Gavin adds richness & drama to his “coolonial” living and dining rooms with gray painted walls

Gavin wrote me recently:

I have to share my new color:  Sweatshirt Gray/Ralph Lauren. Home Depot is discontinuing Ralph, and it was $13 a gallon!

.He continues:

BTW Pam…today you talked about painting the insides of bookcases accent colors. Here’ s what I did… I got the idea of painting my shelf background black from the cover of Better Homes and Gardens – November 1944… Instead of spending 40 bucks on a can of paint (only to find that it doesn’t work) I stuffed every piece of black clothing or fabric I could find around the books and items on the shelves and then lived with it for a day. It passed the test, and now I use that method for everything from draperies to upholstery. The bookcase is to the right of the dining room picture. I don’t know if you can pick out the black on the bookcase, but it’s great with the leather chair and slate fireplace.  Now all I need are two cheap  (but fabulous) Duncan Phyfe 40’s dining room chairs under the windows, opposite — painted black. People tell me to cover that scroll work over the bookcase — but I tell them no… I don’t live in a condo.  My house is from 1939, and proud.

Thank you, Gavin. And readers, if you are stressing over paint colors, my first reco right now is to look at California Paints. They recently introduced a new 20th Century palette — with 55 colors straight from mid-century archives. Whenever I am in a pinch, I start by looking at “authentic”. In my mind, California Paint’s extensive new, authentic palette is now the #1 place to to start.

Disclosure: California Paints recently signed on as an advertiser on my site. That said, I write about retailers that interest me, whether they advertise or not. In fact, I hope to have someone start helping with advertising sales soon, so I don’t have to think about or even know what’s up with whom. Me just wanna research and write.


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  1. Elizabeth Mary says


    OMG, I love the colors in your house — and the outside is pretty cool too. So glad to find another lover of Ralph Lauren paints and sorry to hear they are going away from Home Depot. When I moved into my 1946 Cape Cod Ranch 7 years ago picking the paint color was the hardest decision as I had lived in white for so long. But, I settled finally on Ralph’s soft gold called Manilla. I love it. Seven years later it looks as good as when it went on and everyone who comes in asks what color it is. I guess Home Depot has given it up to make room for their new Martha Stewart line. Too bad!

    Elizabeth Mary

  2. Amy Hill says

    I think this is lovely, Gavin. Looks like a page right out of Traditional Homes. You show such restraint in your decorating, it makes the house seem much bigger.
    Nice Work!

      • Amy Hill says

        Oh my, I thought your home was smaller. You definitely have the concept of scale mastered. The room appears perfectly proportioned. I need you to come down to my place and design it, too!

  3. Cindy says

    What a beauty, Gavin. I could sit right there by the fireplace with a book and be content all evening! If you’re not a designer you should be! Show us the other rooms.
    btw, I have Just Right Masonry coming by tomorrow to look at a project for me. Thanks for the info…I found him on google…how else?

    • Gavin Hastings says

      He is one of the nicest guys you will ever deal with and would not hesitate to to call him back. Send him my best regards from the couple on Puritan Road in 16 Acres.

    • Amy Hill says

      Well, “restraint” isn’t my forte. I never saw a tcholtzke(sp?) I didn’t covet. I have too much stuff to dust.

    • Zoocrewmom says

      Restraint is a dirty word. We should never use it again. No one ask my husband how many lamps are sitting in storage in our basement…

      • Gavin Hastings says

        Basement DO NOT count.

        I call those items “on tour” and the Not Ready for Prime Time Players…..

        • Just another Pam says

          What a truly beautiful home, the stuff of dreams.

          The ‘Not ready for………..’ is wonderful too, I shall probably have three opportunities to use it today alone. Credit will be given.

  4. RetroSandie says

    Gavin-it’s just beautiful!!! I would never have thought grey would look so nice inside. I love the shade and the white accents with it. The black in the bookcase is a marvelous idea. Everything is gorgeous! (Yes, leave that scrollwork!! LOL) Please show us more!!! 🙂

  5. jkaye says

    Beautiful, beautiful home, inside and out. I notice in the dining area that you painted the chair rail and everything below it the same color as the upper walls. A lot of homeowners would have picked out that woodwork in white. The one-color treatment looks great, less busy, and I am wondering what prompted you to go with that look.

    Also, is that a pet on the black leather chair, or a throw of some sort?

    • Gavin Hastings says

      That is Maggie….the lazy little dog.

      The chair rail took a lot of consideration….it was an “add on” by previous owners and they put it up over the existing wallpaper…and then painted over it 5 or 6 times with Lucite. To fix it correctly, or even just remove it would require more time than I really want to invest (I have bigger house problems) so painting it one color was the best way to make it “go away”.

      Unseen-but this faux panel effect runs across the other wall behind the chair. So-if it were painted white, it would have to stop at the corner-and that was not anything I wanted to do.

      Also notice though…the placement of the chair rail probably should have been placed under the ledge of the bookcase….and the 2 panels they applied under it are off-center.

      • pam kueber says

        It is so amusing, Gavin, how you (and I’m pretty sure: all of us) can pick out all the itty bitty things that are wrong or not-right with our houses… while, anyone walking in would be just stunned at how fabulous it all is. We are so hard on ourselves!

        • Gavin Hastings says

          Thank you for once again for showcasing my life’s work.

          The decor may seem out of place on this blog- but I have seen the photos from the 1940’s through the 1960’s and it has always been in this style. I haven’t found it yet ….but there has to be a way marrying the 18th Century with Mid-Century Modern.

          My next quest is for a “Miro-esque” piece of artwork for over the fireplace….and I’ll send the Madonna back to Sean Penn.

          • TappanTrailerTami says

            Gavin, what a fab house, with even better decor. Gray has always been one of my least favorite colors – probably from having spent 40 years in western WA state, where gray skies abound. Lately, (after 5 years of CA sun) gray is started to grow on me a bit, and your beautiful walls just reinforce my newly emerging appreciation of gray.

            Scroll work is the eye candy of your bookcases and good on you to recognize that. Love the black interior too – another thing I probably would never have thought of.

            Lastly, the marriage of 18th century to mid century modern – I struggle so much with confinement to one era, that I now have a hodge podge of whatever suits me. Even though people are either pro-wallpaper, or anti-wallpaper, since visiting Bradbury & Bradbury, I really view wallpaper as one of the things that can successfully bridge different eras successfully and tie together things from different times, provided you find the right patterns with the right influences. Same goes for some fabrics.

            Anyway – be proud of your accomplishment, it is beautiful!

  6. Shane W says

    Gavin –

    That place is freakin’ killer! I hope my house comes out like that when I’m done. Right now, it just looks like a collection of old stuff in there. DOH!

    I used the Sherwin Williams Historic Preservation color “Pearl Gray” in my LR and hallway. It’s perfect too. The best color I’ve put up so far is an original from my house for ’54 (and a bizzilion others) that I’ve termed Seafoam. That color, along with white trim and orig. varnished doors just knocks me out. My son wants it in his room now too, which is original for that room YAY!

    Yer house is G’d up from the feet up! LOL

  7. bepsf says

    Gavin – I love your home – It’s like a beautiful dream…

    BTW – There is a great way to marry 18th Century with MCM: It’s called Hollywood Regency.

    • Gavin Hastings says

      I really love Hollywood Regency…but there is an “art” to combining the elements. I may have too much Grandma in me…..

      Hulu or Youtube the film “Gods and Monsters”- the house is the real star of the movie.

      • bepsf says


        The inner Grandma is no bad thing…
        …just channel the Grandma who drove a Thunderbird convertible, drank Manhattans and preferred the Italian Line when sailing for Europe.

  8. MrsErinD says

    Wow that is gorgeous Gavin! Yes, the scrollwork is my favorite part, I noticed that right away, such beautiful built ins! I like the back painted black too, I have always liked how they would paint the back of built ins a color and front white.
    I love the furniture and decorating too, and the Mary and Jesus painting and sconces. It’s very sophisticated but cozy at the same time. Awesome job!

    Haha, ya, I am not good at restraint, our house is quite small and I love knick knacks too, so it’s not nearly as sophisticated, lol.

  9. MrsErinD says

    Awww cute Maggie! I was going to say, I see a kitty or doggie on the chair! :O)

    I don’t think the decor is out of place on this blog, it’s very mid century, the colonial and traditional styles etc. are the ones I see the most in real photos back then.

  10. Zoocrewmom says

    I’m trying to tell – is that a pure white or a creamy white on the trim? I’m wondering if a “blue” white would be too much or if you need a “yellow” white?

    • Gavin Hastings says

      Benjamin Moore China White Satin Impervo….which is going to “yellow out” anyway. I resisted adding another color here, so everything bit of trim in the entire house is or will be that color.

      I have a basement full of almost full paint cans-and really want to simplify.

      Don’t tell the EPA.

  11. Teresa T. says

    I love your style and the colors you have choosen. So elegant, warm and inviting. Please keep the detailing on the bookcases. Was there a reason for the suggestion to paint the interior of the bookcases black? What paint did you choose? Satin, or a gloss? Thank you in advance.

    • Gavin Hastings says

      When I moved here in 2005, I painted everything a nice minty 1950’s Republican green….walls, trim, bookcase interior and exterior. Matching damask draperies.

      Nice- but really a slumber party
      I painted the interior of the bookcases black after seeing it done on the cover of a magazine from the 1940’s. Benjamin Moore Dulamel Black (oil). It really added depth and “oomph” to the room..

      I really like to use black and am thinking of maybe a black grasscloth or burlap for the entry hall.

  12. jkaye says

    Thanks for the explanation on the chair rail — perhaps because of the one-color treatment, I didn’t notice how the rail and panels aren’t quite in the right place. Your solution was a good one.

    One more topic — your carpet in front of the fireplace is lovely with the muted colors. Another great choice, going with a lighter carpet rather than something dark — it really lets the wall color, the lovely red chair, and the black accents have their say. What kind of carpet is it, and is it something you had to look for forever, or something you had that just seemed to belong in that spot?

    • Gavin Hastings says

      It is a 11×21 Karastan Kerman 708 which I found on E-bay.
      Then I found the same 4×6 one for the entry.
      Then I found the same 2×9 for the hall.
      I am looking for the same 8×10 for the dining area- and a 10×14 for the front bedroom.

      So that is 3 areas of carpet for under 1000. bucks. Match-y, but instead of “defining spaces” I would much rather a flow.

      Also, it provides perimeter. In decor, “the possibilities are endless” but sadly-life is not.

  13. jkaye says

    Would love to see more of this home. Can’t help wondering what is just through that doorway in the dining room — the kitchen I presume. What’s going on in there, I wonder?

  14. Jeff says

    Gavin, love the house and the color!

    My folks used a similar gray/white combo in their 1953 storybook colonial in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and the overall effect was not only elegant, but correct for the house, and the period- right down to the Baldwin brass fireplace accessories.

    You’re right about these homes being hybrids as to style- my ranch is certainly Japanese-Atomic, but I am going to do the guest bedroom in traditional colonial decor, since I already have the furnishings, just need a great colonial wallpaper, and I should be set!

    Cheers on a really super place.

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