Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sky is Blue, Part 1: Painting the patio ceiling

Those of you who have followed this blog for the past year and a half will recognize that I have a mild obsession with property values. 

This obsession derives more from a quality-of-life concern than it derives from a profit motive: if fifty or a hundred bucks can substantially improve the "feel" of your suburban gem (and therefore it's re-sale value), why not?!

Case in point. 

We paid for the proverbial "outdoor room" builder option on our house, the attached covered patio, 10 feet by 14 feet in size.  If I'm recalling correctly, it was an extra $5,600 on the base price, which was the deal of the century as far as I'm concerned.  About $40 per square foot for an entire extra living space wired for electricity and (in our case) a gas line for the BBQ.  It's a room that does not have two of its four walls, but who cares?!  Every other room in our house has all of its expected walls.  It's good to mix things up - walls vs. no walls. 
The "patio" that came standard was a simple 10' x 10' free-standing un-covered concrete slab.  The "optional cov'd patio" was larger and fully-integrated into the slab and roofline.
But of course, in taking delivery of this build option, we had to go with what the builder provided in the way of standard finishes, which in our case, was the same brown paint ("Squirrel") used on the rest of the house trim.  This resulted in the following patio color scheme:
  • Brown bricks on two interior walls.
  • Brown bricks on two exterior support columns. 
  • Brown paint on the trim and soffit
  • Brown paint on the ceiling. 
  • And just to finish things out, a greyish brown concrete floor.
Way, way, too much brown.  The down-side of these attached patios, especially if they are large like this one, is that if they are painted wrong, they start looking like the Black Hole of Calcutta

No camera is ever going to expose this type of scene properly without extensive re-jiggering, but you get the idea: bright blue sky, dark patio.
The solution to this issue was obviously to lighten up the ceiling considerably over the brown monotone used by the builder. 

The question was, lighten it up with what?!

White was an obvious option, but white is so 1970.  (And 1980.  And 1990.  And 2000.)  So I decided to go with the other obvious option:  blue to correlate with the blue sky that was constantly manifesting just on the other side of the soffit.
I never choose colors without first doing extensive testing.  For Part 1 and Part 2 of these blog posts (Part 2 to be published later), I broke a personal record and actually blew through TEN color trial samples, but only five of those were needed to constrain the patio ceiling.  Part 2 will reflect a much more challenging project. 
The point here is not to create a ceiling that screams "BLUE!"  It's to create a ceiling that feels light and airy and non-oppressive.  If the color BLUE jumps out and slaps you upside the head when you step onto your patio, this indicates that you've overshot your mark and added too much blue. 

You can see from these test spots above that many of the shades ranged into aqua.  Aqua did not sit well with me in part because it seemed to clash with all the surrounding green shrubs and trees. 

Here's another view looking straight up, to incorporate both the sky and the patio ceiling for color comparison.
I ended up going with the very generic sky-blue shade all the way at bottom of this photo, which I had mixed as Valspar Exterior Satin Finish (note that the URL is not an exact product match) in the shade "Woodlawn Blue Angel" (102-22, 103-8.5, 105-1.5). 

The "satin" part is probably just as important as the shade itself.  The covered patio was absorbing too much light.  Having a ceiling paint that is reflective helps brighten it.  A flat paint would have seemed dull.
As soon as I started rolling it on, I could see that it was going to make a HUGE positive difference in the brightness of the space. 

Make sure to use painter's tape if you tackle a job like this.  I left the trim pieces as brown so that they would help define the roof-line. 
The finished product.
Note that the light pattern near photo right is sunlight reflecting off a water feature down below.
Another view of the ceiling superimposed against the adjacent sky.
No more Black Hole of Calcutta.
I don't think I nailed "the perfect color" with this project.  There's still a tiny bit of an undesirable aqua overtone to this shade, but it's not so far off the mark to prompt me to re-do the job.  And when I walk out onto the patio now, I do feel like there's a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  So, this is a big improvement for a couple hours' work and less than fifty bucks worth of paint.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Sky is Blue, which is where the men get separated from the boys, as far as fifty-dollar home improvement projects go.

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