September 3rd, 2011
PAINTING? Why Color Is NOT Your Biggest Decision
(VOC’s: What They Are, And Why You Should Care)
This is a long post. It came from my not finding this information in a single, comprehensive source. For you and your familys’ health and well-being, please read it through, and share it with anyone else you know about to paint.
If you’re thinking about doing some painting around the house, you have a bigger decision to make other than color. Not what you’d expect to hear from a Decorator and Stager, but it’s true. Good news, it’s an easy decision.
“VOC” entered most of our consciousness about 6 or 7 years ago, primarily as in paints that were marketed as low-to-no VOC. You may even know VOC = Volatile Organic Compounds, or that low to no VOCs have fewer fumes.
At an AIA/ASID CE course I recently attended, and my eyes were opened a lot wider, let me share, in lay terms:
VOCs are carbon-based molecules that escape into the atmosphere, many as off-gases from building and home products…that new vinyl shower curtain? new carpet? Yup. Odors from upholstery, paint, even that much-treasured new car smell-all VOCs.
VOCs have several impacts in our lives, none of them good. Depending on the type, concentration and length of exposure, VOCs that are inhaled can be carcinogenic, cause serious respiratory and neurological issues, even death.
Studies show that interior concentrations of VOCs are anywhere from two to five times higher in homes than they are outdoors. Awareness is key, but better to avoid. Minnesota Department of Health has compiled an excellent list of other sources.
Once outside, VOCs wreck another type of havoc. When they mix with nitrogen oxides (gases most commonly found in automobile exhaust) and sunlight, ozone is formed.
Ozone in the right amount blocks about 97% of the harmful UV rays coming from the sun, while regulates earth’s temperature. In the wrong amount, ground-level ozone is formed, which traps pollutants and creates smog; or it goes to the upper atmosphere, keeping harmful gases in, while throwing our built-in thermostat out of whack.
“Global warming” and “ greenhouse gases” sound so…LARGE and impossibly complex. If you are thinking “It’s just me, I’ll get what’s on sale, it’s only a couple of gallons”, keep reading.
Bob Upton is an Architect and Designer Representative for Benjamin Moore, and presenter of this AIA/ASID approved course. According to Bob, in a gallon of today’s typical latex paint, up to 1/2 of it can be solvents that evaporate when applied. Shockingly, that’s a big improvement on what most of us grew up with…when up to 2/3 of the gallon were these solvents!!
On their own, the enviornmental (no fumes, easy clean up) or economical (covers better, dries quicker, more actual ‘paint’ in each gallon)implications are startling enough; when considered together, you have to ask why even consider anything besides a no, or at least low VOC paint?
Some more environmentally-friendly decisions are pricier than others, no VOC paint is minimally so, compared to decent quality regular latex paints. Going forward, it will be the only thing I spec out. And now that I see the economy moving again, watch for future posts on better choices on other home/building products.
Service, and education is the way to run and grow a business these days. . Sharing info that will help you live better, be smarter, healthier, or keep some bucks in your pocket is what the refreshed home is all about, and I respect and support business that do the same, so a few shout-outs, for an ongoing job well-done:
Westchester’s design trade has few better friends than Michael Murphy, and Murphy Brothers Contracting in Mamaroneck. On a regular basis they organize and sponsor to-the-trade CE events. I may not always write about them, but I attend many, and am always smarter for it.
Long before I knew of Murphy Brothers, I had several connections to Majestic Kitchens and Baths, also in Mamaroneck. The Luceno family has also extended themselves, hosting two events I attended, in their beautiful, state of the art showroom.
LAST…there are a lot of paint companies out there… and sure, NOW they all want to help the designers; but ten, fifteen years ago, Benjamin Moore was the only one that did. IMO, they continue to bring the smartest products, and the most user-friendly services to the table for both consumers and the trade. Thank you, to Bob Upton and Benjamin Moore!
July 5th, 2011
Reality Check: Listing Photos Westchester Buyers Are Seeing 7.5.11
It would appear the pendulum has swung all the way over for some Westchester sellers regarding the need for walls to have color. YES< all the way over.
Using 2 or more different colors on the walls in a space is a highly personal decision. It could work to add value in a Staging situation…here is a job from a few years ago…$$$ condo in a big building with lots of competition. The owners never painted, it was one big vanilla room.
These photos taken from the LR, looking towards the entry(where painter started cutting in) and the kitchen, on the right side of the room.
Two gender-friendly, complimentary colors added value by defining separate areas-BM # HC 95 Sag Harbor Gray in entry and common space, HC# 113 Louisberg Green in kitchen; they also made the testosterone-infused black leather upholstery seem more manageable.
Color, when used well, guides, directs and influences us. Decisions on which wall and what colors should address a larger issue-like echoing a floor plan, or bringing balance to an unbalanced or over-furnished space. Chosen badly, the result is…well, these rooms.
Doors and surrounding trim make up about 20 square feet of a wall, so that’s significant. These sellers are loosing dollars because vibrant yellow doors against sky blue walls chop up and visually reduce a space substantially.
It’s very hard to see this room as anything other than a nursery, which means SMALL and cute to most people.
How many colors do you count here? Gotta wonder, what was the intent? It’s very disruptive, like being in a kindergarten class with all the kids screaming LOOK AT ME!!
As we spoke of last week, the sky blue is outdated and should go anyway, but a better decision would have been to have the far right wall and the adjacent wall going up the stairs be the same, so it’s a more gentle transition.
The coice of walls and the sharp contrast of colors contradict what you want to establish in this room.
The impact of big bright windows is lost, and by using different colors in back of 2 pieces of furniture that match, a generous space holding the main conversation area is trivialized, and value is lost.
Neutral colors that complimented the furniture would have been a better choice.
Sellers and Agents: Walls are a room’s biggest surface area, and present the most opportunity to set the tone. They are the canvas buyers see in listing photos.
I am in the business of helping Sellers and Agents getting their properties sold. To that end, my offer stands: if you claim any of these properties as your own, I will spend up to a half-day Staging your property, for free. REALLY.
February 11th, 2011
Reality Check: Listing Photos Westchester Buyers Are Seeing 2.11.11
FACT: Online listing photos are today’s sellers #1 opportunity to draw in buyers.
FACT: Walls are the biggest surface in any room.
When you are looking at a space that is new to you, good-bad-or indifferent-it is almost impossible not to notice and react.
Here are some listing photos that Westchester buyers are seeing this week:
SORRY, but pastels are NOT in for main rooms, not even in South Beach. They minimize the importance -and value-of a room. Painting the fireplace the same pink as the wall just makes it disappear.
This room to the left is nicely co-ordinated…but not eveyrone likes-or has skin tone that is flattered by an all- pear green room.
The chest of drawers partially blocking a window tells the buyer there is not enough wall space, and no mirror on top of the dresser is a missed opportunity to add height, balance and light.
So-for this $350K condo, there wasn’t time to take the half-full cup of coffee off the table, push in the chair, and re-take the photo?
Or turn on some lights in this home?
Sellers: your property has about 8 seconds to make an impression with buyers, before they go “click” to the next listing. Do not get all cranky-pants, or personally offended when suggestions are made by trained professionals.
Agents: take the time to get good photos. They should be seasonal, well-lit and show the room-not the stuff. Not discussing the best way to get a property ready for market early on will cost you both time and money.
I do not sell paint, or have a relative who’s a painting contractor looking for work. And I am not in the business of trying to convince people of something they don’t want to do.
I am in the business of getting houses sold. And it is my fondest wish to work with people who feel the same way. So I will repeat my previous offer: Identify any of these photos as your own, and I will do a half-day of Staging your property, for free. REALLY>
July 22nd, 2010
Summer into fall is one of the most popular times to paint your home. The hottest color story continues to be the use of saturated colors-colors that can range from light to dark, but have a lot of pigment and have a dense and mellow feel.
No frothy pastels, brights, or hard edges; they are complex colors with depth and nuance. Benjamin Moore Affinity and Historical Colors as well as the spare, but well-edited Farrow and Ball palette are great examples.
Those who will be making choices, but with an eye toward getting their house ready to go on the market might feel some apprehension, but warm neutrals have universal appeal.
1. Color sellls! The tan/khaki/muted greens/soft golds are very livable, and read well in listing photos. They are warm and sophisticated, and appeal to men and women alike, and will snag the buyer’s attention as they click their way thru all the online listings.
2. White walls do not make your space look bigger. Instead, they make it look cold and uninviting. Under even the very best of circumstances, the nuances of Linen White or Cameo White do not come across in pictures, either in print or online; instead it reads as old and dirty.
3. Color on the walls actually can make big furniture appear smaller. When we see furniture against white walls, it looks enormous, because of the contrast. Because the eye registers less contrast when there is color on the walls, the furniture seems to recede into the walls, and it’s a smoother look.
4. Keeping doors/ceilings/trim work in a white, with color on the wall, you will now see the architectural details.
White on white, this was one big vanilla space. On the left is a condo that is just starting to be painted, on the right, about 4 hours later.
In the photo on the right, you now can see the beveling detail on the doors, the crown and baseboard moldings. Using different but complimentary colors, we have slso created separate spaces.
5. Color on the walls bring the eye up, and adds stature to a room. It commands your attention, and your respect-you can’t not look at it.
And yes, these really are the same room.
July 5th, 2010
Decorating is about making your space work better for you, while Staging your space is about making it work better for everyone else. In either case, re-evaluating your space/needs, and coming up with a plan can feel like a daunting prospect.
Current market conditions have created hybrid projects; in the last year more than half have had one goal, but keep an eye to the other.
Decisions that would shine the best light on a property and engage buyers-like new bed linens, lamps (pun semi-intended), or a new area rug, are totally transferable, can reflect a simpler/updated version of the homeowners’ taste, and are a good investment.
Saturated colors on walls have been hot for some time now. Many read as warm and light in person, and will, by contrast point up to architectural trim details, but in the end, will also add a vibrancy and interest to listing photos. (Trust me, off-white, looks old, and dirty white in photos-don’t go there).
To quote Oliver Wendall Holmes, ‘it’s not so much where we stand, but in what direction we are facing. This is the mindset of a successful project. Key is facing forward, take one step at a time, and just keep the conversation going-you’ll get to wherever you want to be.
April 13th, 2010
Picking Wall Colors, Part Deux
Green is the New Beige
Yes. But so is Flora, Weimaraner, Croquet, Alpaca, and Mistletoe. Also-Pashmina, Meditation, Cotswold, Paris Rain, and Coastal Path.
Part of the Benjamin Moore collection, they’re some of the deeper, more saturated colors in their Historical Colors and the newer Affinity lines. They have strength and character, but read warm and nuanced, not hard or flat.
Genderless, they soften oversize leather upholstery, but can work equally well with chenilles or paisley prints, and even look great in a kid’s room; yes, I’m a fan.
Bored with a room? Paint one wall in an accent color
Maybe. It seems like a good way to mix things up, but how do you know which wall should get the different color?
My recommendation would be one that defines a different/secondary function-it leads you up the stairs/down a hall, has a fireplace or headboard on it, that sort of thing. Adjacent walls that have the major seating area in front of it are generally not good candidates for 2 different colors, as that area already has the bulk of the interest in it, and different colors behind it will fight that, and undermine the continuity.
It’s a Kids Room, let them do what they want
Well, maybe…but chances are if that’s worked for you, you wouldn’t be reading this. . Most dilemmas I run into with kids rooms are either how to make the leap from ducks, bunnies and pastels, or how not to land in the all-purple/NASCAR/Bratz/favorite sports team/etc mode.
You want them to happy, but as the adult who’s paying for this-you’re concerned their fervor for the icon of that moment will fade almost as soon as the paint has dried.
If it’s a specific color that they’re set on, a smokier tone will age better than a pastel; but if it’s got to be Mystical Grape, Exotic Lime or Pepto Pink, consider going for it on one or two walls…OR the bedcoverings…OR the carpet; then cut it with deeper-toned neutrals on the rest of the surfaces. Deep taupe with the purple, chocolate brown with the lime, or a deep cream with the pink will lessen the contrast and also grow with them.
If there’s a theme, run with the prominent colors on the walls, you’ll need less theme-specific décor to make the point. Our nephew is quite the Dallas Cowboys fan, and his wise parents bought navy carpet, painted the top half of his walls deep silvery grey, ran a 3” white stripe around the room, and then painted deep navy below it. Big wow factor, yet classic; a lot less expensive than filling the room with licensed memorabilia, and easy enough to change should he become, say a Giants fan? (His aunt and uncle can only hope…)
Bottom line: How you’re going to feel about a wall color is very personal. Even if you don’t trust your instincts, at least listen to them. Never choose a neutral by default, but if you are contemplating a perilously new and bold direction, consider spending $15.00 to try a quart of your color first.
If it’s merely a different color that you’re vaguely uncertain about, in most cases it’s best to pick a direction, and see it through. You can cut the impact or tweak the results with art work or mirrors on the wall. But ultimately if you realize that Teal Blast was fun for about 3 weeks, remember that about 75% of the work and cost in painting is the prep, and the trim-which you’ve already done. So get back on that horse, pick another wall color you like, and get it done pronto.
The right color can change your mood, change your space, even breathe new life into your furniture. Allow yourself to try different ideas on for size, and have fun with it. And yes, say it with me- there is no easier, quicker or less expensive way to transform your space.
April 11th, 2010
Be Comfortable Picking Paint Colors
Even when I was working in the retail furniture industry, getting paid on straight commission, I always tried to start by establishing the wall color with the client. I didn’t sell paint, have a painter-friend who was looking for business, or have any ulterior motive other than making the design process more complete, and furniture selection process easier, and more satisfying for the client.
Because walls make up the most surface of any room, the choice of color is a meaningful one, but don’t let that hold you back. Here are the other sides of some of the myths I’ve heard over the years.
White (or off-white) walls always make a space seem larger/brighter
They make them colder, more austere, and in listing photos they read as dirty-especially if there is beige carpet or wood floors in a light color. Also, by contrast, your furniture will look bigger and boxier.
A recent Staging job I had was a newish condo the owners had been renting and wanted to sell. It was an open floor plan, and all still in the original builders’ off-white-one big vanilla space. Warmer, more saturated colors not only separated out the spaces, it created new ones, and you saw the nice trim details, now that there was contrast.
Conversely, dark colors can close a room in and make it feel smaller
Sometimes yes. And that’s not always a bad thing. Over-sized or dark furniture recedes into a darker painted wall, and it’s a great way to fill in a big/cavernous space without buying lots of ’stuff’.
Take the individual preference element out of it (one person’s ‘small’ is another person’s ‘cozy’) Color is synergistic and the end result will depend on what else it’s shown with: both natural and artificial lighting, color of moulding and trim work, furniture, floor covering, furnishings, etc.
When a client craves a deep, intense color in their smallish or dark room, I recommend they follow their heart, but remind them the end result can be tweaked and lightened by hanging artwork and updating their lighting.
Semi-gloss finish on walls is durable, plus it adds interest in a room.
Well, yes, if you consider imperfections in the wall itself to be of interest. Easy to wipe down, so very suitable in a kitchen or bath, but shiny walls show EVERYTHING and can bounce light off them in an odd way. For durability in most of your living spaces, stay with latex flat in an eggshell finish.
Tomorrow: Kid’s Rooms, Neutrals, and Accent Walls