Paint: A fresh coat can add fresh life, color

#396 in a series of true experiences in real estate
May 2002, Hills Newspapers

When I was growing up, my mom was always painting something, making rooms and furniture all fresh and flawless and a brand new color. Several times over the years, when I was away visiting my grandmother, my mom painted the walls, ceilings and furniture in the bedroom that my sister and brother and I shared. The color that I remember was clean sky blue. I still recall how happy I was to come home to find the room all new and how I was inspired to lay out a display of my best looking things on my dresser. My whole world seemed different, and better.

Paint can do that, make everything better. It’s marvelous. However, the paint does need to be applied right. A good paint job is decidedly different than a poor one. The paint needs to cover well; there should not be drips on the floor or paint on the door handles or hinges, or on the window glass. And the color must be good, something that is not always easy. There are lots of bad (usually muddy) colors. But a beautiful, clear paint color, skillfully applied, is something to behold, a true joy for some long and good time.

I have painted myself, or hired others to paint, many rooms in many places I’ve lived, and I’ve been surprised all over again each time by the wonder of newly painted surfaces. Why, I do believe that the effect is as good, the result as rewarding for me, as even my garden is in full bloom.

A well-painted room doesn’t have to be my own to give me such pleasure – any such room I happen to be in will do. In real estate, I see them all the time, a most happy situation. Better still, I am frequently on the scene when new paint is being applied. I get to see what a room was like before and what it becomes. Sometimes I’m there when the color is being chosen, get to see sample swatches put up before final selection is made.

Often it’s the stager who chooses the color. Our stagers are very good with color, and it’s good that they are, because I am not. I’m one of those people who knows what I like once it exists, but not good at imaging before. Someone told me once that color is so complicated that it is possible to get a Ph.D. in the subject. I believe it.

White paint, for instance, is not simply white. The variations – hues, tints, shades – are huge. I know this because I’ve seen and lived in rooms after they’ve been painted bright Icicle White, for example, or softer, warmer Linen White. Huge differences.

Not long ago Anet and I were asked to prepare and then sell a house that had not had any new paint in many years. The interior walls sported a number of different patterned wallpapers and much red paint. I thought when I first saw the decor that the red walls especially must have looked quite lively and pretty when they were new. But they were now badly faded and full of dings. Hallways in the house were tunnel-like, made darker by wooden, hollow-core doors.

The whole house needed lighter colors and better lighting. The seller left it to the stager to do what she thought best and so, she considered and tried out colors, then chose a soft and pale buttery yellow for most walls and clean, bright white for most of the ceilings and trim. The hallway walls and doors were also to be white.

I could hardly wait to see the red and brown and various wallpapers covered over. Early on, at the beginning of the two weeks or so it took to complete the job, when only the base coat had been applied, the house already looked lighter, as if the structure actually weighed less. When the final coats were on, blemish-free and smooth, I was again amazed by how much paint can do. And when brighter light was added and curtains, rugs and furniture brought in, and pictures hung, the house appeared youthful and free, jaunty, even.

I tell you about this particular house simply because it was the most recent redo I witnessed and enjoyed. What happened at that house was not unique, the effect no greater there than in many other rooms in other houses we’ve seen. The miracle of the paint can happen pretty much anywhere.

At another house we marketed, we decided not to paint but just to clean, and cleaning was sorely needed. Hours and hours, days of cleaning and scrubbing revealed decent paint under the dirt. While there were chips and scrapes that remained, the paint that had been applied some 40 or 50 years earlier cleaned up unexpectedly well. This was probably due to the fact that it was lead based paint, outlawed in 1978.

While, no doubt, it is a good thing to prevent people from possible lead poisoning, that old lead-laden paint was vastly superior to today’s paints. It had staying power, true durability, would wash up well, almost forever. It was, I’m told, the lead content that made for exterior paint jobs, too, that lasted for 10 or more years. These days we’re lucky to have exterior paint looking ok for 5 years.

Too bad there doesn’t seem to be a substitute for lead in paint. But even with lesser paint products, there is nothing to compare with the looks of new, well-applied paint in good colors.

No, I take it back. Not even fresh paint can exceed clean. Walls, spaces, rooms, houses in toto that are clean are the best. Clean is the ultimate. Of course, when new paint is applied, clean comes with it.

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