May 13, 2010

Treasure Hunting - An Aside

As a certified geek with multiple degrees in Nerd, I have always fantasized about finding treasures in the walls and rafters of old houses I work in. I think it's one of the reasons why I became an archaeologist. Treasure hunting for secrets that people hid long ago. When I worked at Fort Steele in the summer of 2000, one of the features we focused on were outhouses. The outhouse is where you would go to hide your secrets - evidence of affairs, drinking problems, cheats, lies, scams. Because the outhouse is the last - no, actually - the only place you wouldn't want to look for evidence. We found countless liquor bottles, and jewelry, shoes, knives, hardware, marbles, etc. We also found out what people ate (yes - kind of gross) and the time of year of the 'deposit' (evidenced by the seeds found in the layers). If an outhouse was aged well, there was actually no smell and fairly easy to dig. Aaaannnd random aside done.

How thrilled was I when Jay, for some god forsaken reason, was recently poking around in the basement rafters when he felt something in the back corner. He pulled out a long tube of paper, unrolled it slowly and found a decent sized sample of wallpaper (like we don't have enough of it permanently embedded on the walls), and an old black and white photo of some kids standing in front of an old farm house. And something that could not have been more exciting as far as rafter finds go. Paint chips of all of the colours originally used in the house! YIPPEE!!

A little background on Mid Century Modern paint palettes. MCM colours were a departure from more conservative and staunch colours in the 1940s and the brooding 'manly' colours of the first quarter of the century. They reflected the period after the war - a period of great optimism, innovation and focus on family and the home.

The MCM period essentially redefined the home to fit growing families and women who no longer had to work due to the end of the Second World War. Not unlike today, where we're at the forefront of redefining how we live (think of how different appliances are today - Dyson vacuums, front loading washer dryers, tankless water heaters, and the emergence of newly designed, energy efficient housing).

I adore the MCM period of design because houses were designed both to entertain guests and with women in mind: ample storage in cupboards and closets, spacious rooms to sache through with your button up dress, well planned kitchens with clever shelving and the hyper modern appliances that you could buy in designer colours like turquoise and pink while cute little cartoon birds sing at your windowsill...

And there was no fear of more feminine colours in the house. We've (ok I've) experienced firsthand the distaste for keeping our pink bathroom but really, if done tastefully, why fear a feminine bathroom? I don't know about you, but I spend way more time in the bathroom than Jay. If my bathroom is pretty, I feel pretty. ha ha. Anyways, this is a whole other posting that will be arriving shortly. Back to paint chips.

All the paint chips found were Pittsburgh Paints - from the Maestro Colour collection. That pink that we so tenderly cherish in our hall is called 'Carnation'. As stated on California Paint's website who feature a sparkly brand new MCM paint line (1940s-1950s):

“One of the iconic colors of the 1950s, this clear, strong pink was popular in all aspects of fashion and interior design. It had strong connections with the First Lady at the time Mamie Eisenhower, a foremost color trendsetter. During the era the color was commonly referred to as “Carnation Pink” (California Paints as quoted in Retro Renovation)

I want to be a colour trendsetter!! Hmph. *stamps foot

The living room and some of the bedrooms were painted in 'Baby Blue'. The upstairs bathroom with the pink fixtures was painted in 'Green Glow' and the back wall of the kitchen cabinets and the downstairs office was 'Turquoise'.

The 'Ceramic Rose' was actually an exterior colour for the trim, window sashes and basement level siding. I imagine that the stucco was likely painted a cream - stucco is very difficult to colour test. To accent the house, the exterior fence was painted Baby Blue.

A tough little predicament for heritage purists out there. Now that I know the original colours and they are kind of hideous, is it ok to repaint in a scheme that we like?



Jen said...

I cannot believe you found that! What are the chances?? So awesome. Oh and YES, for the love of god it is alright.

Laura said...

I know, you're right... Clay red and baby blue were just not meant to be together. I'm sorry 1950, you were kind of colour blind on this one...

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