House Proud – Green Gone Wrong, Toronto Sun

Before “green” became the watchword to signify environmental friendliness it was simply a colour. Kermit the Frog crooned, “It’s not easy being green,” and if the famous Muppet had ever wound his spindly fingers around a paintbrush, he would have experienced the true brilliance of his song. In my completely unscientific and purely anecdotal experience, there have been more troubles with painting greens than any other hue.

Green isn’t a colour you simply say you like. There are so many variations that range from pea soup to Kelly to hunter to grass, moss, leaves (of individual trees) and so on that it’s just impossible to like them all. But there are times when only a shade of green will do. At least, I thought so when I attempted to paint a garden shed this past summer. The tin shed is rooted to the ground via a cement floor, making removal next to impossible. I once freshened up a similarly dented shed with a combination of white and pale green rustproof paint and decided to do the same here. The only difference would be the shade of green. I planned to go darker, to make the structure appear to recede into a line of fir trees behind it. What could possibly go wrong? One of the best-known manufacturers makes a shade of green for outdoor use simply called “Green.” They’re in the paint business, I reasoned, so they ought to know. I bought a gallon. The error of my ways quickly became apparent. Although I swear the label didn’t indicate it, the paint was high-gloss and, to my horror, nearly neon. It went on like honey, and I actually shielded my eyes with sunglasses during the application process. When I was finished, I had created a glowing cube in the back yard that could be seen from space. It was several shades of ugly and the opposite of subtle. Instead of rendering an unsightly shed barely noticeable, I’d actually made the shed the focal point of the large yard. Fortunately, my in-house Mr. Fix-It devised a board-and- batten covering, which, swathed in a flat, grey paint, looks like a brand new shed.

The picturesque town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, declared a World Heritage Site, has also experienced the trouble with green.

The renovator of a lovely old home decided to coat it in an electric green. Neighbours saw red to the point that they wrote letters to the local newspaper and forced City Council to revisit an old issue: regulation of paint colours. Council decided to uphold its earlier decision that it ought not dictate the colours of homes and essentially told the angry citizens to learn to live with it.

My radio colleague Michael Leach blames his tale of green gone wrong in his master bedroom on his own questionable judgement and the fact that those little paint swatches are misleading.

He explains, “My wife picked out four or five of her faves and left the decision to me. Had it been completely left to me, we would have the Cleveland Browns’ orange, brown and white adorning our bedroom. I’m not sure what the name of the green is that ended up on our walls. It should be called ‘Hospital Gown Green.’ It’s that sort of green that is pale, soft and supposedly not offensive to the eye. At least, that’s the way it looked on the sample. The reality is that it’s cold and institutional. We will eventually get around to painting over it, but I will have limited involvement in the colour choice.”

No matter what you’re painting, it’s clear that the beauty of green is in the eye of the beholder. Green is the clichéd colour of envy, but it can also inspire disappointment. Just ask our favourite olive-skinned Muppet.