Article originally posted in Penobscot Bay Pilot’s spring issue of The Wave, 2015

Patty Berke and an artist’s eye

Walls Of Palette Possibilities, And How To Choose

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“A lot of people are stuck with the idea of linen white, but you have to start getting them intrigued with other colors.”

That’s Patty Berke, an artist and house painter, who gets a kick out of helping people choose what colors to paint their walls. She spends her waking hours (and no doubt her sleeping ones) thinking about the dance of colors, how they blend and create spatial dimensions, how they soothe and invigorate, and how people respond individually to different hues.

“Color is a very critical thing,” said artist John Hench, who spent 65 years with the Walt Disney company creating movie sets and theme parks. “I’ve found that architects don’t like colors. Engineers, too. And so somebody has to stand in. Because this is the finish of it. It is the emotional part of a structure.”

Think that color schemes are secondary to the wellbeing of a home? Think again.

Artist Pablo Picasso said: “Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? no.” But they do.

The challenge is to find the right combinations of colors so that when you paint your walls, your heart and mind sing, as well. The web is full of advice about the psychology of paint, and what colors to use in different rooms, from the kitchen to bath to bedroom. One suggestion is to paint your kitchen the color of the kitchen where you spent your childhood years. Really? Avocado green, anyone?

But there is merit to the psychology of paint; hospitals are painting rooms now to promote healing.

“Everyone thinks color is going the shrink the room,” said Patty. “But it doesn’t. Color can accent a room, make it pop.”

She is particularly drawn to the color gray. To the uninitiated, that doesn’t mean the color gray as we conventionally regard it — the grey of the harbor, fog, November clouds. To Patty, the color gray is expansive and loaded with opportunity.

“Anything on top of gray will pop,” she said. “You can have soft, oaky grays, and then paint a wall a jewel blue, and it’s beautiful.”

Gray is considered by some interior designers as the replacement of beige, creates a dignified space and is associated with intellect and refinement.

Patty and her husband, Peter, own and operate the Rockport-based North Atlantic Painting Company, whose teams do everything from removing old wall paper and skim-coating walls to fine interior painting. The company also has a shop where furniture, doors, siding and windows can be spray-painted or refinished.

“If a customer picks a paint color, 90 percent of the time we can tell what it’s going to look like,” said Peter. “How it will highlight or accent lighting, art work, draperies, rugs and texture.”

Experience is telling them to build a different type of color library so that clients can truly get an idea of how a color might work in their living room, kitchen, office, studio or business.

Traditionally, the painter hauls around a satchel of paint chips — thousands of paper color samples hanging together on a ring, a Rolodex of color. Or, a homeowner will stand in front of walls of paint chips at the local hardware store, stretching their imaginations about what might look good on a given wall.

But Peter and Patty are trying a different approach. They are building a library of sample boards, each measuring 11” x 17”, which illustrate much more effectively how a wall or room might look under different colors. The boards are big enough to provide a better sense of what could be.

“People see different types of colors, and with all the colors at a paint store, it gets overwhelming,” Peter said. Patty is painting the sample boards and displaying them at the company’s Route 90 shop. As time goes on, the library, with its tactile approach to paint, will build to include hundreds of samples.

“People are using more and more colors,” Peter said. “Even art galleries are now painted in rich, dark colors. That works to highlight the artwork.”

As for painting itself, Patty is in her element as soon as she steps into a room and gets to work. “I love painting, going into my own space,” she said. “When you are done, you turn around and see something. Even before, when a room is sanded, primed and caulked, there is a feeling of accomplishment.”

And then there is the ever-changing landscape of customers — “a whole new set of people and their paint challenges,” said Peter. “We love it, and a lot of our clients are now our very good friends.”

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