how to shrink your bedroom

How to Shrink Your Bedroom by

She is confident. “Peacock Blue.”

I cannot argue, no matter how surprising her choice; this must work.

“Great idea!” I say and drive off to the store for a gallon. Together we paint the nursery.

But a Peacock Blue world is eye-shattering, like being submerged within a turquoise lake. No baby could ever sleep here. We re-think.

“Primrose Yellow?”

Her Plan B sounds altogether more suitable: calm and spring-like. I jump back in the car and nip out for a couple of cans.

As we prise off the lids my doubts begin to surface. I was useless at art, but memories of my primary school art classes come bubbling up. “Doesn’t yellow plus blue equal green?” I murmur. She shakes her head, determined that Primrose will be perfect. Green was just old school. Bound to be wrong.

It isn’t. By tea time, the room is Lime Green.

We wait a day for the paint to dry, then flood the walls with more Primrose. The room resembles vomit.

My anxiety is rising, but her enthusiasm is undimmed. “Got it. Damask Rose.”

On first-name terms with the staff at the store now, I am greeted like an old friend; they offer me a 15% loyalty discount.

We spray on Damask Rose. The nursery morphs to the greeny-brown of a Scottish bog.

Our plans are in tatters. Slumped in the middle of the room, we sit quietly for minutes without speaking. Then – timidly – she suggests “White Sand?”. I sigh with relief and head back to the store where the discount has reached 25%.

We hurry to finish. Three coats of White Sand will do the job.

As we work, the baby kicks and our exhilaration grows. We are sure she will love her new nursery. The room looks just like it did three weeks ago. Same colour, but smarter, cleaner, and just that little bit smaller.





Formerly a University scientist, Hugh is now retired and living in the Pacific Northwest, where writing provides a diversion from his doomed attempts to grow Canadian oranges. His stories have appeared in Nature Futures, Foxglove Journal, Meniscus, The Drabble, and elsewhere.

How to straighten a zebra – Cracking the code by Hugh Cartwright – published by Nature journal – read it here…



Photo by Hugh Cartwright




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4 thoughts on “How to Shrink Your Bedroom”

  1. Lindsay Bamfield

    Love it. Reminds me of the time we decided to repaint and be daring. We painted the entire room, including glossing window frames and doors twice in a weekend!

    1. Hugh Cartwright

      This story is based on fact. When pregnant, my wife wanted to paint a wall, in what would become our daughter’s bedroom, a really zingy colour. She chose peacock blue, and even though the remaining walls were an inoffensive cream the effect was dreadful. We attempted to cover it with several coats of yellow, before eventually giving in and painting everything white sand. The room did not, of course, appear noticeably smaller than before, though we did try to persuade some friends that it was. I never got a volume discount on the paint though…


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