Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The color of today

Resene's "Caper"
My husband and I have been trying to decide what color to paint the exterior of our typical Kiwi wood cottage. We wanted to go bold, though not Christmasy, with green and red. You’d think that our local Resene paint dealer, with its hundreds of colors to choose from, would have had exactly what we (let’s face it, I) had envisaged. But I wanted a green that was slightly less military than Flax but more ballsy than Frontier. And a red that was a little less muddy than Fahrenheit and a little more tame than Raging Bull. Don’t you think, honey?

Be honest: that’s why you men love us.

As I struggled to find the adjectives to describe my color hesitations to my husband, I began to wonder about the person whose job it is to name the paint colors in the first place. About how much fun it would be to come up with names like Hippie Green, Surf Crest, Alter Ego, Cha Cha. And about how much I want that guy’s job.

But it’s probably not all fun and games. There must be a method behind the madness. A technique. Glancing through our color swatches, in fact, I can see there is some sort of pattern.

Clearly, some paints are named after something that shares the same color. For example, there are…

Plant or flower names: Laurel, Holly, Apple Blossom, Palm Leaf
Food names: Celery, Toast, Avocado, Caper
Spice names: Cumin, Paprika, Wasabi
Drink names: Moccaccino, Espresso, Brandy, Merlot
Animal names: Turtle Green, Flamingo, Grass Hopper

There are geographical names, with an overwhelming majority of Italian destinations:

Habitat names: Woodland, Marshland, Desert, Rain Forest
International place names: Trinidad, Xanadu, Norway, El Paso
Italian place names: Padua, Sorrento, Stromboli, Tuscany, Como

But it’s once the visual matches have run out that the fun – and the magic – really begins.

Whimsical names: Goblin, Sea Nymph
Emotions: Envy, Ecstasy, Bitter, Joie De Vivre
Dangers: Roulette, Hazard, Havoc
Deep and meaningful names: Destiny, Oracle, Eternity
The name of a mysterious person on one’s mind: Christine, William, Mandy, Consuela
Wild and crazy names: Birthday Suit, Whizz Bang, Go Ben, Oh Behave

And when all else fails, you can always just use the tried and true name of the color to name the color.

Literal names: Green Meets Blue, Red Red Red

And these are just the greens and the reds! Oh, I wish I could get paid to name paint colors, but for now I’m willing to do it pro bono. With all the paint colors in our house for the most part already named, I’ll take on the even greater chromatic challenge of naming the complex hues of my mind. If my mood were made up of colors, what would they be today, an unproductive day at home being a mom and trying to get out of a slump? (Note to Resene or Dulux customers: the following paint colors are not yet available.)

Plant or flower name: Weed
Food name: Nachos Again
Spice name: Salt
Drink name: Caffeine
Animal name: Wrinkly Tortoise
Habitat name: Floodplain
International place name: Pluto
Italian place name: Napoli
Whimsical name: Giant Octopus
Deep and meaningful name: Que Sera Sera
Emotion: Faint Hope
Danger: Analytical Thinking
Mysterious person on my mind: Ivan the Bulgarian
Wild and crazy name: Hocus Pocus
Literal name: Grey Meets Dirty White

Phew, that was hard work! But fun. So what about you? What are some of your made-up paint names to describe your mood today? Or even just some really good ideas for paint names?


  1. we are also painting our house Heddi, and since we are using colours of NZ Dulux range it's pretty unexciting - Ohai half.

    However, to create a bit of drama for the doors, we are going for a contrast shade - and the best way to describe the colour we are looking for is "burnt pumpkin"

    That's not particularly imaginative, but is quite a good indicator of what we have in mind.

    I once bought a Resene green because it was called "kermit" - so names can have a very powerful affect.

  2. Dear Mary Anna,Ohai sounds pretty cool to me, though not sure what color it is: it's where one of my best friends lives, a small artsy community is California. Burnt Pumpkin is a fantastic name and I can definitely picture the color. Would love to see the house once it's done.

    And yes, I agree, names are powerful - naming is almost our entire human experience!

  3. Oh, my gosh!!!! How about "I don't want to live here on the prairie but I'm stuck brownish tan" or "this is where I really want to be on a boat in washington state greenish blue" or "the color of my cat's eyes" or "Ginny Weasley red" (yes, my kids aer watching a harry potter movie right now) or perhaps even skunk white" (bad experience last week)...or, I could come up with a million! love it!

  4. Ooh, I love "Skunk White" and "Ginny Weasely Red"! Brilliant. (I would love to hear the skunk story, by the way!) Perhaps the others could be abridged as "Dried Prairie Mud" and "Washington State of Mind". I hear your fantasy and I like it! From a fellow dreamer, h.

  5. Yes, excellent abreviations! I totally am thinking about good paint names now. I wrote about the skunk incident in my blog last week - Tuesday, I believe! It was quite the story. :-)