's turn the corner on this window box thingie, and get back to despoiling the internet landscape with our opinion on other matters, shall we?

Well. Well, well, well. Now you've had plenty of advice, up to now. What with me grinding away, your neighbor coming over to critique your sawhorses, and the helpful teenager at the Big Orange Place explaining to you politely that he doesn't think they sell four inch long, galvanized screws that are already bent. Of course, if you like, he'll get on the intercom, and summon someone in charge to ask. You can always tell who's in charge down there, they're the only one amongst the clerks who can shave, either their chin or their legs, respectively.

You think you've gotten advice up to this point? Hold on, dear reader, for the onslaught of unsolicited opinion, for you are about to paint something.

Now people who are willing to help you paint something are a smaller proportion of the population than even the people who need that third bathroom I mentioned earlier. But everyone is ready to tell you how to do it. Actually, that's imprecise. They mostly are prepared to tell you how you did it wrong, and " back in '______' we don't do it that way," after you're done. And you missed a spot.

Now I used to paint things for a living, mind you. Small, quotidian things at first. Big, elaborate things later. And believe me, I've heard it all. I once painted a trompe l'oleil mural, in a mansion, and the roofer came in, filthy, unshaven, swearing, with a cigarette sporting two inches of ash dangling in the corner of his mouth, and he offered me advice. Now I suspect that his experience with two point perspective and faux marble might have been, how do I put this politely, not absolutely top shelf.

But shame on me. Perhaps I've got two many preconceived notions about folks who use @#$! as a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb, and the object of a prepositional phrase, all in the same sentence. Maybe I should have given him the benefit of the doubt. I might have missed the day he was on the Today Show and got his Lifetime Achievement Award for Decoration, along with his honorary degree from the Sorbonne.

"Why the #$%! is this like this?" He said . "I wouldn't do this in my #$%!-ing house."

Really, do tell. The one in the south of France, or the other one?

So take it from someone who's been paid to render an opinion on paint. Everyone's going to offer an opinion for free. And I doubt anyone is going to give you the counsel I'm about to.

Pick out a nice color in a water based, low lustre house paint. Open the can. Stir it until you get bored. Get a disposable 3 inch brush. Slap that paint right on the wood. Twice. you're done.

The horror! No primer! No sanding! No expensive flag tipped tynex/orel brushes! You visigoth you.

Now trust me, it doesn't matter. It won't peel. Let me take that back. It might peel, but if it's going to, because of the sun and rain and snow, it will no matter how you finish it. Remember, it's supposed to look weathered and simple, not fussy. So don't bring fussy into it. But here's the hard part: Don't make a mess. Paint never really looks right if you make a mess. Being neat is not fussy. Leave the shrubs and the siding out of it. And don't paint it a color that competes with the flowers.

All paint brands are about the same, if you compare like for like, product-wise. Gaudy claims from the manufacturers about this or that characteristic are generally true, but one is 99% something or other, and the others are 98%, and it's not worth worrying about.

Except one thing. Pigment cost money. Both the kind of pigment in the paint, and the very expensive pigment they use to print the sales brochures. And if there's any difference between the brands that matters, it's almost always the quality of the sales brochures, and sophistication of the colors. And getting rich, earthy sophisticated tones for paint requires a sophisticated approach to the pigments. Cheap paint makes grey by mixing lamp black with white. It wears well, and applies easily, but it's Just Grey. Better paint has people educated in color, researching combinations, and using four pigments to achieve Grey. Rich Sophisticated Grey. And you can use their materials to find color combinations that don't look like they belong in a trailer park. Just stay away from the color chip displays that look bland overall from a distance. You'll be fine.

First, soak the innards with raw linseed oil. When that soaks in, put in some more. It will keep the water in this box of mud we're keeping from immediately wicking into the carcass of it and speeding up its inevitable decline. Now, lay a piece of window screening in the bottom of the box, to keep the good soil from slowly sifting out through the neatly drilled holes you put there. Then put a thin layer of something that will keep the drainage good in the bottom so the roots don't rot. I use a couple of trowels of gravel from the driveway, but anything will do if it lets water drain free. They sell nifty styrofoam pellets now, of the sort that nurseries have been using for years to mix in their soil to keep it from caking. They work well, and don't weigh as much as gravel. Then the peat and the poop, mixed with good garden soil. And in go the geraniums, and the vinca vine. Or Boston Ivy. Put the vines nearer the front of the box, and it will droop nicely over the canted cap we put on the front of the box for just that purpose. Or you choose the flowers. Who am I to give you advice?
By the way, that's me behind the flash, mirrored in the darkened window. I think I look great in the photo, don't you? I should have my picture taken like that all the time. Now you know what I look like.

Now you're wondering how we chose our color. Well, we chose it because its name, and its delicate tone, conjured up images of ancient babylonian temples, washed by the biblical sun to a delicate ivory; or perhaps the color of the finest cheese, labored over by the flinty Vermont farmer, and seen in the rich, clear beams of the first sunshine of the farm workday, filtered through the mist in the meadow; or perhaps evoking a panorama of wheat, languidly waving in the gentle breeze, stretching to the horizon on the rolling plains of Tuscany, and crowned by the regal Mediterranean sun.

Ben Moore named it "182." Get some. You'll love it.


thud said...

enjoyable series...I must say though I'm a bit of an anorak when it comes to paint..I swear by Farrow and Ball when working on my period properties.

Gerard said...

Whew.... I'm glad that's done. I'm plumb tuckered out.

Now please ship it out here so I can put our window box on my window.


Gerard said...

I'm taking the old one down now.

SippicanCottage said...

Heh. Apparently Gerard would prefer my more terse and incisive descriptions of work around the house:

This Old Cave

SippicanCottage said...

thud- Interesting. I'd never heard of them. In New England the swells used to specify Pratt and Lambert, and we'd use Benjamin Moore for everybody else.

When I was young, I worked for old-fashioned people on ancient houses.(Ancient for America) We used to be hired by people that wanted us to hand brush all surfaces with alkyd paint, including walls. We used to mix our own paint with a rack of pigments right there on the job. I still have the rack. Sometimes we'd make our own vehicle, too; linseed oil, varnish, turpentine, Japan drier, and pigments. Evil stuff.

Warning: Repeated prolonged overexposure can cause brain and nervous system damage.

You should have seen how smart I used to be.

thud said...

That kind of mixing may be a step too far for me(I wasnt that smart to start off!) but mixing limewash for protecting lime render is something I still do.

Ruth Anne Adams said...




Pogo said...

You just solved my problem.
Well, one of my problems. Not the problem, but one of the minor ones.

SippicanCottage said...