Color matters

A conversation with a color consultant on what’s in, what’s out and how to paint to sell


Pantone offers close to 5,000 colors. Sherwin Williams sells 1,500.

The real estate site Zillow analyzed how color choice translates into sales—or lack of sales. And scientific research into color and its effect on us is verifiably real, complete with scholarly reviews of the available work. (it’s an interesting field with lots of potential, but still in its early stages, scientifically speaking, notes researcher Andrew J. Elliott in Frontiers in Psychology.)

It’s no wonder choosing a color can make you anxious.

“Color stirs emotions and is very personal,” says color consultant Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solution KGP in Warwick, NY. She specializes in home staging and home decorating, with a strong focus on the importance of color.

Color consultants are experts who can look at your room, learn about your life and suggest color choices that will get the effect you want, be it aesthetic or psychological.

As a consultant, Gray-Plaisted focuses on two aspects: “The world of dwelling, as I call it—living in your home—or selling.” Each demands a different approach to color choice.

“When you are dwelling in your home you can go as bold as you would like with the colors on your walls. It is your home, let it show off who you are!”

For sales, the rules are stricter.

This beachy bedroom uses a neutral pallette, but still exudes personality. | Photo from  Benjamin Moore Paints

“Red and orange are considered very aggressive colors and should be avoided when selling your home,” said Gray-Plaisted. “But there is no reason why you cannot use them when living in your home.”

Gray-Plaisted pointed me to a Zillow study, from its 2017 Paint Color Analysis, that looked at room colors from sold homes around the country and put a dollar figure on each. Blue bathrooms top the list, adding $5,400 to the final sales figure; terracotta dining rooms sold for “$2,031 less than expected.”

But it can’t end there. Trends change, Gray-Plaisted reminded me. “What might be ‘in’ today, in five years will not be.” (Please recall the avocado kitchens and orange shag carpet of the 1970s.) So it’s possible that future buyers will prefer colors they shun now. Part of a color consultant’s job is to stay on top of the trends.

“Color is complex but when you get it right, you know it,” Gray-Plaisted said. “My clients have me come in to help because they know the color isn’t right, tried to do it on their own and realize the money invested in the consult is completely worth it. With a can of paint being upwards of $60 and more, and the time it takes to paint, having someone guide you to the correct colors saves a lot of aggravation.”

A big part of her job is explaining why one color is better than another, and sometimes seeing is believing.

“Color is obviously visual. Using large sample boards, clients are able to see for themselves the difference between colors. They can see why one color works and one will not in a room, allowing to compare before painting.”


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