Drowning by quarts

Paint stores engage in a form of sophisticated torture. With hundreds of tiny chips on display, they befuddle and exhaust the most decisive homeowner. Too many colors. Too many choices.

My husband and I decided to give our plain white dining room a makeover. We wanted a more exciting color. From experience, I know that paint on a chip, viewed under fluorescent lights, looks different from paint on actual walls. So, armed with my chip finalists, I marched off to Sherwin-Williams and brought home five quart-size cans in custom-mixed hues ranging from tangerine to brick red. I painted quadrants of color around the room.

After staring at the walls for several days, we determined that none of the colors was quite right. Back to the store I went.

This continued until I had rejected about eight quarts of latex paint. I felt guilty about the environmental consequences - the cans would need proper disposal. What an irresponsible waste. And yet, the choice was too important to guestimate from a bitty chip.

I've been searching the Web for virtual solutions, so far without success. If I was of an entrepreneurial bent, I would invent a handheld device that projects color onto a wall almost as if it were a movie screen. No brush need ever be lifted. Or better still, stores would stock small vials of every color, enabling people to test paint to their hearts' content.

Dealers, however, aren't exactly in a hurry to create a less wasteful system. Until then, I'll have to either keep using my walls as a palette or stick to plain white.

As if there were such a thing. Most stores feature two dozen or more neutral shades. Now if I can just decide between China white and linen white....

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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