Paint chips, paint colours

Tints and Shades

I’ve mentioned recently that we have been repainting our living room. For 27 years, walls, ceiling, and woodwork were a dingy, flat, chalky-looking white. There was no incentive to change this until the sagging plaster of the ceiling was repaired. This happened early in May, when we finally connected with an actual, real live plasterer.

Once the plastering was finished, we beavered away for weeks, stripping multiple layers of old paint from the window frames, door frames, and baseboards. Stripping (with heat guns) and sanding (a miserable business, in my opinion) was the hardest part of the project. Picking colours was the most fun.

The world of paint colours is fascinating. Each one has the retailer’s alphanumeric code, but they all have names — in both English and French here in Canada. There must be people whose job it is to think up names for the thousands of paint colours available. It may seem frivolous and silly to name colours, but it does have a certain appeal.

I now have a sizable collection of paint chips for various pale greys and off-whites. It’s interesting to compare names to colours. Examples: Starry Night and Daydream have hints of violet; Rhinestone, Sea Salt, Tinsmith, On the Rocks, Skater’s Pond, Waterscape, and Rainwashed are all greys with different degrees of blue or green. Passive, not surprisingly, is a kind of beige. Some actually have colours in their names: Silver Strand, Slow Green, Lazy Gray, Agreeable Gray, Accessible Beige. (So I’m wondering — is there a Speedy Green? Industrious Gray? Or Aggressive Gray? What about Remote Beige? I could have fun with this!)

Paint colours, painting equipment
Paint stirring sticks showing the colours we used.

For what it’s worth, our renewed living room ceiling is now Alabaster (Albâtre). That colour, a warm white, is called Fuzzy Mitten (Mitaine en peluche) in another company’s scheme. The walls are Window Pane (Carreau), which is a lot like a tint elsewhere called Bluegrass White (Blanc bluegrass). It’s a pale and subtle mixture of blue and green. Parts of the woodwork are Morning Fog (Brouillard du matin), one of a million shades of grey.

Livingroom new paint and cove ceiling feature
These are the three colours in a corner showing a bit of the coved ceiling (which is the reason a plasterer was needed to do repairs).

Having worked so hard to strip layers of paint from the wood of the window and door frames, and because it’s old growth fir of a quality no longer available, we couldn’t bear to cover it with paint, so varnished most of it instead. Traces of the former paint are still visible in spots, but they are part of the house’s history, like scars and wrinkles on a body.

Old growth cedar wood grain ca. 1930
Close-grained old growth fir from 1930. Knot free. You can’t buy wood like this now.
Varnished wood showing old paint traces and wood grain
A bit of a window frame. Mostly varnished with grey accent.


    1. Yes, we’re just finishing up the final touches. Buying curtains was one of them. The blue colour has enough green that it doesn’t seem cold. Also, that room faces south. I’ve used a lot of yellow elsewhere in the house; it’s one of my favourite colours for decorating. Thanks for your comments, Robbie!


  1. Your very descriptive post took me back quite a few years, Audrey. We were professional interior designers back in the day (sounds posh, doesn’t it, but just glorified painters, decorators and upholsters really) Hard work, as you have discovered, but putting new colour/ fabric/paper back into someone’s home was a very rewarding job…
    Too old to do much these days, as I have no desire to climb a ladder any more, but I do miss those colours!

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    1. I love messing around with colours and found the names fascinating, although my husband is totally indifferent to them. (Must be a woman thing.) Fortunately no high ladder work was needed. I seem to recall one of your posts described quite a harrowing ladder plus wallpaper situation. I definitely wouldn’t get into that kind of thing!

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  2. Excellent choice, elegant and relaxing. How many different tints and shades are there in the world? When Cyberspouse was calibrating ( don’t ask, I don’t understand either ) his printer for printing photographs the computer claimed it could produce thousands of different shades, can that be true?

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  3. I love natural wood. My mother lived till she was 13 in a mission-style house built the year she was born (1909). It had beautiful, rich, natural woodwork. In the 1940s, they went back to visit in that small town and the new people living in that house had painted all the woodwork white – the current trend. My grandmather was so disappointed.

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    1. Trends can make people do all sorts of things, like covering up hardwood floors with shag carpets. Fortunately, that one can be easily reversed, unlike paint. I have found that wood that was originally varnished, then painted over, is easier to strip than when paint was the first layer. I’m happy we’ve exposed that wood; it was worth the work.

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  4. The woodwork is beautiful, and I love the multi-colored layers. Sanding is the worst! I taught for thirty-one years, but I painted houses in the summer (That’s a whole separate topic—teachers having to work in the summer or on the weekends to pay the bills) for many years. It was a nice change of pace for me, and the actual painting isn’t that bad if you can tolerate the prep. After a couple of months of painting houses, I was always glad to get back to school.

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  5. Audrey, I love this phrase. “Traces of the former paint are still visible in spots, but they are part of the house’s history, like scars and wrinkles on a body.” Your colors in French and English are also fascinating.

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    1. Thanks, Pat! I wasn’t keen on the varnishing idea at first, but realizing that it was OK if a few traces remained gave me a new perspective. And I guess the bilingual colour names are mandated by law, since Canada is officially bilingual. All products have labels in both French and English.

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      1. Contact established!
        Sorry for the short message, as you will know, this was a test run to see if I could get through to you..
        Going back to the subject I was impressed by the way you manage to work all the themes together, very relaxing on the eye.

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          1. Like many good things, it’s a question of the project fitting in with the whole.
            My colour perceptions are, shall we say, variable, but this looks good to me.

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