It seems absolutely the done thing to paint your house white. In the last few years other colours have made a small inroad indoors, but if you look round the countryside you’ll see that white for the exterior is still the thing. As if we’d just invented white wash. Except not, because I think whitewash may have been a slightly softer, less glaring blue white colour.
I understand that indoors people justify the starkness to themselves as adding ‘light’, and in other people’s sparkling clean homes it no doubt shouts ‘clean’. I think here it would be more likely to shout ‘see a cobweb’.Outdoors it really has no such justification.
Wordsworth disliked the way the Lake District was defaced by white houses, suggesting that “five or six houses, scattered over a valley, by their obtrusiveness dot the surface and divide it into triangles and other mathematical figures, haunting the eye and disturbing that response which might otherwise be perfect.” The fact that those houses, and those around us in the Wye Valley have since doubled or trebled in size doesn’t help.
The worst of it though is the way that the white shoutout draws your eye. The garden is full of colour just now, even in December, but it it is a rich variety of greens, yellows and browns, occasionally (not so often lately) lit beautifully by sunshine. It always reminds me how inspirational the knitting designer, Kaffe Fasset found these colours of the British countryside – thinking of creating a jumper with dozens of those shades playing against one another wakes your eyes up.
But if you did, you probably wouldn’t add random white in little patches.
As the garden has lost the deciduous leaves, our neighbours white houses emerge in little splodges amongst those colours and ruthlessly demand attention where I don’t want to give it. I am trying to lose the splodges but after 26 years I sadly have not yet totally succeeded.
I know – so many of you have much worse to look at. This is a dreadful searching after perfection. But if you have a country house which you are about to paint….?
And what do we do? Paint it black. Or cover with ivy..where we can.
(don’t ask about those windows….!)