Thursday, April 07, 2011


click photo to enlarge
For about thirty years the houses that we have lived in have had painted walls. Sometimes the paint has been laid on to the plaster; at other times it has been put on lightly textured paper. And for all of that time the principal colour that those walls have been painted is - magnolia. Occasionally we'd have a contrasting wall in green or some other muted, calm colour. But our colour of choice for most locations was magnolia, that shade of cream with an almost imperceptible hint of pink. Why that boring, over-used colour you might ask? Well, it's widely available in all the main finishes and relatively inexpensive. It also goes nicely with white painted woodwork, coving and ceilings. But more than that, it provides a light, neutral background against which stronger colours and patterns - in curtains, pictures, furniture, rugs etc. - show very well. And, being people who like strongly figured furnishings e.g. William Morris print curtains, my wife and I have valued the versatility of the colour.

Of course, it has become a standing joke with friends and family. If we mention that we are going to paint a room the question is invariably asked, "Magnolia?" However, when it came to our most recent house we broke with tradition. Magnolia was rejected. Even "Warm magnolia", a colour spotted by some friends, was deemed unsuitable. No, instead we chose "Caramel Cream". To the untutored, casual eye, this might look like magnolia. But to someone who has the precise hue of magnolia imprinted on their brain, caramel cream is the chalk to magnolia's cheese. It lacks the hint of pink, and instead veers towards cream proper with a touch of yellow/brown. Completely different I would maintain!

I thought about our long-standing infatuation with this paint yesterday when I was photographing our magnolia tree. The relatively mild spring has brought flowers and blossom throughout the garden in profusion. This tree in particular has never had as many blooms or looked so good. Moreover the virtual absence of frost during the time the flowers have been out has resulted in fewer than usual brown-stained petals. As I photographed it against a blue sky dotted with white clouds using the macro lens, I looked at the hint of pink at the base of each white bloom and then reflected on my house that is now, unlike my garden, magnolia free.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On