When one door closes…

Grey House Design Studio

In 2010, we were lucky enough to be able to go to London and Paris for a week of vacation. This was the second time we’d been to London and the first we’d been to Paris.

One of things I was so inpsired by in both of these incredible cities, was the color. The color of the landscape, the color of the street art, and mainly, the color of their doors.

The doors on homes and businesses have personality. It’s as if they are hinting at what might be inside, and inviting you in to find out.

oooh, so magic. can we please come in?

One of the best parts of these colorful doors that I really loved was the amount of glossy lacquer that was applied. It’s as if the original owners chose a wonderful color, and every owner after that added another layer of lacquer until it was an inch thick. The doors glistened and sparkled with the shiny gloss. Let me tell you, I wanted to go knock on every single one, just to see exactly what was inside that made for such a special entrance.

the door to our hotel in paris. made my heart skip a beat.

Because this was the second time we’d been in London, we decided to do some touristy things. When we visited the Tower of London, design inspiration punched me in the face. It wasn’t the moss-covered stone walls, the thick gates that used to house prisoners or the display of weapons and jewels. It was the bright blue doors in the buildings out around the Tower lawn. The contrast between the doors and the dark stone walls was absolutely perfect. I needed this color in my life, and it was now my mission to transform our front door with the same blue color.

Once we got home, I got to work trying to find out what color these doors were painted. My google search showed photos that others had taken of the doors, but there was nothing specifying what color or formula this was. One article that I had read suggested that the blue color was made for the Queen, so it made sense that I wasn’t able to find a canned version of this.

looking back through photos, I noticed that the tower bridge also used the bright blue color.

Relying on my ability to remember colors and later match paint chips, I chose a bright blue that I felt was closest to the Tower doors.

At this point, our front door was a bright red, which we had painted over a navy that had been painted over a green, a white, a cream… layers upon layers upon layers of paint. We considered just buying a new door that wasn’t painted and painting it ourselves, but the door we had was solid wood. To replace it would have been pretty expensive!

So instead, I bought a heat gun and a scraper and got to work.

I originally considered using a gel or liquid stripper, but didn’t want to deal with the smell or the mess. We laid down a plastic tarp, plugged in the heat gun, and got to work. This was not a quick project. I worked on the door, one small section at a time, for a few months. The heat gun is a wonderful tool, but to get through that many layers of paint without setting the door on fire (yes, there was smoke a few times when I held it in one spot too long), it was a very slow process. Hold the heat gun in one spot, wait for the paint to start to bubble, move the gun to the area just below, then scrape that paint off. Oh, and don’t get your hand too close. And also don’t let the old hot paint fall onto your feet when you’re not wearing shoes. Eek!

After all layers of paint had been removed, I sanded the door using sand paper over a sanding block. Then I painted the door with one layer of white, flat primer. I had gotten a small sample jar of the blue paint in a matte finish (there was no choice other than matte) so I used this as a color-based primer over the white.

Because our front door faces West, I wanted to be sure that the door was as protected as possible, so didn’t mind adding a couple of layers. I purchased a small can of high gloss blue paint matching the sample, and painted two coats on the door.

After letting it dry (barely. I have ZERO patience to wait for projects to finish themselves!), John reinstalled the hardware, and I had the door of my European dreams.

For now.

I still need to find a ridiculously shiny clear lacquer finish and start to add layer after layer after layer. When I’ve talked to employees at the hardware stores here, they look at me confused as if to say “Why would you want your door to be so shiny?”

I smile. They have no idea. Maybe our next trip to Europe will involve actually going up to one of those shiny doors and asking the occupants just how they got their door so very shiny.

Blue Door

The finished door. Come on in!

Why Grey? And not Gray?


Back in school, one of the assignments in my Professional Practices class was to develop our own Interior Design business plan and logo. I didn’t have much interest in the plan as much as I did in the logo and the NAME.

Being inspired as I was by the little old house that we live in, I immediately knew I wanted to use the house and it’s color in the name. I came up with Grey House Design because to me, it felt personal, but not too personal for someone else to connect with. It let everyone know exactly what it was doing, and it was simple. I chose the spelling of Grey over Gray because hey, I just thought it looked better. It seemed fancier. It seemed a little more whimsical.

picture from http://radiojestica.blogspot.com/2010/08/grey-vs-gray.html


And according to Grammarist.com:

Gray and grey are different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world. But gray is more common in American English, while grey is more common in all the other main varieties of English. In the U.K., for instance, grey appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed.”

I have always felt that Europeans just do it so much better, in most every way of life. So it makes sense that I would gravitate towards their spelling of grey. And who doesn’t want a bit of whimsy in their every day life? I know I do.

It all started in this little Grey House…


Well, it wasn’t always grey. When we bought it, it was light blue, with dark blue trim. Not exactly creative. And not exactly attractive. The front was obscured by trees. I think there were 5 in the front yard. The second day we lived there, we promptly removed three of them, with the help of our brand new neighbor, his truck, and some chains. Had I known then what I know now about the cost of mature trees, I may have thought twice about ripping them out. But I’m glad we did.

the front of the house when we bought it


We wanted the front of the house to look attractive, but simple. We’ve never been the type of people to enjoy clutter (aside from our junk drawer!), so thinning out the landscaping and repainting was in the cards. Being young and adventurous, I declared that we would paint it a deep, dark grey. My obsession with grey had just begun at that point, and all of this freedom of owning a home and doing what I want went to my head. It’s kind of like when you first move away from home and realize that you can in fact eat ice cream, out of the carton, for dinner. And no one can yell at you.

So, off to the hardware store we went, where we purchased 8 cans of almost black-looking paint, and we went to work. The house was built in 1926 and is registered historic. Through the many renovations that previous owners have completed, the original wood siding was covered with aluminum siding. When the neighborhood we live in was declared historic, the aluminum had to be removed. In order to be an historic home in an historic neighborhood, the exterior of the home has to meet these certain “qualifications” and be as close to original-looking as possible. As you can imagine, wood siding over 80 years old in the Arizona sun doesn’t fare exceptionally well. Some had been replaced by previous owners as needed, but since the wood is Rosewood and you have to have it specially cut, it’s not a cheap job. And who has the money for that?! We slapped the dark grey paint over the rotting wood and old peeling paint.

not the best picture, but you get the idea


I loved it. We were “making a statement”. We were young, we loved old houses, we live downtown… (cue the montage music). It wasn’t horrible. But it also didn’t “fit”. You know when something isn’t right. But after all the work and money put into it, how can you say “Eh… I’m not really sure about this color”? You can’t! You live with it until you can do something else. So we did. Three-ish years of having a “Danzig house” and I’d had it. The color didn’t compliment the house, didn’t make it inviting and wasn’t right for the era of the house.

So this time around, we forked over the money to have a professional do it. I stuck with grey (duh), but lightened it up a lot! I obsessed over grey paint chips for months, taping them on the outside of the house, carrying them with me in my purse, googling “best grey house paint”, etc. etc.  Grey is a tricky little one; sometimes warm, sometimes cool… you really have to look at it with the other colors you’ll be using, and in different lighting scenarios. I ended up choosing “Wood Smoke” by Glidden, and to this day, do not regret it. It’s a warm grey, light, but with character, and completely changed the exterior of the house. I paired it with a bright blue front door (more on that later) and kept the same white trim; Behr’s “Popped Corn”, which was picked out for us by my aunt before she passed away (she was a super sassy interior designer in her day!).

Here is a photo of the house as it stands today. It is forever evolving and I feel so lucky that I get to be an occupant. And that is how it all started with this little Grey House.

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