February 9, 2012 | by Valerie Blake
Valentine’s kiss and other hues

When I grow up I want to be the person who names paint colors.

Did you ever wonder whose fertile imagination came up with shades like volcanic blast or fiddle leaf? And what was going through the mind of the men or women who coined American anthem, grandiose and mythical? Was soulful music the outcome of an evening spent with old Billie Holliday LPs?

Real estate agents have been advising sellers to “neutralize” their homes for years. In many parts of the country, this still means painting your walls builder beige or winter snow, but in the D.C. market where beige equals boring, the infusion of color in a room can be a critical aspect of preparing a home for sale.

D.C. is a city of transients, where many people accept their government and corporate transfers and move on to their next location before their home is sold. My out-of-town buyers are always surprised to find that so many of the homes we tour are vacant.

While homeowners tend to paint their walls to complement their furnishings, once those items are removed the home can look disjointed. A prospective buyer may never know how fashionable the original room looked and will focus only on a color that no longer makes sense in an empty setting and may even appear garish on its own.

Fresh paint gives a buyer the impression that a home is clean and well cared for, but beige and white are frequently considered passé. Decorators and television hosts now insist that our homes be painted in “sophisticated neutrals” with names like moleskin and wheat germ.  Stealth jet is the new black.

Imagine you have been asked by your agent to repaint the living room in a nice, neutral color. What the heck is a neutral, you ask? Aren’t the Victorian and Hunt Club palettes more “sophisticated?” Must I now avoid the bold sangria that promotes a healthy appetite in the dining room or eschew the calming effects of fresh guacamole in the kitchen? What a conundrum!

You go to the local home improvement or paint store and are immediately engulfed by a dizzying array of colors, shades, tints and manufacturers. Overwhelmed and frustrated, you buy a couple of tester-sized bottles that line the counter and spend the rest of the afternoon painting nail polish-like stripes on the living room wall, babbling softly to yourself.

Need help? Well, let me suggest a few color combinations I have used that have received positive reviews from sellers, buyers and stagers.

An Earth tone like Glidden’s whispering wheat is very popular. Deeper and warmer than beige, it serves as a calming color for hallways and bedrooms. Pair it with warm caramel, a slightly darker shade, in the living room for a striking contrast. Are your kitchen cabinets white?  Then take the walls a step darker with gentle fawn and watch your cabinets pop.

For a slightly cooler tone, try Duron’s simplify beige in darker rooms, graduating to sand dune in lighter rooms, then to trusty tan in the brightest or largest room.

Want something dramatic to set off that red sofa and those stainless steel light fixtures?  Take a look at McCormick’s ice age (light), platinum plate (medium) and cast in stone (darker).  These are also great colors to offset an exposed brick wall for an industrial look.

Keep things simple by painting ceilings and trim white. Use semi-gloss paint on trim, satin or eggshell on kitchen and bathroom walls and flat paint everywhere else for a professional look.

Remember that green tones will make you look jaundiced in the bathroom mirror and that decorative paint treatments such as Venetian plaster, marbleizing and rag rolling are best left for your new home.

Need more suggestions? Talk to your agent, decorator or home stager.

In the meantime, I’ll be in my heirloom lace boudoir, lying on a bed of roses wearing my relaxed khaki slacks and best bronze sweater, drinking iced champagne and eating chocolate truffle candies while ambitious Amber paints my house.

Valerie M. Blake can be reached at 202-246-8602 or at Valerie@DCHomeQuest.com. Prudential PenFed Realty is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc.  Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.  Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

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