Q: What do Lexicon, China, Barrister, Berkshire, Stowe, Hog Bristle, Goat’s cheese, Eskimo Hut, Table Linen, Enchanted, Cloud Stream, Peace Flower and Skydancer have in common?
A: They are all paints marketed under the banner of whites and neutrals. And there are hundreds of them!
A few weeks ago my nephew popped round to see Mum (who was visiting from England). I asked him if he’d help me out by painting some colour swatches on the wall while I tapped away at my latest article.
The previous weekend I’d slogged (sweated) round Bunnings (for non-Aussies, Bunnings is a warehouse-style DIY store) mid-heatwave. No wonder it boasts the ‘lowest prices’ (its strapline on every ad), the air-con is either on energy-saving low or is just a series of fans pushing hot air around. I was in between paragraphs writing about melanoma (no risk inside Bunnings at least), and once I’d bought drawer and door handles, plastic drop sheets, oversize garbage bags (the local charity shops are growing to LOVE me) and looked at blinds and sinks, I was pretty much over the whole thing – the heat, my impending renovations and having to make so many decisions. So by the time I got to the paint section, I grabbed six tester pots and hoped for the best. Rather like the rare occasions I bet on the horses, I was influenced by names I liked as much as the actual colours. How could I go wrong with Peace Flower, for example? Surely it would create an oasis of calm in my living room and block out the screeching bird in my neighbour’s garden.
But, of course, none of the colours looked right; they were variously too silver, too white, too bland, too yellow or too brown – all very Goldilocks. Mum suggested a hint of pink would add a bit of warmth. And she was probably right but that would mean ANOTHER trip to Bunnings to get more tester pots and I simply couldn’t face it.
Then I had a light bulb moment! Helen and John were due to arrive in Melbourne the next day as part of their world trip from the UK to Vancouver, Tahiti, Australia and Cambodia. Helen is an artist and has a keen eye for colour, and she and John, a gorgeous man and retired farmer, have renovated what they call the ‘bung,’ Helen’s bungalow, in Somerset.
Almond white is what you need they said, it’s much nicer and warmer than Magnolia (an over-used favourite back in Blighty). They’d used Almond White in the bung and it looked great. Paint dilemma over, I thought, relieved. After studying my renovation plans in detail (rather heroic of them as they were, after all, on holiday), we set off for lunch and then did a tour of St. Kilda and Albert Park. On the way home, we stopped at my local hardware store (the opportunity was too good to miss) to get some of the Almond White to test out. But it wasn’t quite that simple. It turns out that Almond White is a UK colour so we rang Dulux Australia for the ‘recipe’ but they didn’t have it. However, they did tell us that Dulux in New Zealand do an Almond White in their range, but they didn’t know if it was the same as its British cousin. But, if it were the same thing, Hog Bristle Quarter was the nearest match. I duly bought a small pot of the Hog Bristle (white with a bit of ochre) and Helen painted it on various sections of my walls. While not quite Almond White, Helen and John thought it was pretty close and a big improvement on the other colours I had chosen.
That night they went off to stay with friends near Warrandyte. I stayed home and had plenty of time to stare at the walls, not in a sad-singleton-Shirley-Valentine-kind-of-way you understand, but in a colour-appraising way. Did I really like Hog Bristle Quarter or was I just making do? Helen and John returned on Sunday night. And guess what? They had admired the colour on the walls at their friends’ house only to discover it was none other than Hog Bristle Quarter. That was enough to convince me that HBQ was indeed the one and that I didn’t need to test out another Fifty Shades of White. Phew!