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color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Posted by woodyoak 5 (My Page) on
Thu, Jun 10, 10 at 16:49

The garden shed in the backyard has been an issue since we bought this house 11 years ago. The original one was squat (DH couldn't stand upright in it other than in the very center!) and it was rotting/leaking and had misaligned siding - and skunks were trying to take up residence under it! We considered it ugly as well as non-functional but it did blend into the background reasonably well:

2005:
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In 2007 we tore it down and built a more functional one that used material that had nostalgic value for me (painted white cedar shingles) and a color that DH and I could both agree on, that we thought would pick up some colors from the garden.

May 29 2010:
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But, as somebody once commented on this forum, the shed calls attenion to itself. So I resolved to repaint it to 'disappear' into the background a bit better by painting it green. Finding the right green has not been easy. The tinted primer came out much lighter than we expected but the paint coat is darker, although I'd prefer a bit darker yet. The door color is darker but shifted a bit too much to blue I think, but I can live with that. The real question now is - what to do about the trim color? It has made me question just how much do I want the shed to 'disappear'?

I did some mock-ups of trim options to help me think about it. I don't think I like the third picture - the very dark trim is as obvious as the white trim I think but less attractive somehow. Picture two with the trim the same color as the door does indeed make the shed 'disappear' - maybe too much so. If I leave the trim white, I think I'll need to surround it with a lot more big white flowering things than there are now. I'm somewhat leaning towards that option (and DH is getting tired of painting!) but it's a 'six of one; half a dozen of the other' situation at the moment. Are there any design insights that can help me choose or is this just a decision I have to make as a personal choice - or a coin toss?!

At 3:00 today (bright sunshine affecting the color a bit):
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Mock-up with door color used on the trim:
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Mock-up with a darker color used as trim:
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Any insights that would help us make a decision would be appreciated. We're really undecided...


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

In my humble opinion the first picture offers a perfect vignette of a shed in the woods and having the painter colour coordinated is a nice touch, bravo!


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

You're teasing me Ink! :-) Now tell me what you really think! As I was looking at it out the window while washing the supper dishes, I've concluded the main green is good (it's cloudy now/getting dark and the paint is dry - it darkened as it dried, so it's now a darker, more subdued and natural green) but the white is definitely wrong. Next step I think will be to do another mock-up with the trim a paler shade of the main green.

A good part of what all this obsessing about color for the shed is about is working through how to integrate all the pieces of this garden. The backyard is my 'green and serene' garden. That is my overall objective for it but the shed doesn't yet sit comfortably there. The 'solution' to the old shed came with new issues so I'm still in the journey mode on it - the destination is hazily visible but not yet in sharp focus.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

IMHO the last photo allows the shed to blend and still be defined but not stand out. I like green thumbs not sore thumbs. Again IMHO


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I vote for the second mock-up as well.

I'd be tempted to make the trim around the window in the door the same color as the door itself (too many color changes in too small a spot otherwise?).

But then again, the darker trim -- at least in this light -- blends in with the dark windows and makes all the windows look larger, which seems to look better. Hmmm....


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RE: greens

I don't see any sore thumbs (except mine from typing too much! I'm altogether too verbose! :-)

I thought the dark trim might work and then I thought the answer might be light green instead of white. I just tried that idea in a mock-up and did not like it but that may have been because I couldn't find the 'right' green. Plus the color in the pictures I'm working with above is so distorted from the sun that it complicates the choice. And the color darkened as it dried so I think I need to start over with new pictures that better reflect the true colors! My latest thinking is that the trim has to be green, either the door color or just a shade lighter or darker - not an extreme of light or dark.

missingtheobvious - yes, the trim around the door window in the door has always bugged me - it's too wide for one thing. Making it the door color is probably a good idea regardless of what decision is made on the rest of the trim. Good point...

(We had paint chips taped to the kitchen walls for three years before we finally chose the one to use! I hope we can make a faster choice on this...:-)


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I've had paint chips for three years in my bathroom....


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

The shed is a focal point because of its anthropogenic contrast with the surrounding woodland. If having a focal point in this area is not what's needed, then move it, hide it, or embrace it.

I would tend to agree with Ink's observation that the shed (in the 2nd photo from the first photo posted) does make a nice vignette, but if that conflicts with your design goal then move the shed to a more utilitarian use area.

The last few photos showing the green paint/green trim do seem to diminish the shed, but then it reminds me of just a very tall cable or transformer box. A tall untility box out in the yard to me is more of a curiosity than a gardner's white trim paint tool/potting shed.

If hiding the shed is the mail goal, then have you considered some type of plantings to conceal the shrub from your main viewing axis? It looks like you have plenty of room for planting.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I like the dark trim too. But who am I to say - I just painted my shed red!
A friend who lives in Sweden has a cliff in his backyard, and a tiny guest house (quite visibly painted) on top of the cliff. I always wonder how that little house makes the cliff appear bigger - so it's not best in every situation to make buildings disappear. Paint can also affect perceived dimensions, for instance, the dark trim on your shed mockup makes the shed appear smaller.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Isabella - that wording sounds famililar... - it was your comments several years ago that got me thinking about painting the shed green to blend it into the green background! So all this painting work is your fault! :-) (See... - just because a comment/suggestion seems to be ignored/rejected at the time it was made doesn't mean it doesen't lurk in the OP's mind and cause changes later... It might result in something other than you intended or something you might still not agree with, but it has an impact.)

I don't want the shed to be a focal point. I am trying to 'embrace it' by using color to blend it into the background. There is nowhere to move it and it is already in the utilitarian part of the yard (the compost bins are behind it.) I am trying to use color to 'hide it in plain sight'.

There isn't as much room to plant anything big as it might seem - the back of our property is about 20' from the front face of the shed. The trees behind the shed belong to neighbours. The lawn is the foreground is the rectangular lawn that is very important to the look of the backyard so I don't want to plant anything on it down there. There is one small bed in the foreground of the shed area that could be used to plant something larger - as long as it wasn't anything that blocked or interfered with the path network (that bed is sort of a traffic circle that redirects traffic - i.e. dogs running at full speed! - from one on path circuit to another without tearing through plantings.)

I have spent a lot of time in the past few days looking at natural green in the landscape to really SEE what I'm looking at in hopes that I can use that in this painting exercise. What I have concluded is that at least three shades of green are usually present - darker green for the shade/underside/lower areas, a mid green for the bulk of the thing and a light green for the upper surfaces. Pretty obvious really... So I took a new picture of the shed this morning - no sun so the color isn't quite as distorted. I've done a mock-up that I think works much better.

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missingtheobvious - making the door-window trim the same color as the door really improves the look of the door I think!

The door and window trim in this mock-up are darker than both the door and the shed body, in a color somewhere in between the two. So the colors on the bottom of the shed, the bulk of the structure, are in the dark and mid ranges of the greens. The corner and top trim are in a lighter shade of the shed body color, so the lightest greens are on top as they are on all the plants around them.

It's interesting that there is so much difference in the apparent color of the front and north side of the shed. Both those walls are the same paint color. One thing that still bothers me is that the shed is not dark enough. I wanted to go darker for the shed body but DH is not comfortable with strong color, so this was as dark as I could get him to agree to try. Since light colors draw your eyes, I wanted the shed to be darker than - but in the same color range as - the plants in the foreground. I figured if the plants are a lighter green than the shed, your eyes would be drawn to the plants and stop there; the shed would be a shadow in the background. If the shed is a lighter green than the plants, your eyes would travel past the plants and come to rest on the shed - making the shed the focal point that I don't want it to be. So this is not ideal color for the shed but I think it's an improvement.

If anone is interested, the colors we've used on the body was BM 487 and BM441 for the door (and will use on the door-window trim). The trim for the door and windows will likely be BM 455 and the top and corner trim BM 486.

timbu - I suspect by using the very visible colors to draw attention to the house on the cliff, it's the sheer contrast in size that makes the big look bigger and the small look smaller. I think making the shed blend in makes it look smaller but, as noted in my comments above, I would like it to be darker too. In addition to the other reasons for it to be dark, it would certainly help 'shrink' it too.

My apologies for being so verbose! I've been 'thinking out loud' here and it has helped a lot. Thank you.
When the painting is finished - mid next week probably because of rain today and tomorrow - I'll post an update picture.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

If you want it to blend in like the old shed the the solution is obvious paint it brown like the old shed.

A word from an artist--Dark colors recede light colors come forward. That's why your white trim stood out and the darker trim looked better. My advice is whatever color you use keep it dark--dark green, gray or brown and the trim should be a shade or 2 lighter but in the same family.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Woody, sorry about all the painting! - but I'm sure you had fun contemplating the whole design process and the role of color and form. Another consideration if camoflauging the shed is the goal is to break up the geometric form of the shed. The form being the outline and the large geometric areas of similar color. Doing this without it looking like an Army vehicle parked in your yard maybe a challenge.

Two or three vines on a trellis and painted gingerbread moulding moldings applied to the walls, pediment, and gables may be a way to further break up the shape and do it with conventional architectural means and garden structures.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Oilpainter - brown, at this point in the garden, would be the wrong color. It would just emphasize the mulch paths and that would not be helpful. This is my 'green' garden so shades of green are definitely the right color. I'm certainly aware of light vs. dark re advancing/receding etc. I was just checking the paint cans and collecting stir stick color samples to take with me to the paint store today to get the trim colors. It's a good thing I checked - I thought the body was BM 487 but it's BM 489 so the color numbers I thought might work as trim looking at BM's virtual fan deck might not be quite right. I'll have to see the paint chips against the stir stick samples. But I feel relatively confident that I now know just what I went for color.

Isabella - yes, I've had great fun with this (DH has been doing a lot of eye-rolls though! At this stage he just WANTS IT DONE! - his words/tone...:-) I think the hardest part of this exercise was breaking out of the rut of the standard two-tone walls-and-trim paint job to get to the point of actually considering using 4 different, but related, colors. Once the painting is finished, I'll take some time to consider what else it might need. You're earlier comment about planting something for more concealment is persisting in floating around in my head and I think the traffic circle may well end up hosting a tree of some sort. The big ash that shades the north side of the backyard is likely the be coming down later this year or next. That will change conditions substantially and widen the range of what could be planted there.

The journey continues....


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

My favorite is the 5th picture, next to last. the shed is there and it has details, but doesn't dominate the landscape.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Long-time lurker here -- finally something I can contribute to!

I had the same trouble with my backyard shed, a small barn painted cream with barn-red trim when I bought the place. MUCH too obvious.

One August I brought a fresh-plucked leaf from the surrounding oak-trees with me to the local paint shop, and got them to mix a match to that for the main color. That worked really well -- the results were close to what your north-wall looks like. Now what to paint the trim? I started with an earth-tone, basically a dark copper. Too sharp a contrast.

So I tried again, Mardi-gras purple from Behr. This was pretty close, rich but quieter than you might think, especially in shade -- I then sponged over the Mardi-Gras with a more greyed purple, and the final product is wonderful -- it picks up tones from the bloodgood maple and forest-pansy redbud, and the green and the mottled purple are nearly the same intensity. But so much more interesting than just green!

I think your original shed has a purple tone to its grey-brown...

LynnT


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Lynn - I know of someone else who took a leaf of a plant in to get the base color. I thought that was a clever idea. Can you post a picture of your shed? It sounds very interesting. Purple (dark ones usually) are often used in painting shadows - right, Oilpainter...? I assume with the oak trees you referred to, your shed is probably in shade...?

I picked up the colors for the trim today. With luck, DH can do the trim tomorrow. He still needs to paint over the base primer on the south side and back wall of the shed but I want him to do the trim first so I can see what it looks like for real!


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

DH is just finishing the final coat on the walls at the back and south side but everything else is done and looks pretty good I think - from the back porch this morning:
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The colors change substantially depending on the light. Here are the stir sticks for the four colors:
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All colors are Benjamin Moore, Aura exterior latex. The door has a semi-gloss finish; the rest are low luster. From left to right - BM 666 Bonsai - door and window trim; BM 441 Alligator Alley - door; BM 489 Oak Grove - walls; BM 488 Mountain Lane - top and corner trim.

Isabella planted the thought and I now I think I should find a place in the 'traffic island' to place a small tree so the shed can be glimpsed but not fully seen, or discovered when travelling along one of the paths. I would love to have a tree like the one I took cuttings of (see Tree Forum thread linked below...) I would probably put it on the left side of the traffic island on the right side. I need imput from expert-tree-placer laag here...:-)

This is a crude layout of the backyard.
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It would be easier for you to see where things are if I had left the beds clear on the drawing but, I use this to think about the garden and, since the garden is densely planted and in shade, the darkened beds gives the right 'feel' to me when I look at it. I forgot to label the compost bins on the drawing. They are behind the shed, with a narrow passage (mainly for the dogs!) along the back of the shed:
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Here is a link that might be useful: green smoketree


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Sorry for the delay, Woodyoak -- here's a link to my green-and-purple shed. Looks much bolder in sun than in afternoon shade.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mardi-gras shed


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

lynt - that link takes me to something that says I have to sign in to Facebook to see it and I'm not on Facebook.

The shed door being too light bugged me so today I bought a darker paint BM 2141-10 Artichoke. I hope that might work better but it's not quite the color I wanted, so we'll see...

I think I've ruled out thes smoketree for the shed area - but will probably get one when the ash comes down to place where it will eventually shade the living room window. So now I'm looking for other options for a tree or shrub for the shed area.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Try this, Woodyoak (sorry about that -- I'm new to photo posting)

LynnT

Here is a link that might be useful: Green & purple shed


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Lynn - interesting colors... Now that I decided our shed needed to be darker to recede and blend into the background better, that was my first reaction to yours too - but it's hard to tell context in your picture (e.g. there's certainly sun somewhere nearby, so is the shed in a sunny, colorful area where those colors are picking up on specific flowers or foliage? Is the shed meant to be a feature in the garden to compliment the flowers perhaps? Just for fun, I tried to 'paint' it in darker colors of green and purple. The darker colors do sort of push it into the background more I think, but that may not be what you want to do.
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Uncomfortably hot and sunny here today. It was also the day of the local garden tour so the shed door didn't get painted because we were out all day checking out other gardens! I'm very anxious to get this finished and move on to the next project. Besides the door repainting, I still need to decide what to do re planting something in front of the shed for additional screening. Any opinions on whether/what I should plant there? This view from the living room window last night might give to a better idea of space available to plant in the area immediately in front of the shed:
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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Interesting design challenge and thanks for sharing it with us. I'm impressed that the rate of progess in your garden is very rapid compared to the glacial pace in my own!

For some quick off the cuff comments:
From my military days to completely hide something this big and this close to all of your viewing location without putting it completely behind another object (i.e arb screen) is not going to be possible, which probably would disable some other aspect of your whole design anyway. Instead try breaking up the geometric form of the building from your main viewing axis. See how the overhanging tree braches break up the roofline, as viewed from the living room? I would suggest some type open plant(s)to screen/distract from the shed. Also the direct path to the door adds negative space amid all of your foliage that further points to the door of the shed.

Just a quick thought, but have you considered curtains to add needed color to the window and hide the contents?


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Isabella - a 56 year old retired husband with lots on energy and willingness to work gets projects done quite quickly :-) (We joke that, when it comes to the garden, I'm Management and he's Labour - although we are both involved in labour and management in the garden. We've worked out a nice division of responsibilities quite easily in the last year... But it is MY garden and he knows it!)

I hadn't thought of curtains before, mainly because you don't usually see anything in the widows. I think DH just did a hasty stash-the-ladder etc. because he knows we're not done and didn't bother to put things away properly. But I'll keep an eye on that and make curtains if need be.

There are multiple paths/ways to get to the door but the 'direct path' as seen from the livingroom window is the one used if you cross the lawn from the patio. The path to the right of that was just put in a month or so ago when we adjusted the bottom edge of the lawn to be properly parallel to the top edge. When we did that, it opened up space for the larger of the two 'roundabouts' to route the running dogs through the interchange of paths. Perhaps I should rethink the path 'interchange system' to be able to plant a narrow screening bed across the front...? Hmmm - will have to scribble on my drawing a bit more... I was thinking of trying to add an Autumn Magic chokeberry or something like that to add fall color. I think some strong fall color would work well with the green shed. What would you suggest?


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

If you look at the original image, there are plants breaking up two of the long vertical lines at the shed corners. For me, part of what makes the new shed stand out is the number of straight lines - vertical, horizontal and diagonal for corners, windows & doors, and roof lines. I think that if you planted a small tree with horizontal branches such as a dogwood that could partly overlap the roof line and draw attention to the side as well as cover some of the roof edge, and plant something that would hide or break up the strong verticals of the shed corners, it would go a long way towards helping the shed to blend a bit more. Camouflage is a matter of pattern as well as color.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I like the gray and white the best (first photo of new shed).


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

nhbabs - you're right re the foliage on the original shed. I had planted climbing hydrangeas on the corners in hopes of eventually hiding the shed completely! However, is got so decripit that it had to come down. I didn't want to damage the shingle siding on the new shed by planting the hydrangea to climb it, so they moved to the back fence. So now I'm dealing with the 'hiding'/ softening the shed issue... DH is repainting the door darker today and I'm going to play with traffic patterns to see how I could rework the front area to fit in a tree or shrub. Dogwood is definitely something I like so it would probably be 'on the list' to consider.

love-the-yard - we liked the blue-gray shed, but it increasingly doesn't suit the 'feel' of the yard hence the experimenting with options to blend it in.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I think this will be the final paint colors - the door was repainted BM 2141-10 Artichoke. I think that is better than the blue-green it replaced because it is darker and also less discordant than the blue-green was. There is blue-green on foliage colors in the area of the shed but it just didn't feel right on the door with the more yellow-greens of the rest of the shed colors.

I also looked at the usual traffic patterns of people (greenish lines) and dogs (red lines) through the paths near the shed. It worked best to keep the two beds there now. Any alternative I tried cut off the dogs' normal routes. We did move the Autumn Magic chokeberry that was languishing under the edge of the white pines out into the bed in front of the shed on the right side. I think that will work out well. Next spring, when it is a better time to move hostas, I think I'll move the hosta that is the small traffic circle and replace it with a shrub or small tree - perhaps with the Saskatoonberry that is languishing elsewhere in the backyard!

Traffic patterns:
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Shed from the living room window this afternoon:

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From the back porch:
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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Sorry to enter the discussion so late. It may be too late for this comment; but I love the way the shed blends with the foliage around it but have you considered how it will look in the winter?


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I think in winter the shed will make a great back-drop to highlight the red-chokeberries. Some smaller dwarf red-twig shrubs would like great too.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

It'll be interesting to see how the shed blends in winter. The white pines to the right and the mix of evergreens on the neighbour's property behind makes for a green backdrop in winter so it won't be the lone green down there. Snow will soften the profile somewhat for a part of the winter at least. I think it'll be a while before that wimpy chokeberry recovers from its stay in too much shade; also, its berries are black so that might not produce much of a winter show against the dark shed. I've been thinking though that if the ash tree comes down this year, there should be enough light along the right (north; somewhat east) wall of the shed to plant a viburnum with red berries for the winter. The Viburnum opulus that frames the arbour in the front garden produces a very nice display of berries from September until they drop off in mid-late May the next year! I think something like that would add interest to the shed in winter, perhaps with the red-twig dogwoods on the other side, if I could get them to grow at the base of the old pussy willow there. One step at a time... I like how the green shed has turned out - I much prefer it to the blue-gray. What happens next will depend a lot of the fate of the ash tree because that has such a big impact on the light conditions.


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I my hasty post last night, I forgot to say... Thank you Isabella for your comment two or three years or so ago that set me on the path to this green shed! It might not be the outcome you intended, but it's how it ened up being expressed after a couple of years of mulling it over in the context of what I'm trying to achieve in the garden. We think the green shed is a big improvement, so thank you.

I suspect I confused Isabella, and others, when I noted on my drawing that there is a chokecherry tree (red fruit) near the shed, but did not include the chokeberry (black fruit) on the list. So I suspect that there may have been confusion on what tree we moved to the bed in front of the shed. I had forgotten about the 'Autumn Magic' chokeberry until I was looking around at what I could move to that spot and walked past the poor thing under the edge of the pine by the shed and had an Aha! moment :-) The red chokecherry is about 8-10 to the right of the shed but closer to the back fence. It is planted in a small area that gets some sun - a pine on the neighbour behind us' property came down two years ago, so there is a bit more sun back there than there used to be. I don't think the chokecherry fruit will show in the same 'frame' as the shed but the autumn color should be visible in a few years when the tree gets bigger. My tree list also omitted a witchhazel we planted this spring in the bed along the back fence, near the back of the shed on the left side.


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Since MTO linked this thread to the Yard Structures thread, I thought I'd provide some updated pictures and comments. The shed door color bothered me because the color looked muddy brown in some lights and angles. The last pictures above looked good but it more often looked a muddy brown. I finally figured out what the problem was when I got the paint store to provide the details of the pigments in the colors. All the other colors on the shed were made up of yellow, black, white and a green pigment. The door color was only black, white and yellow - it lacked the green pigment. We attempted to darken the darkest color of the shed body but couldn't get it dark enough so we ended up just repainting the door the same color as the door and window trim. It's not really dark enough to satisfy me and, oddly, looks lighter than the trim but I can live with it better than the muddy color.

From the back porch this morning:
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From the living room window:
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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

I think it is lovely, just lovely. Our house is nearly the same color, maybe Cabot's arboretum. People have stopped and asked me the color name.

We wanted a darker trim in the same "family" (no idea how that translates into color theory terms) just darker than clapboards. We must have gone back 3 times to add more black, which clearly not the solution. Finally had to call it day (or a season) and live with it. I'll have someone who knows paints tell me what to pick.

I think you'll enjoy looking at that lovely seasonal green in the winter. I hope you take an opportunity to congratulate yourself every time you wash the dishes!
idabean/Marie


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Thanks, Marie. We're quite happy with how it looks. While you still notice the shed is a hard-edged man-made object in the garden, it doesn't scream 'look at me!' so much now. It just quietly makes a nice backdrop to the plantings in the very calm green backyard garden.
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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 13, 11 at 7:28

I like the color combination very much!
I wish my garage was that color.....or any outbuilding.
Your garden shed has more coats of paint than a battleship! ;-)
The final outcome is outstanding because your reasoning is sound.
Congratulations.
Mike


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RE: color dilemma - how far to 'disappear'?

Thanks Mike.


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