House Colors

In Southwest Portland neighborhoods, most houses are painted neutral colors.IMG_6754IMG_6765IMG_6140Sometimes there are variations – soft blue, green, or deep red.IMG_6780IMG_6779IMG_6746What I have learned from talking to people, is that even the most neutral colors have been chosen with tremendous deliberation on the part of homeowners, who strive to find a shade that expresses their individuality while also being mindful of the neighbors’ sensibilities. Some balance their desire for social acceptance with the needs of their inner rebel by adding a bit of whimsy with the door or trim color.IMG_6775IMG_6764IMG_6830Then there are some people who appear to be unaware of or unconcerned about convention.IMG_6845IMG_6849IMG_6737IMG_6822But that is only how it appears, as I learned from the woman who lives here.IMG_6793I saw her out talking to neighbors one day, and I stopped to ask her about her house. Here is her story:

One day she realized that her house needed fresh paint. She contacted a paint store, and after much thought and careful weighing of options, she chose a beautiful shade of blue. A few days later the painters arrived. When they started to work, she saw that they were not using the lovely blue she had chosen, but something quite different! Someone at the paint company had ordered gallons and gallons of the wrong color. At this point (where most people would be on the phone to the paint store) she made an important decision: to love the purple color that serendipity had delivered to her doorstep. She embraced its lack of prudence and its jewel-tone richness. And mostly she remembered the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph, about being of a certain age where you are free to do what makes you happy because what other people think doesn’t matter. And she has been content with this decision. She said people stop by all the time just to ask her about the color of her house. Now that I know the story, I find the color of this house to be absolutely delightful. You just have to know the story.IMG_6801IMG_6809


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Jenny Joseph


0 responses to “House Colors

  1. I’ve always LOVED that purple house, myself! Now I have more “reason” to!

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