Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Technicolor Wars and the Local Handyman
February 27, 2007

Since my internet was not functioning for several weeks, many of you have not yet heard about my neon Pepto-Bismol pink living room! I believe that in one of my previous blogs I wrote about the hazards of picking paint colors in Bangladesh. Well, I have two new chapters to add to the saga!

1) Pepto-Bismol Pink
The first new chapter starts with six bright orange couches that I designed and had custom-made for me by a little furniture store (Dola Furniture) in Gulshan-1 circle. I had been searching furniture stores for weeks with no luck finding affordable couches that I liked. I had been to dozens of stores and either I liked the furniture, but it was way over my budget, or the furniture was affordable, but I thought it was hideous. As I was about to give up and just buy some cushions for the floor of my drawing room, I stumbled upon Dola. They had a couple of very inexpensive couches is a similar style to what I was looking for - plain, simple, sectional. The fabric was horrible, however, and they were smaller than what I wanted, so I started to leave. Then it somehow came up that they made their own furniture. I asked them if I could have some couches custom-made to my specifications. They said "yes" so I told them I would come back the next day with sketches and fabric.

I wanted a tropical feel to my drawing room (since there are coconut and mango trees outside the window...) so I chose bright orange for the couches and magenta for a fabric accent. (My drawing room is really large, so I am going to visually shrink the room by hanging fabric like a tent on the back half of the room...) I wanted to get a lighter color paint that would tie the orange and magenta together, so I went to the paint store and selected a hue that I thought was a dusty mauve. Now I really should know better by now, but I was still quite surprised when I got the paint on the wall and it looked like Pepto-Bismol, BRIGHT Pepto-Bismol pink that is...

I invited my friends Tuni and Clay (the couple who got married in Kolkata) over to give me their opinion. When I opened the door, they both said, "Wow!" with shocked expressions. They both really loved my orange couches, though, and politely told me that the pink was not so bad once they got used to it. So now I am trying to decide whether I will once again repaint (I repainted my yoga and meditation room three times before it was a color that I was happy with) or if I will just live with an extremely bright living room. I think that I will hang the magenta print "tent" up and then have a "pink party" where all of my friends can come (wearing pink of course) and vote on whether I should keep the pink or repaint the room a less neon color. If my drawing room were a candy store or a malt shop, the color would be fantastic! As a drawing room, however, I am not so sure. It is definitely very modern though!

2) Banana Milkshake Yellow
The second new chapter in the technicolor/ home decorating saga also begins with furniture. I ordered a custom dining table and chairs from the same furniture shop. Armed with two tiny little fabric scraps of what my chairs would be upholstered with, I went to buy paint. This time, I decided to try another paint store to see if I would have better luck. I went to my favorite little hardware store just south of Gulshan-2 Circle. The people there are very nice, their prices are reasonable, and they speak a little English (which seriously cuts down on my tool pantomime time.) Since the store is primarily a hardware store and not a paint store, however, they only had a limited selection of pre-mixed shades. I did find one that I thought would work, though, so I took home two gallons. When I got the paint home, however, it was much lighter than the sample in the store. I looked at the label and they gave me "light off-white" when I ordered "off-white". The next day I went back to the store and explained to them that they gave me the wrong color. They told me they were out of the other color so they gave me this one instead! He tried to explain to me that they were only a little different, and perhaps to his eyes they were, but to my designer's eyes, they were as different as red and blue! Thankfully they are very nice there, so he agreed to take the paint back and refund my money.

After exchanging the first paint, I went back to my regular paint store. The owner was in a bad mood because the caretaker government has just imposed a restriction that all stores must close at 7pm to conserve electricity. I smiled, hoping that might cheer him up a bit (and hoping that he would not take his frustration out on my paint!) He gave me the color book and I selected what I thought was the perfect color. Then, when the owner wasn't looking, I peeled a bit of the very old lamination off the edge of my paint sample to get a look at the "real" color. Sure enough, it was brighter than it looked. I selected another shade (which I couldn't peel the lamination off of because it was in the middle of the page) and hoped for the best.

I got the paint home and put it on my walls, thinking that I really liked the color (it is a banana milkshake yellow). Then I put my fabric sample next to the wall, and it did not look quite so good. Coincidentally, my table and chairs were delivered today, so I got a better look at the colors together. The chairs do not match as well as I hoped, but I will give it a few more days before I decide whether I am going to have to repaint this room too. (It is a good thing that I enjoy painting!!)

The Handyman
And now a word about the carpenter who works for the furniture store. In addition to the furniture that I designed, I also bought a pair of ready-made nightstands for my bedroom. They were just raw wood when I bought them, however, and (frankly) looked like they were in terrible condition. The dokaner (store owner) assured me they would look terrific once they were stained and polished. He told me that the handyman would go to my house and match the stain color to my bed.

The next day the nightstands and handyman showed up at my apartment. He spread some old newspapers on the floor to protect it and took several items out of a well-worn canvas bag. First, there was a wooden box that was divided into ten or so smaller sections. Each section had a different color in it, like a paint box or makeup compact. Second, he removed two small, handmade, clay bowls. Finally, he removed several sponges, knives, rags, and paintbrushes.

He looked at the color of my bed and then took some color chips out of a bag and put them into one of the clay bowls. He poured something that looked like turpentine on top of it - apparently to soften or melt the chips. Then he took bits of colors out of the color box and added them to the other clay bowl. After sanding the stands and filling in all of the holes and nicks with putty, he mixed all the chemicals together and started putting it on the wood. Several coats, sandings, and polishings later, my nightstands did match my bed and they looked much better than they did in the store!

When my table was delivered this afternoon, the handyman was also there to polish it and remove the scratches. The furniture here is delivered on bicycle-pedaled, bamboo flatbed carts, so furniture generally gets pretty nicked and dirty by the time it arrives. Consequently, a handyman usually comes along to put the final finishing on the furniture at the person's house.

A Side Note
My research assistant, Sajeda, came over to my house today. She noticed that I was painting and then asked me in a confused voice if all of the people in my country did their own painting. I laughed and told her that some of them hired painters, but that many people did paint their own houses!


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