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The Home Guru: Beware the Blind Spots of Familiarity

Because of familiarity to our own living environments, we tend to develop "blind spots" about our own homes, not seeing them as others do, Here's how to do a reality check.

 

Do we all have blind spots about our living environments?  Do we perceive our homes as they really are, or do we become so accustomed to them that we don’t see them as others do?  I was shockingly convinced of the latter reality because of a personal experience when I initiated the process of preparing my own home for sale.

I learned that I unwittingly lived in a green house, not meaning one that is energy efficient or one for growing seedlings, but rather one that turned green in color without my knowing it! How could this happen?

When I bought my home more than 30 years ago, it was painted a deep barnyard brown, both the siding and all trim, creating one big brown box, a look that was very popular in the 70s. And there were many other buildings and residences in my town painted the same way. Wondering why, I learned at the time that we had a member of our town’s architectural review board, a fabulously eccentric woman , who promoted that color on any building whose color selection came up for review.

Some observers of the day would laugh about her reign of chocolate terror, saying that if her taste continued to influence the color of our homes and commercial properties, we would have to rename our town Hershey.

When it came time to re-paint my house, the deep brown color had faded in popularity, and I wanted something warm but much lighter. I discovered a color that was a perfect combination of gray and beige, or “greige” as my wife called it.  It is Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray, which you can find online by typing that name into Google. All the trim was painted Linen, and with Classic Burgundy doors and black shutters, the combination was terrific.

During the next 25 years, I had the exterior painted only twice, possibly because I hired really talented painters who properly prepared the surface before applying the new paint. This represents more than twice the lifespan of the usual exterior paint job. 

Examining the condition of my home’s exterior in preparation for sale, I found that, other than repainting some of the trim and applying a fresh coat of paint to all five doors of the house, I needed only some re-touching on the siding where some areas had peeled near the ground, mostly from rainwater overflowing from the gutters above.

In preparation, I went to Wallauer’s a couple of months ago and bought a gallon of my beloved “griege,” and later called a very talented painter named Alain Rossignol, whom I’ve recommended many times to do touch-up work on houses I have listed.  Alain is European trained and a master of blending in new work with old, both outside and inside.

Oddly, just between the time that I bought the paint and last week, I started to hear strange things about the color of my house from other people. When I’m showing homes in my own neighborhood, I always like to point out my property to prospective buyers as we drive by it.  Recently a customer said, “What a beautiful green color your house is painted!”  It was almost dusk, so I quickly responded that it just looked green in that light, but actually, it was a gray/beige.  Then it happened again when I was directing a supplier to my house and he recognized the location and said, “Oh, I know that house, the big green farmhouse on the corner.” Again, I responded that, in certain light, it might only seem green from the road.

But, after Alain finished the prep work for touching up the paint, he popped his head into my home office and said, “We have a problem.”  He took me to the northwest corner of the house where he had just applied the new paint to a spot where the old paint had peeled away, and lo and behold, it was definitely a warm gray/beige popping out of a sea of pale green.

Wow, I thought, I DO live in a green house and I didn’t know it! Still worse, I’ve always disliked houses painted pale green! I didn’t want to re-paint my whole house, because so much of it looked perfect. Being as brilliant a colorist as Alain is, he was able to match the old paint with a certain shade of green in the Benjamin Moore palette, and he made it even more perfect by adding some black. It’s amazing how close it came, and, yes, it was definitely green, green, green.  

I know that colors change because of a chemical reaction that causes the colorants to change form or breakdown. In the case of fading in the sun, it is the energy from the absorbed sunlight that causes these changes. I might expect colors to fade and become lighter in the sun, but to change from gray to green?  And why didn’t I “see” it, even after other people gave me strong cues?

What else don’t I see in my own house, I wondered?   I didn’t trust my own judgment about my own home anymore, so I next called a highly recommended home stager named Joanne Palumbo to look at every aspect of my house and to give me the lowdown on what needed to be done to put its best foot forward for sale. That experience was a revelation in how home stagers work that I will share in a future post.

In the meantime, I have two great tips for you. If you have painting to be done, Alain Rossignol can be reached at 914-248-8524; and should home staging be in your future, Joanne Palumbo can be reached at 914-420-6506.

Not surprisingly, when I emailed my address to Joanne in anticipation of her visit, she responded that she already knew the property as “that lovely green house on the corner!”

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles columnist who writes regularly as The Home Guru.  Those seeking information about buying or selling a home can email him at bill@PrimaveraHomes.com or contact him directly at 914-522-2076.

 

 

 

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