Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Negative Space - A Powerful and Versatile Tool

Negative Space Example
from marthastewart.com
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 sfgate.com 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 Families

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 wood's color family because this information will point you in the right color direction. The most common color families are red, yellow, orange, brown, purple and gray. 

Basic Color Wheel
Once you know the wood's color family, 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 family's complementary color, that is, the color opposite on the basic color wheel. 

Let's say you have red mahogany cabinets. 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 one or more hues plus white, also aren't good companions for wood. For every hue there are variations mixed with white, and variations mixed with pure gray or black, 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. 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. 


  • 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 a drywall texture stencil designed to match fine, medium or heavy texture. 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

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:  Sandy@SterlingPropertyService.com

Friday, February 15, 2013

Give Your Hallways The Attention They Deserve

Hallway with a Focal Point
Most of us take pains to create an attractive entryway for our house, but the hallways usually receive much less attention. However, when you consider the importance of hallways in terms of function, as a design element, and especially when you consider how much time we spend going back and forth, they present an opportunity that shouldn't be overlooked. 

Not only does a hallway take us from one space to another, it also can serve as a thread to tie differing elements of the overall design together, while adding personality of its own. One example is a house where every room is a different color. If the hallway is painted in a color that works with all the other colors, it creates a rest for the eye, making it possible to move seamlessly from color to color, creating a coordinated whole, rather than a group of unrelated, or clashing, rooms. 

How to Add Pizzazz to Hallways

Although hallways often lack windows and many aren't wide enough for much, if any, furniture, it's still possible to add considerable pizzazz using paint color, lighting, trim and accessories, all without being a design genius or breaking the budget. 

Study Your Hallway

Begin by studying what you have to work with. 

  • What are the dimensions of the space? How long is the hallway, how high is the ceiling? 
  • What kind of flooring do you have? Can you add area rugs for color and to break up the perceived length?
  • How many openings are there, and where do they lead? 
  • Does the hallway have attractive, generously proportioned crown molding and baseboards?
  • How many openings are on each side? Is the number fairly even, or are the openings concentrated on one side?
  • Is there room for furniture?
  • Are there walls with gallery potential on both sides? Find a balanced way to drawn the eye down the full length of the hallway and avoid a lopsided design.
  • When you're planning what will go on the side walls, remember that people will seldom stop to appreciate these details, so they should look attractive in passing. 
Plan to treat the wall at one end as the focal point, and make it worthy of the attention. Don't create a focal point at both ends because the result will feel claustrophobic, like being in a box. 

Ways to Add Style Without Bulk:

  • Use an accent color on the wall at the end. Not only will the color add spark and interest, a darker color will visually shorten a long hallway and make a narrow hallway seem wider. Repeating a color used elsewhere in the house will help unify your design.
  • Study the doors. If there are many doors that open on the hallway, be selective about which ones you treat as trim, particularly when there is significant contrast between the wall and trim colors. I usually recommend accenting only those doors that lead to a space for people, rather than closet doors or furnace doors. 
    Wainscoting Transforms a Hallway
  • If you want a subtle look, consider painting all the doors in the same color as the walls, but in a satin or semi-gloss enamel, creating texture rather than contrast. This is a good solution for narrow hallways, or hallways where most of the doors are on one side, or for doors of standard or poor quality, so that you don't call attention to them.
  • Use a special color on the ceiling.
  • Add a medallion to ceiling light fixtures.
  • Install trim in the form of crown molding, baseboards, chair rail, wainscoting, etc.
  • If the existing trim is skimpy, use tape to extend the size and make it look more generous, or paint it in the wall color to avoid calling attention to it, and to visually heighten the ceiling.
  • Use masking tape to add a band in an accent color to the ceiling where it meets the crown molding, or use a stencil. You'll be seeing it from a distance, so don't make it too narrow. Try a few designs on paper and tape them to the ceiling to see how they look before you commit.
    Borrowed Light
  • Instead of relying solely on ceiling fixtures for light, use wall sconces too. And speaking of light fixtures, flush mounted ones can look institutional, so I often suggest a fixture with a small drop, or a small chandelier or pendant. 
  • Install wallpaper, but make sure it's durable, especially if the wall gets a lot of traffic. As an option, paper only the focal wall, or frame wallpaper samples for an inexpensive display. 
  • Create art with painted designs on the wall. Draw freehand or create a design with tape. 
  • Display art or collections, but avoid two common mistakes: hanging things too high and choosing accessories in the wrong scale, usually too small for the space.
  • Use carefully placed mirrors (or mirror decals) to borrow light from adjoining rooms and bring life and sparkle to dark hallways.
  • Don't ignore the floor. Add area rugs to break up the runway or bowling alley look and add color and warmth. Be sure they're not going be tripping hazards. 
Display Shelves Are Versatile
  • Install narrow display shelves and change the contents with the season, or as inspiration strikes.
  • Hang empty frames as another display opportunity. Use removable hangers like Command strips for the display items so there are no holes in the wall and the frames are attractive, even when empty.
  • Place a table or narrow bookcase at the end of the hallway and change the display periodically. 
  • If you have enough space at the end of the hallway, create a small reading area with a table, lamp and chair.

For more inspiration, visit the hallway section on houzz.com 

There's a great deal of untapped design potential in most hallways. Analyze the ones in your house and see what you can come up to make them more attractive. The solutions don't have to be expensive.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Adding Texture With Paint and Color

Textured and Glazed Wall

 "The glamour of texture is the invitation to touch...surface texture sings a siren's song."

- Jamie Drake, New American Glamour

What Is Texture?

Texture in design refers to the way a surface feels, or is perceived. Occurring in both man-made and natural objects, texture can be produced by repetition and variation of form, colors, value, patterns of line, etc. All surfaces have texture, whether it's coarse or fine, rough or smooth, shiny or matte. Texture can be used for comfort, beauty and interest, or for practical purposes, like a rough finish on a stone walkway that prevents falls. 

Emotional Impacts of Texture

  • Rough texture suggests informal, warm and natural design, and often feels heavier. 
  • Smooth and shiny texture suggests more formal, cold, glamorous or modern design, and often feels lighter. 
  • Combined coarse and smooth texture, such as a  silk wall covering with coarse slubs, has an edge of heaviness, yet is quite elegant. Texture is versatile.

How Texture Affects Paint Color

Texture isn't limited to fabric, wallpaper or natural materials.  Texture also can be added with your paint and color choices to enhance style and add impact. 

When it comes to paint, texture plays a crucial role because it determines how much light and color is reflected, and how much is absorbed. A color in a high sheen paint (smoother texture) has a greater reflectivity, intensity and richness than the same color in a flat sheen paint (rougher texture). The downside of the higher sheen is that every little surface imperfection is more likely to show.  A flat finish paint absorbs more light, and the remaining light is refracted back in many directions, making the color appear darker. When you have an imperfect surface, a flat finish paint is the best choice because it makes the imperfections less noticeable. 

Adding Texture With Paint Techniques and Color

Here are just a few of the many ways to create texture with paint techniques and/or with the way you use sheen and color. 
  • Use a variety of sheens from flat to high gloss. The most common way is by painting the ceiling and walls in a flat paint and using a semi-gloss for the trim.
  • Combine sheens to create a decorative finish, such as by painting stripes in a gloss finish (paint or varnish), or using a sponge dipped in a gloss finish, to create a pattern on a matte wall. Use the same color as the base for a more subtle effect. For inspiration,      Striped wall designs on houzz.com 
  • Add glaze in layers using one or more coordinating colors. This is especially good for damaged walls because the imperfections become part of the finish, and for cabinets, trim and furniture. 
  • Buy ready-made texture paint in a special finish, such as sand, stone, marble, suede, etc. Or, add texture to regular paint.
  • Use different colors for the ceiling, walls and trim.
  • Use accent colors in special areas, such as the back of bookcases, an accent wall or on a mantle. Depending on the look you want, the colors may, or may not, be subtle.
  • Use joint compound with stencils, then paint. 
  • Use two or three paint colors with similar light reflectance values (LRV's) to create a subtle texture. 
  • Apply any of the hundreds of painted finish techniques, from strie to rag-rolling, color washing, trompe l'oeil, a mural, etc.
  • Create your own design with masking tape, stencils, wall art appliques, by drawing, or with a combination of these and other techniques. 

Stenciled lattice
Texture is often overlooked as a component of interior design, but when you consider how much texture adds to the beauty and enjoyment of a space, it's a good idea to be conscious of it, and look for ways to make it work for you. 

A word of caution: if you're an amateur, a subtle and simple approach with low contrast colors is best. There's way too much really bad faux finishing and other misguided efforts out there! You can always add, but it can be much more difficult to subtract if you go too far or do it poorly...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Interior Painting and Finishing Details - Notorious Quality Killers

Quality Matters

The term "quality" brings to mind superiority or excellence, and when it comes to interior painting and the installation of finishing details like moldings and hardware, quality is often lacking. 

I found an article on this subject in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago and held on to it because I thought, "Here's someone who thinks the way I do". I wish I'd kept the name of the author (he was an architect, as I recall) so that I could give him the credit he deserves. Many points might seem obvious, but the list brings needed attention to some examples of the sloppy work that's all too common. Be aware of these notorious quality killers, and don't accept them. 

"Notorious Quality Killers

Here are some notorious quality killers that can sully a fine job at the last minute: 

  • Indifferent painting is the surest way to doom a job. Although paint is the predominant finish on most houses, it often suffers from being carried out late in the project, when money and patience are at a low ebb. Poor workmanship results, either because the job is rushed, or because incompetent painters are hired in a misguided attempt to save money.  The quality killers: gloppy application, drips and runs, ragged or wavy brushwork along edges or paint on fixtures, finish hardware, masonry or glass. None of these  shortcomings should be tolerated.

  • Moldings such as baseboard, door trim and ceiling cove are often treated as last-minute frou-frou by harried contractors, even though they’re among the most obvious finish items. Quality killers include inaccurate or open miters, ragged or splintered cuts, and gaps between moldings and floors, walls and ceilings. All standard moldings (such as door trim) should be installed plumb and square. Running moldings (such as baseboards) should align properly and have clean, tight miters. Gaps should be neatly caulked. The last step, mind you, is seldom carried out (unless you’ve hired a skilled painting contractor), but is imperative to any quality installation.

  • Highly conspicuous finish hardware items such as door lock sets, cabinet pulls, towel bars, grilles and the like usually get hasty treatment because they’re among the last thing installed. Obvious lapses in quality include mismatched finishes (polished brass mixed with satin brass, for instance), off-plumb or misaligned pulls or trim plates, crooked towel bars and locks and catches that don’t engage properly. Insist that such items be neatly installed and placed perfectly plumb, level or square, as appropriate."

I'm so glad this this architect spoke up for quality. The saying that God (or the Devil) is in the details is true, and the people who set high standards for their work are the ones you want to hire. 

A Special Word to Home Sellers

If you want to price your house at the top of its range, be sure it doesn't suffer from these notorious "quality killers". Correcting them is even more crucial when the house is vacant, because they'll be in full view and very evident to buyers. Sloppy painting with cheap materials will devalue your house and make it more difficult to sell.

Roger at Work Patching Holes

Expert Painting and Cosmetic Repairs

Take a look around your house. Do you see any quality killers? If you need help to address them, a professionally trained painting contractor like Roger, who's skilled in making cosmetic repairs, can solve many of the problems described above, plus others that weren't listed. 

Call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paint Color Issues With Vinyl Doors and Windows

The color impact of white vinyl
Don't ignore the color impact of pre-finished vinyl doors and windows (usually stark white) when choosing exterior paint colors. There are issues to consider:
  • If you use neutral colors, stark white doors and windows stand out and can make the whole color plan look "wrong".
  • When the trim color is in high contrast with vinyl doors and windows, it highlights them as separate, conflicting  components, instead of a unified whole.
  • When doors or windows have a white grille sealed between panes of glass at the factory to create the look of divided lites, there's nothing you can do to change it. Keep this mind when choosing your trim color, and avoid high contrast.
  • The door and window frames can't be painted, making the look less harmonious, polished and custom. 

The white vinyl doors and windows on this house illustrate these issues. 

Stark white vinyl doesn't coordinate well with neutrals.

Grilles and frames can't be painted.

The white vinyl components stand out.

Some Solutions for Vinyl Doors and Windows

  • If you're building or replacing windows and doors, don't go on automatic pilot and choose white because you think it "will go with everything". Clearly, it doesn't! Find out what color options you have, then coordinate the color of the vinyl with the permanent elements of your house, like the roof, brick or stone, and with the paint colors you plan to use. Today you have many color options, so shop before your buy. If you want the look of divided lites, make sure the grille will be the same color as the rest of the door or window. Also, be sure to ask about the color of the frame. If they won't all be the same color, keep shopping.
  • If your house has white vinyl doors and windows, the most elegant solution is to use a trim paint matched to the vinyl. By doing that, you're camouflaging the fact that the vinyl portion is a separate component, and creating a more custom, unified look.
  • If you don't want white trim, choose a low contrast trim color. Avoid deep, rich colors like the red in the house above. 

Today's vinyl doors and windows have a lot to recommend them, including relatively low cost, ease of maintenance and durability.  Incorporate their color into the overall color plan so that they complement, instead of detract, from the appearance of your house.