Last week, my post focused on a decidedly unglamorous aspect of home restoration:  installation of a new septic system. This week, the post will explore a softer side of the process:  paint choices for Howlets.

In reading about how designers choose paint colors for their clients, I am often taken aback how little the setting and house itself are taken into account. The decisions often seem driven by the current colors du jour in the “shelter” magazines on the newsstands. For the clients and me, Howlets demanded paint colors that would fit its rocky seaside setting, granite construction and casual style. Howlets was built in 1911, 100 years old this summer, and was used as an artist’s studio and later a summer residence. It has a very simple and straightforward style, with no fancy curved moldings, plaster ceiling medallions, or affectations of any kind.

In scraping away the more recently added paint on the interior doors and wood trim, we discovered that the original colors and finishes are not shiny or glossy — nothing showy to distract the eye from the natural materials used to build the house or the setting which offers up a view across the sea to Maine. Our plan is to keep it that way. Flat or egg shell finishes for the paint are the natural choice for this house.

The dishtowel muse and new blue linen sofa

I had the chance to see the house just before all of the contents were emptied and discovered in the studio amongst piles and piles of accumulated belongings from the 100 years of living by the Hales . . . an old dishtowel. Its subtle combination of dusty blue, light grey, and linen texture spoke to me. These colors and texture just seem to fit Howlets and are going to drive our choices for paint and fabrics. The blue has a Northern European feel to it which works perfectly with the house. When Ellen Day Hale had Howlets built, she instructed Alec Jungquist, the Swedish stone mason, “to build the house to suit his own ideas, because, she said, she wanted it to look like a Northern European farmhouse.” * We plan on using a combination of hues that would feel right at home there.

Pulling the "look" together

Here is a list of some of the paint colors that we plan on using at Howlets. All are Benjamin Moore.

  • China White, flat
  • Harbor Grey, eggshell
  • Grey Owl, eggshell
  • Heather Blue, flat
Believe it or not, it is a complete coincidence that the house sits above a harbor, is named after baby owls, and one of its owners is named Heather.

* Note:  The above quote by Ellen Day Hale is taken from the book The Life in the Studio written by Nancy Hale in 1967, describing the Hales’ residency at Howlets.

Watch for next week: Is it a shutter, or a headboard?