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Catnip Green

Searching for the Perfect Hue


I don’t know how long our house had been the color yellow. When I bought the house in August 2002, the color it was. I had always planned on painting it green, but I never got around to it. There is a house in my home town in New York, just cross the river and down the street from the famous “balancing rock,” that I swore one day I would match.

I left the owners a note a few weeks ago. They never responded. My father, a high-end contractor who recently built my parents’ house, said, “I don’t even know what color I used on my own house. Nobody will remember. Just forget about it and move on.” When I asked him to please go over and knock on the green house’s door, he refused.

Laura Stinchfield
Click to enlarge photo

Laura Stinchfield

I liked the green color of the house of one of my clients, but when I painted a trial area on my house the tint turned out much darker. A nice man up in the Del Oro neighborhood of Ojai answered my note in his mailbox by emailing me the brands and names of the green colors of his house, but they all turned out darker than anticipated as well. I bought trial samples of three other greens. None of them felt right.

Nick the painter told me that my house had once been blue, red, green, yellow, and even purple. He urged me to paint it a neutral beige color. Pretty; but I wanted green. He told me to go to knock on the door of a neighbor down the street. “That is what you are looking for,” he said.

It was true, but I replied, “I am not going to paint my house the same color as the neighbor’s. That doesn’t feel right.”

“Take your time.” Nick advised. But I didn’t want to take my time. The front of my house had fives shades of green streaked on it and my master workers, Nick and Abraham, were planning to leave soon for Los Angeles. It might be awhile before they returned.

I was standing on the front porch, frustrated, when Makia, my pure white, 16-year-old cat, rounded the corner from the back yard. Makia has lived with me in eight different houses, three states, and five towns. “Makia, I don’t know what to do? Do you have any advice for me? Do you see the colors we have on the house? (I pictured them all in my mind). Do you like any of them?” I am not sure what my full intention was when I asked my cat this question. I look back on it now, and I don’t think I expected that her answer could actually help me. But I should have know better.

Makia rubbed her body up against me, meowed, and looked me in the eye. “Paint it the color of catnip. That is pretty color green,” she said matter-of-factly and then began to purr.

“Which color of catnip?” I asked. “Catnip when it is dry or when it is growing?”

She answered with, “The color of catnip when it first grows, and it is fresh to eat.”

“Hmm. That is a pretty color.” I stroked her for a moment and then went inside to my laptop. I Googled, “exterior paint color catnip.”

There was one match, by Pittsburg Paints. On the computer it was pretty enough, and, to my surprise, Catnip green was indeed the color of fresh catnip. Nick drove down to Lowe’s to pick up a sample. Then he painted trial strips on two sides of the house. Nick, Abraham, and I examined the catnip-colored streaks and compared them to the other shades of green.

We nodded our heads and smiled.

Because of Makia my cat, our house is now painted Catnip green.

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