Wednesday, December 30, 2015

About Those Closets

"Don't include 
painting the closets." 

Roger hears this all the time when he's doing an estimate. Maybe it's the prospect of cleaning out the closets so the work can be done, or it's an attempt to save money, or a bit of both. I get it. But I'd like to put in a good word or two for painting the closets anyway. 

When You're Redecorating

If you've chosen a new color for the walls, leaving the closets "as is" could suggest that you didn't care about doing a high quality job, or that you forgot to paint them. The room will look unfinished and the overall result will be less polished, harmonious and attractive than it could have been. 

Most closets get a lot of wear and tear and the walls become scuffed and dirty. A dirty, dingy closet in an otherwise nicely painted space is jarring, and every time you open the closet door you'll wish you'd painted the interior.​ In a master suite with generous closet space, lived-in closets, especially if they've been left in the old color, can be a significant detraction. 

When the closets include painted shelving, plan to paint them too. We prefer using an oil base enamel for durability. Allow time for shelves to cure, usually at least a week, before you put your things back. Ask the experts at the paint store for guidance on how long this will take for the product you're using. 

When You're Selling

Painting the closets is a smart move when you're selling. Newly painted clean, fresh closets enhance the perceived condition and value of the house. Unpainted closets might suggest that that house wasn't well maintained, or that you weren't diligent about preparing it for sale. 

If the house is unoccupied and the closets are empty, it's even more important that they look their best, or dirt and damage will be in plain view. I think of unpainted, lived in closets as little pockets of truth that show some of the wear and tear the house received.  
The two big reasons that sellers should paint the closets are:

Clean painted closets will help make visitors more confident that the house is well cared for. Dirty, dingy closets will undermine your selling strategy.

Cosmetic Appeal
Freshly painted closets contribute to the cosmetic appeal that helps that house photograph well and makes buyers fall in love so you can sell more quickly and at the best price. Dirty, uncoordinated closets create a negative impression.

So when you're deciding whether or not to paint the closets, please don't automatically reject the idea. There are several good reasons why you should clean them out and make a fresh start with a new coat of paint.  

If you're redecorating or getting ready to sell, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a estimate. As one of our painting clients, you'll receive a free paint color consultation to help find the perfect colors for your project, including the closets. If you would like advice on how to prepare your house for sale, schedule a staging consultation, including paint color advice. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Incremental Color Decisions

We're doing an interior painting project at the moment, and I've been working with the
Solving the Paint Color Jigsaw Puzzle
homeowners to create a coordinated color palette. I think of this process as putting together a color jigsaw puzzle, using placement of each piece to help guide where the next one should go. 

I prefer to work this way whenever I can because I believe the best results come from making incremental decisions as the job progresses, using each color successfully applied to help guide the next choice, rather than trying to choose all the colors at the beginning from samples. 

At our current project, the owners have removed wallpaper in the kitchen, powder room, guest bedroom, master bedroom and bathroom. More rooms will be painted as they get around to removing more wallpaper. 

Our first decision was the kitchen wall color because of its importance as their main living area, and because I always begin by analyzing the colors of the fixed elements in the house, such as flooring, tile, counter tops and cabinets. Every color we use has to work with things that are unlikely to change, at least for a while.  The next decisions for logistical convenience were the powder room wall and vanity colors, followed by the guest bedroom walls. The master suite wall color is being chosen last because it's at the far end of the house, allowing more color latitude if desired, and because the carpet is being replaced. The new carpet contains several shades of off white, and the overall color impression was difficult to project, so I wanted to choose the wall color after the carpet was installed to be sure it would work with it and with the bathroom tile.

Some Benefits of Incremental Decisions

Color Behavior 

Choosing colors incrementally provides an opportunity for me to see how each color behaves on the walls before choosing the trim color. Many people have learned from experience that the way a paint color looks in a sample can be dramatically different when it's applied to four walls. By making color decisions one room at a time, you can be sure each color is right for that room, that it will harmonize with the overall color plan, and that the trim color will be right for all the rooms.

More Informed Recommendations

Incremental color decisions help me make more informed recommendations as I can easily see how the puzzle is coming together, and it also gives me a chance to suggest color strategies for extra pizazz or to solve any design issues that might arise. 

Maximum Flexibility

Incremental decisions give us maximum flexibility as the clients and I discuss what colors they like best, or don't like as much as they expected to, and make changes as needed. Maybe a color looks darker than they thought now that they see it on the wall instead of in the sample. Fine. If they can live with it, we'll use what they've learned for future choices. If they can't live with it, how much easier to redo one wall or one room than the entire house! 

Reduced Anxiety

Last, but by no means least, making one decision at a time is a lot less stressful for our clients. They have a much better idea of how everything will look as it comes together, greatly reducing their color decision anxiety. They grow more and more excited, confident and happy as their vision comes to life.

Of course making incremental decisions means that I'm on site every step of the way, and even though my help is a free service to our painting clients and it's time-consuming, Roger and I think it's the best approach. We know that if the colors aren't just right, our clients aren't going to be as happy as they could be, no matter how good a job he does. My involvement helping them find colors they love to live with, along with Roger's superb craftsmanship, really sets us apart. We like that too.

If you have a painting project, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate. Once you choose us to do the work, I'll come to discuss your ideas and we'll find your perfect colors. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cranky About the Color of the Year

Pantone Color of the Year 2015-Marsala
In recent years it's become the practice for paint companies such as Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore, and other companies such as Pantone, best known for its color matching system, to name a color of the year. The choices are often quite different, making it difficult to see how any of them represent an informed idea, or anything beyond a way to generate sales.

Color(s) of the Year 2015 

Take this year, for instance. Pantone says the Color of the Year is Marsala. Sherwin Williams says it's Coral Reef, and Benjamin Moore says it's Guilford Green. 

Sherwin Williams Color of the Year 2015-Coral Reef

If you want to be trendy, which of them should you choose? Can they all be right? What if you don't like any of them? And what are you supposed to do next year - paint the house again?

Here's Where I Get Cranky

It may not bother you, but I don't like the idea of people sitting in a room somewhere deciding what colors I should live with. The notion that they can make this choice for you and me and everybody else, with zero consideration for whether or not the color is appropriate, is laughable. We aren't cookie cutter people! One color of the year (or three, or more) doesn't fit all.

Benjamin Moore Color of the Year 2015-Guilford Green

What About Fashion Trends?

To me, these color pronouncements are very different from fashion trends because they often involve significant expense and are decisions we usually live with for a long time. Fashion trends are fun, can be indulged cheaply and left behind without remorse, unlike a Marsala living room.

What You Need to Consider When Choosing Paint Colors for Your Home

When it comes to the use of color in your home, I think you should forget about the so-called Color of the Year and instead focus on:
  • the location of the house (mountains, seashore, etc.)
  •  the style of architecture
  • the color of permanent details such as flooring, carpet, counter tops, cabinets, stonework, etc.
  • the colors in major pieces of furniture
  • the exposure of the room (North facing, South facing)
  • the way the room will be used
  • the colors you like
These considerations are timeless and won't steer you wrong.

Other Pronouncements

Many people have been embracing the use of gray for interiors, even though certain designers and paint companies tell us that gray is OVER. I say that if you like gray and it works well in the context of your home, you should use gray and be happy.

Then there are the designers who tell us that we all should have white kitchens. I love white kitchens as much as the next person, but I also love other ideas when they work. The right kitchen design is situational, not a formula. 

So you see, I really am cranky about this whole Color of the Year business, and about design and color pronouncements from people who generalize. I pay little or no attention, and I don't think you should be concerned with them either. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Want A Painting Estimate? Here's Why We Have to Meet You.

The phone has been ringing a lot lately, including people who are calling us for the first time. Some have suggested that Roger "just go look at the house and give me a bid", and I have to explain why that's not a good idea - for either one of us.

In order to do an estimate, we require that Roger meet with you to look at the work and discuss it. Here are some reasons why:

Why We Have to Meet You To Do An Estimate

  • Scope of Work, Your Expectations and Budget

 When Roger looks at a project he could have questions about what you want to do and your level of expectations. For example, if he sees that your project requires a lot of surface preparation for the best result, is that what you want, or do you prefer to settle for less preparation in return for a lower price that fits your budget.

  • Damage or Problems You Weren't Aware Of

Roger might identify a problem that needs to be discussed so that we agree on how to address it, such as damage or cosmetic issues that you didn't see, but he did.

  • Options for You to Consider

Once Roger determines your goals for the work, he can make helpful suggestions and include options in the estimate.

  • Will There Be Color Changes?
If you're planning color changes, we need to know because it might affect costs, depending on the number of coats required for coverage and the complexity of your color plan.

If you would like help with colors, I provide a free color and detailing consultation to our painting clients. Not only will we find colors you love, I'll help you with a strategy for how to place them to showcase the best features of your home and camouflage the rest.

  • Professionalism and Competence - Beyond the Number

We want the you to feel confident in us and our professionalism, and meeting Roger will help you to qualify him and our company. Without that personal connection, our estimate, although it's well presented, is just another number. We strive for excellence and value, not to be low bid.

To evaluate estimates you also need to evaluate who's doing the work. Is he or she clean and well-groomed? What is the condition of the vehicle? If both are dirty and disorganized, it could mean that they won't protect and care for your property either. A low bid from someone like that could be the worst "bargain" you ever found, and if you don't meet with them, you don't know who you're dealing with.

Will Doing the Estimate Make Sense?

If after I explain all this, the caller still just wants Roger to go by and look, I decline with regret. Alarm bells are going off in my head because the caller who just wants a quick number seems to be shopping for the cheapest price, and we wouldn't be a good fit. 

Because we take the time to look carefully at the work and give you a detailed written estimate, doing one is a considerable investment in both Roger's time and mine. We need to have a reasonable likelihood of success, assuming relatively comparable bidders, not low bid amateurs. Our goal is to be fair and reasonable, deliver professional quality work that lasts and represents an exceptional value over time.

Now you know why we need to meet you - and why you should want to meet us.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Roger's New Ride

Roger's New Ride
After nearly 300,000 miles and twenty-three years of faithful service, we’ve said goodbye to an old friend, our gray 1990 Dodge van. Some of you may remember it!

The van served us well from the early days in the San Francisco Bay Area when our business was called Ness Painting & Decorating, then it helped us make the cross-country move to Hendersonville and start Sterling Property Services in 2004. 

Apart from being an essential element of our businesses, the van also helped us at home. For example, there are three Japanese maples in our garden today that came from our old garden, transported safely in the trusty gray van. 

Goodbyes are never easy, but we have much to remember and be grateful for. 

This week the signs went on the new van and Roger completed the transition. Here they are, ready to begin the New Year. If you see them, honk and wave! 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Cabinets With Glass Doors: Pitfall or Opportunity?

The contents of cabinets with glass doors are often overlooked by sellers who are distracted by a long list of other things to do, and by homeowners (including me) who become accustomed to their appearance, or are so eager for a place to put something, that we ignore crowding or other issues. Even though it's understandable that we would focus on more pressing matters, it's good to be aware of some negative consequences of leaving them as is, especially when you're selling.

Some Pitfalls of Glass-fronted Cabinets

  • Over time, glass-fronted cabinets can become strictly storage places where things are kept with no concern for appearances, instead of being an attractive design feature
  • Unless properly staged, these cabinets have a disorganized, busy look that adversely affects the impression of the room, and even more importantly for sellers, results in less attractive marketing pictures. 
  • Because everything is in view, unstaged, overfilled cabinets can make a room look and feel uncomfortably small and unattractive. 
  • Crowded cabinets, like crowded closets, sends the overt messages that the house lacks adequate storage, which is not good when you're selling, and that you're disorganized. The additional, unintended message could be that there are other things, like regular maintenance, that you didn't get to either! That message could undermine buyer confidence that your house is in good condition. 

The Typical Offender - The China Cabinet

Nana's China Cabinet
The typical offender is the china cabinet in the dining room, built-in or free-standing, where an assortment of china and other pieces are kept waiting for a special occasion, or because they have no other home. That might be OK when you're living in the house, but not when you're selling. 

This is my grandmother's china cabinet, filled with her tea cup collection and some other things I couldn't figure out where else to store...Sound familiar? My cabinet isn't as bad as some, but I can do better, and so can you.  For example, the miscellaneous vases, figurines and bird nests don't need to be there. I need to become my own client, create a better backdrop for each shelf and display the tea cups more creatively, such as with lifts to present them at different heights and by using a special stand that stores the saucer vertically behind the cup. 

How to Stage Glass-fronted Cabinets:

  • Remove everything so you can make a fresh start, with no preconceived ideas of where things should go. 
  • Clean the shelves and the glass.
  • Sort the contents. Take away everything that can be donated, discarded or stored elsewhere. 
  • Keep only the medium and larger pieces that are attractive and that suit the style of the room.  
  • Sellers should avoid using small, single items. It's a busy look that doesn't photograph well. You want to focus attention on your house, not your belongings. Store collections of small pieces too.
  • Plan for negative space. Don't crowd the shelves. 
  • Place the large items first. 
  • Align some larger things from the right, some things from the left and center others.  
  • Place the medium size items.   
Portmeirion Storage Only
  • Simple usually works best, especially when you're selling. Behind glass, a single china pattern nicely displayed works better than a hodgepodge of many unrelated, clashing objects. For that reason, I store my collection of Portmeirion "Botanic Garden" china in the two glass-fronted upper cabinets in our kitchen. Other china and the functional odd bits are stored behind closed doors. 
  • For more interest, stack some things and display others, like plates and platters, vertically. 
  • Consider shape and size and work in opposites. Mix small and large, round and square, etc. 
  • Use color to advantage, especially with the larger pieces, as color will show in photographs and make them more appealing. Coordinate the colors with the other colors in the room. 
  • Don't mix crystal with opaque china because the crystal gets lost and the shelves just look busy. That's why I display glassware by itself in this lower kitchen cabinet where it becomes texture, and not a distraction. (Please pardon my dust!)
Glass Storage Only

Sellers should keep in mind that the goal is to focus attention on the house, and the contents of glass-fronted cabinets should play a supporting role, while people who are simply living in the house can please themselves. 

Bookcases and Open Shelves Are Treated Differently

My approach to cabinets with glass doors is different from the way I like to stage bookcases and other open shelves. Whether you're living in the house or selling it, you have so many more options for open shelves, like books and plants and art and more, but that's a topic for another day... 

A professionally trained, experience stager can help you edit your cabinets - and everything else. Call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a two hour staging or redesign consultation, and expect a minor miracle, just from using the things you already have. In the meantime, I have some work to do around here...

By:  Sandy LeRoy 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Negative Space - A Powerful and Versatile Tool

Negative Space Example
Contrary to what the word "negative" suggests, negative space can be a very good thing. When it's used properly, negative space is a powerful and versatile design tool that can have a positive impact on everything from real estate marketing to our overall quality of life. 

Think of negative space as unoccupied territory, a place where the eye can rest between points of interest, allowing or creating a clear view of each. Another way to think of negative space is breathing room, or a pause in a conversation that gives you a chance to relax and collect your thoughts. 

The empty frames in this image allow you to see their shapes and colors, and because they're empty, they complement, rather than compete with the elaborate design of the settee. Your eye can take in the composition in as a whole, and then slowly appreciate the individual elements. 

How Negative Space Gets Lost

Negative space is often lost because of anxiety or guilt. Empty spaces make some people feel uneasy, so they put something, anything, in corners or on walls. Often, the pieces are too small, or serve no logical purpose in that spot, or are otherwise homeless, so they're put to work as space fillers. Then there's the gift that you feel you have to display, whether or not it works in your house. Negative space is also lost to "piling up." In the course of daily life, stuff has a tendency to pile up because it's put in a spot "temporarily", and then forgotten. Whether the cause is intentional filling up or accidental piling up, the result is visual clutter, the enemy of tranquility and organization, not to mention good design. Having too much stuff around is also stressful, and it can be detrimental to your health because it makes cleaning more difficult, providing collection points for dust and dirt and mold. 

Negative Space When You're Selling

When you're getting your house ready to go on the market, it's important to make it look as large as possible. One way to do that is to remove small pieces of furniture, superfluous accessories and the stuff of daily living, then be sure the remaining items are attractive and colorful, and that they're arranged with sufficient negative space around them to create the impression of spaciousness. This editing also enables you to produce marketing pictures that showcase the focal point of the room, such as a fireplace. After all, it's the architecture you're selling, not your stuff. Another benefit of editing is that it forces you to start packing and begin the process of letting go, so that your house can become a marketable product, instead of a home. 

Editing To Create Negative Space

When I do a staging or redesign consultation, editing is a crucial part of my work. We're so used to seeing certain objects in certain places in our homes, it can be difficult to imagine how things could be different. Assumptions need to be tossed out the window to make a fresh start, so I like to remove all the decorative accessories from the walls and horizontal surfaces. This step may seem extreme, and sometimes the homeowner is stunned at first, but it's very effective because it helps me to really see the bones of the room and adjust the furniture layout, as needed, before selectively adding back key accessories. This step also makes very clear how well the paint colors are (or aren't) working with the flooring, counter tops, stone, tile, etc., and with the furniture. 

Make Room For Negative Space

Look around your house. Do you see any accidental or intentional accumulations of stuff? If you'd like to start fresh, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a redesign consultation. If you're selling and need help to prepare your house for effective marketing pictures, schedule a staging consultation. 

Remember the positive effects of negative space!

By:  Sandy LeRoy

Monday, July 29, 2013

Home Sellers: Prepare For The "Money Shot"

An Effective "Money Shot"

When you're selling, the single most important marketing tool you have is the "money shot" of the front of the house. It's the primary image that's used on MLS and the internet, and usually it's a buyer's first (or last) impression.

You Have Only 3-4 Seconds to Impress...

Over 95% of home buyers start by shopping on their computer, long before contacting a REALTOR to arrange to visit the houses they like. As they click through the search results from criteria they selected, the image of your house has only three to four seconds to capture their attention, and wow them. That immediate emotional response is crucial. If the money shot doesn't do its job, the buyer will dismiss your house from consideration and move on to the next one. 

Staging Creates Curb Appeal (and Better Pictures)

In the example above, the sellers of this former rental understood the importance of cosmetic appeal and did a lot of things right. I could nit-pick a few details, like the accented white vent and downspouts, the white threshold and the scalloped bed lines, but on the whole they were receptive to my staging and color advice, and did a very good job implementing many of the recommendations, as their time and budget allowed. The result was dramatically increased curb appeal that photographed well. I liked this project very much because it illustrated that staging works for everybody, not just for people selling expensive homes, and that a little money and effort can go a long way.

How to Prepare For The Money Shot

Here's how you can make sure your house is ready for its money shot when the photographer arrives.

  • Analyze the house to determine if the paint is in good condition, the colors are attractive and that color is being used in the right way. That means you've accented only the things that deserve it, and camouflaged the rest, like downspouts, vents and utility boxes, by painting them in the wall color. The analysis should include decks, porches, etc. 
  • If the house needs painting, get professional color advice to be certain the colors you use will harmonize with the permanent elements, such as the roof and stonework. If your colors aren't pleasing and well-coordinated, it will be painfully apparent in pictures. Here's my guide to finding colors that work:  Choosing Exterior Colors? Use This Questionnaire
  • Get the door colors right. The front door should be painted in an accent color used nowhere else. The garage door should be painted in the wall color, not the trim color. Some doors are better painted in the wall color to make them texture, instead of an accent. To learn more, read Choosing A Front Door Color - A Baker's Dozen Mistakes to Avoid
  • Check the landscaping and prune judiciously. If the picture shows overgrown trees and shrubs, you've created the impression that maintenance is too difficult to keep up with.
  • Be sure the colors in flowering container plants or in the landscape aren't clashing with the house color. If there are clashes, prune or relocate the offenders.
  • Add fresh mulch to all the planting beds.
  • If the house doesn't need painting but it's dirty, have it pressure-washed, including walkways, decks, patios and the driveway, as needed.
  • Analyze the shape of the front planting beds. Are they the usual narrow rectangles
    Curved Planting Beds
    along the front of the house? If so, using a half moon edger, re-draw the beds into sweeping curves to create a more gracious, custom and photogenic look. It's a cheap fix with big impact.  
  • What about the light fixtures? If they're old or in poor condition, they should be updated. Choose a design appropriate to the house and in the proper scale for each location. Keep things simple and don't mix styles. 
  • Remove small decorative accessories (wind chimes, elves, bird houses, dried wreaths, etc.) from the front of the house and the entryway. Outside clutter is as detrimental as inside clutter in photographs, and in person.
  • If you do use container plants or accessories, be sure the style, color and scale are right and that they add to, not detract from, the features of the house. A busy look doesn't photograph well.
  • Be sure no utilitarian items such as trash cans or hoses are visible when pictures are taken. Pick up any toys or bicycles. Move the boat, the RV and all the cars out of the driveway.
  • On picture day, be sure the lawn is mowed, the edges are crisp and the walkways and driveway are swept. Sometimes you can get a better picture by hosing down the driveway and walkway just before the shot is taken to clean them and intensify the color of the materials.

When the pictures are taken, make sure you have several to choose from. Insist on having final approval of the money shot before it goes public on MLS or the internet. If it takes more than one try to get a great picture, it's worth the effort. Remember that this image is the bait that you're dangling in front of prospective buyers to attract their attention. The interest the picture generates (or doesn't) can be money in your pocket, or money forfeited. It's up to you.

By:  Sandy LeRoy

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Color to Avoid Using With Wood

I wish I didn't see it so often, because pure white walls in a room with natural wood trim and cabinets are a mis-matched pair in an unhappy marriage. 

Why Pure White Doesn't Work With Wood

Pure white and wood don't work well together because pure white has no earth tone component to marry it to the earth tones in the wood. With no color relationship, neither brings out the best in the other, and the combination looks like a mistake, instead of being warm, harmonious, inviting and flattering to both parties. The photo on the right from tells the story.  It's cold, bland, and boring, and nobody is happy.

Sellers Beware

When people don't know what color to use, or they plan to sell the house and want a neutral color, pure white often is the default choice, probably because they think it's safe and they can't make a mistake. Wrong! White walls do not produce attractive pictures for MLS and the internet, and you could be unwittingly sabotaging your marketing plan by making your house less appealing to buyers. If the house is vacant, the problem of mis-matched wall and wood colors becomes even more obvious. 

When you're selling, put color to work for you. Avoid pure white walls. Instead, choose a palette of coordinated colors throughout the house that works with all the permanent elements, like cabinets, flooring, tile, counter tops, etc. 

Wood Color Undertones

If your house has wood floors, cabinets or trim, you must consider those color(s) in every design decision you make, especially when you're looking for interior paint colors. 

The crucial thing to determine is the color undertone(s) in the wood, because this information will point you in the right color direction. The most common undertone colors are red, yellow, orange, brown and gray. 

Basic Color Wheel
Once you know the wood's color undertone, you must decide if you want to showcase the wood or have it blend with the other elements in the room. If you want the wood to be the star, call attention to it by painting the walls in an earth tone version of the undertone's complementary color, that is, the color opposite the undertone color on the basic color wheel. 

Let's say you have mahogany cabinets with a reddish undertone. Green is the opposite of red on the color wheel, so you could choose a green or blue earth tone, in a light, medium or dark color for the walls. If you wanted the mahogany to blend with the walls, you could choose a mid range color in the red family. 

Other Colors That Aren't Good Choices

In addition to pure white, tint colors, that is colors that are a hue plus white, also aren't good companions for wood. For every hue there are variations mixed with white, and variations mixed with earth tones, so if you like green, use green. Just make sure it's the right green.  In the green family, imagine lime green (tint) vs. sage green (earth tone).  When looking for the color to flatter your wood, always choose the earth tone version with the right undertone. Here's an earlier post that explains the difference in more detail:  Mixing Tint Colors with Shade Colors

Bewildered by Color?

If you need a little help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a color consultation. Whether you're selling or updating, we'll find the colors that are just right for your project.

By:  Sandy LeRoy

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Invisible Paint Touch Ups? Maybe Yes, Maybe No...

Have you ever tried to fill a hole in a wall and touch up the paint, only to have the repair be obvious and look even worse than the hole? It's likely not your fault. Successful paint touch ups can be challenging, and in many cases aren't even feasible. 

Here are some of the areas where things go wrong :


  • Even if you use the same color paint from the same can, the touch up might show. There are several reasons why this happens:
    • The paint on the wall has changed color over time.
    • The paint in the can has changed color
  • If you don't have the original can of paint, try to get the same color, or have it matched. In this case the best solution is to repaint the entire wall from corner to corner, to make any slight difference in color less obvious.


  • The easiest type of paint to touch up is a flat or matte finish, and, ironically, cheap paint touches up better than high quality paint.
  • "Flashing", a noticeable difference in the finish, often occurs if you attempt to touch up a paint with a sheen, even a low sheen. Flashing is most visible when you view the surface from the side, such as when you enter a room or go up or down stairs.
  • Paint sheen can change over time too. Even if you have leftover paint from the same can as you used originally, the sheen on the surface or the sheen of the paint in the can could be different when you try to do a touch up. 
  • Other reasons for a difference in sheen could be that the temperature or humidity when you did the touch up were considerably different from what they were when the paint originally was applied.
  • Satin, eggshell, semi-gloss and gloss paints usually can't be touched up. In these situations, the best approach is to repair and repaint the entire run of trim, or the entire surface, such as a door.

Patching and Priming

  • Even if the patching is done reasonably well, if you fail to prime correctly, the patch can show.
  • If the patched area is large, don't even try to touch up the paint because the repair will be obvious. It's wiser to repaint the entire wall.
  • Always make the repair as small as possible, if you want it to be undetectable. 
  • Use the least amount of patch that you need to fill a hole, and feather any patch material outside the hole to blend with the surrounding area. 
  • Prime the repaired areas with the correct primer for the surface. Choosing the right primer.


  • Unless patching is done with great skill, the texture of a patch can be obviously difference from the texture on the rest of the wall, or ceiling, especially a popcorn ceiling.  
  • If the surface is textured, buy a can of spray texture and practice, or use one of the new drywall texture stencils designed to match fine, medium or heavy texture.  Drywall Repair Tool.  Don't forget to prime before you do the paint touch up. 

Applying the Touch-up Paint

  • Use the same method of paint application on the patched area as was used originally, or the difference in texture from the applicator will show. If the paint was applied by roller, use a roller.
  • Always use the least amount of paint that you can.
  • Use a tiny artist's brush, when possible.
  • For larger patches, you can try to apply some of the new paint to the center of the repair and feather it out to blend with the old paint, before you repaint the entire wall.

Now you know why it's not always possible to have invisible paint touch-ups, even when you're careful.

If you have a repair and painting project, such as from fire or water damage, a falling tree, or even a challenging cosmetic repair, Roger can help. Call me for an estimate at 828-692-4355. 

"We had a tree fall on our house last winter. Roger repaired and painted our ceiling and did an incredible job. He has worked on several other projects for us as well, both interior and exterior. Excellent, excellent work each time. If you want it done right at a fair price, call Roger and Sandy."

Hunter Marks

By:  Sandy LeRoy

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Beware of Low Bid Pressure-Washing

We get many phone calls every year from people who are unhappy with the way their house was pressure-washed the last time, usually by a company they chose because of a low bid.

What's wrong with a low bid, you may wonder? There are several reasons why choosing a company by price alone can turn out to be a costly mistake.

Some Pitfalls of Low Bid Pressure-Washing

  • When pressure-washing isn't priced correctly to cover costs, it's usually because the bidder is an amateur, or doesn't operate as a legitimate business, and doesn't know or care about meeting professional standards. 
  • In order to price below market, the company hires people who have little or no training, often students hired for the summer, in the mistaken belief that just about any able-bodied person can do the work. Immaturity, carelessness, inexperience and little training are not the qualities you want in the people you entrust with your home.
  • Often the equipment isn't professional grade, or even when it is, the workers don't know how to use it properly. They apply excessive pressure, stripping paint and damaging the house and landscaping.
  • Amateurs apply chemicals indiscriminately, another common cause of damage to the house and plantings.
  • Amateurs use the wrong products, or use them in the wrong way, and the house isn't thoroughly cleaned, or damage occurs.
  • The estimate is often verbal, and work customers thought was included, wasn't, after all. Extras raised the final price to more than a legitimate company would have charged.
  • Temporary workers are often are paid in cash and are not covered by workers' compensation insurance. Should they be injured at your house, you could be liable.

As you can see, that low bid is low for several reasons, and none of them benefit you! The next time you get a pressure-washing estimate that's too good to be true, it probably is. At least that's what many new clients say. They've learned that it's much better to pay a reasonable price to have the work done by someone you can trust to do it the right way, and who will treat your home and landscaping with the respect and care they deserve.

If your house or decks need to be washed, and you don't want to worry about things going wrong, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a free, written estimate with Roger. You'll be glad you did.

Take a look at what our clients have said about his work:   Comments from some of our clients

Roger Ness - Sterling Property Services

By:  Sandy LeRoy

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Make Room for (Real) Books

   "In addition to their own worth, books do a lot of decorating. Old books add the same patina to a room as do good antiques."

David Easton, Charles Faudree Home

I can't imagine living in a house that didn't have lots of books, because they've been an essential part of my life since I learned to read. In this house there are books in nearly every room, and I love many of them for their beauty and history, as much as for the information they contain and lie waiting to share. Although I appreciate the virtues of e-readers, and use one, it will never completely replace what I consider to be the real thing. 

Living With Books

Gardening Books in the Family Room
Over the years I've collected the classics, as well as books on gardening, art, design, travel, poetry, computers, crafts, business and more, and keep them in the room where their presence makes sense, like cookbooks in the kitchen, business books in the office, and the gardening, reference, poetry and children's books at my fingertips in the family room. It also helps me to know where to search when I want a book on a particular topic.

During the year, I bring some books out of their slumber on a shelf to more prominent positions, choosing them because they're appropriate to the season, like the pumpkin cookbook or the Christmas books, or because the cover adds a particular color.  The decorative role of books is well known, and designers often buy libraries of books, or books by the yard, because the bindings are beautiful and they're an essential prop for staging shelves.  

Some Antique Books From My Family

There's a special place in my heart for my small collection of antique books, and I keep them out most of the time for personal and decorative reasons, even though many are in pretty bad condition. Some were birthday presents from my Uncle Bob, who placed an index card in each describing the book and which ancestor it came from. One of the oldest, "Cobb's Spelling Book", belonged to Elizabeth T. Lines of Oxfordshire, England (mother of my great grandmother Medora Warner LeRoy), who signed and dated it in 1833.

"Cobb's Spelling Book" (1832)

The history book below belonged to my great great grandmother, Abigail Carpenter LeRoy, who gave birth to twelve daughters before having a son, whom the jubilant parents named George Washington LeRoy. I can't imagine what it was like for little George to have a dozen sisters...

"History of the United States "(1841)
Although they certainly have the patina of age that David Easton mentions, I don't know that these battered and tattered antique books measure up to the level of quality he had in mind, but it doesn't matter. To me, they're beautiful and I love having them around. Since they're fragile and can't be read very easily, I stack them to create little platforms, and sometimes put something on the top, like a small vase with fresh flowers.

Whether your books are old or new, there are many creative ways to use them in your home, including the simple approach of treating the cover as a work of art by leaning it on the back of a shelf. If you need help, there are books on how to decorate with books, including artistic shelving systems. You also can find inspiring pictures on Pinterest and Houzz. 

Have Your Virtual Books and Real Ones Too

By all means use an e-reader, but appreciate real books too, and bring them out now and then for the pleasure of their company. Be selective about the ones you display. Text books, paperbacks, manuals aren't very decorative.

This quote says it all:

"A room without books is like a body without a soul"

If Cicero were alive today, I'm pretty sure he'd still mean it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Paint Color Consultants: What They Do, How They Can Help You

If you’ve struggled with paint color decisions, you have lots of company because color is a tricky subject. It’s very technical and very personal, and when you choose the wrong colors, they can be unattractive and uncomfortable to live with, and expensive to correct.

There’s a good reason why color selection is challenging. Color isn’t the property of an object. Color is light, and it changes all the time. Many things influence these changes, including the time of day, the type of lighting, the effect of neighboring colors and numerous other factors. That’s why the color that you liked in a friend’s house, or on the Internet, or in a magazine, won’t look the same in your house.

For a painting project to be successful, you not only need to find colors that will work in your house, you need to know where to put them. Professional guidance can help you add beauty and value to your house, while avoiding costly color mistakes.

Color Consultants: What They Do and How They Can Help You

When you call a color consultant for an interior or exterior paint color consultation, you're enlisting the help of a professional with a trained eye, knowledge of how to use color effectively and practical experience with what works, and what doesn't. Color consultants have different backgrounds and may not work the same way, but here's a list of the basic things I do: 
  • Analyze the architecture of your house.
  • Analyze the design and layout for the best approach to color selection and placement, including where interior color needs to stop and start in open concept plans.
  • Analyze colors in floors, tile, carpeting, counter tops, pre-finished items, stone, etc. to be certain paint colors will harmonize. 
  • Analyze the details of the house to determine which should be accented, which should be camouflaged.
  • Consider the effects of natural and artificial lighting.
  • Determine if color could address design issues.
  • Analyze your belongings to be certain the key pieces will coordinate well with the paint colors.
  • Recommend a palette of paint colors and sheens, including historic colors, if appropriate.
  • Suggest features that could receive special decorative treatment, if desired.
  • Recommend additional ways to make your house look its best, including cosmetic repairs.

Many of the items on this list apply to both interior and exterior projects.

What Does it Cost?

I charge $225 to do a two hour on-site color consultation with samples, and will often be able to help you with other design issues while I'm there. Depending on your location, a travel charge may apply. For an on-line consultation, call or write to me and tell me about your project.

When you consider what it costs to repaint after you pick the wrong color, and still not be sure you've chosen well, a color consultation is a bargain.

Benefits of a Consultation

For a more beautiful home with attractive, harmonious colors, get a paint color consultation. You'll create a space that you'll enjoy living in, and feel proud to share, and you'll add to the value and marketability of the house when it's time to sell.

To Arrange A Consultation with Sandy

Call me:  828-692-4355

Write to me:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves
The late, great Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) brought singular style to every aspect of her life.  As the Editor in Chief of Harper's Bazaar from 1936 to 1962, and of Vogue from 1963-1971, then later as the adviser on costumes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she lived an exceptionally glamorous life. Her clients ranged from Jacqueline Kennedy who adored her, to major and minor royalty, movie stars and the very wealthy. The surroundings Vreeland created for herself, notably the red living room she described as "a garden in hell", became part of her legend.

This glimpse of her bookshelves that I found on Pinterest* tells you quite a bit about her worldly, creative, complex, rich point of view, and provides a few design lessons, as well. When you study the shelves, you'll notice that they aren't neat and tidy, or obviously styled. Vreeland placed some things with intent, while she placed others just because she found a spot for them. You can tell that she wasn't a design snob, because you see art and treasured photographs, along with quirky mementos. The drawing of her by famed photographer Cecil Beaton is behind the horn on the right side. 

Notice that the basic structure of the shelves didn't limit how she used them.  She hung things on the back and on the outside frame, and she placed some things horizontally and other vertically, with things on top of other things. There was a similarity of hue in the contents overall, but with a pop or two of red, her signature color. Of course there are books, but a couple of books appear to have post-it notes! Diana Vreeland's bookshelves reflected who she was, and they served her well. 

Here's what I learned from Diana Vreeland's bookshelves:
  • DO: Use every side of the structure. Don't limit yourself to the shelves.
  • DO: Display a variety of objects, but choose ones that relate well to each other.
  • DO: Use repetition of color, content, form, etc. to create a cohesive look.
  • DO: Make it personal. Choose things that have meaning to you. 
  • DON'T: Be too serious. Allow room for a little humor or whimsy.
  • DO: Allow more breathing room for the contents of your shelves than Diana did.
DV in her famous red living room. 

In this room, too much wasn't enough, but considering the name she gave it, you know that she was in on the joke.