Home Guru: How to Wipe Clean the Slate of Your Life in One Easy Step

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Home GuruThis week my buyer clients and now friends, Jennifer and Tim Nelson, invited me over for coffee and cake and to show me what they had done with their home since moving in. Other than a gorgeous new kitchen, slate flooring and new bathrooms, I was amazed at what Jennifer had done with color to completely update the house.

She loves brown and carried that color theme throughout her 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom split, from the entrance foyer, painted in a deep chocolate color, to the living room done in medium brown and the dining room in a shade darker than that.

In taking that one bold step with color, the house was visually unified, expanded and modernized. Judging from the interior, one would never know that the Nelsons’ home had been built in 1955.

I smiled to myself as I thought about my own recent choice to switch the color palette of my historic home from deep, rich colors to basic white on all my woodwork and doors, and shades of white or pale pastels on the walls, stripped of wallpaper.

What brought me back to white years after having abandoned it except for ceilings? Maybe it reminded me of the enforced white-only code of my early life.

When I first hit New York City and rented an apartment in a new building, I was given only two choices for color–pure white and antique white. Why couldn’t I have something a little more colorful, I asked? Maybe a bright yellow? Or a deep burgundy?

The sales agent winced and repeated that I could have only the shades of white offered or nothing.

When I married and moved into another new apartment, my wife and I were a little more assertive and received permission to change the wall color from white while we lived there, but would be required to restore it to white when we left. Well, who wanted to go through that double expense? So again, I lived with white.

When my favorite girl and I bought our first home, there was not a drop of white to be found anywhere on the interior or exterior. We painted the façade of the house mauve, the only “pink” house in Brooklyn Heights. And inside, every room was either a bright color or wallpapered.

While we were experimenting with every color of the rainbow, our best friends moved to Leona, N.J. When they invited us to their home, they proudly showed that they had removed wallpaper from every room and painted every wall pure white. Oh, how dull, I remember thinking–and the wife is an artist!

Her excuse was that she wanted the walls to provide a neutral background for her colorful paintings. All right, I bought her explanation.

When we moved to Westchester and found that nearly every room in our “new” antique house was pure white and only the woodwork and chair rails were painted in pastel colors, I proceeded to either paint bright colors or wallpaper every room.

But now, more than 30 years later, white is back in my life, as in Decorator White and Linen White, accompanied by new white flooring and countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms. What prompted this turnaround that seemed to happen spontaneously without any real forethought?

As readers of this column would know, my wife and I have been on the fence for the past couple of years about selling our home and downsizing. Loving our home as we do, we didn’t push that hard to sell it and were relieved when we were required to take our home off the market when we recently re-financed the mortgage at a great rate.

But the switch to white seems to be a game changer. After we had the place totally repainted, I took the time to research the psychology of white online and found the following analysis of its choice: “White may indicate the completion of a cycle in your life–you may find you have a desire for white in your surroundings at a time when you are moving in a new direction.”

Well, what further evidence do we need that we’re ready to move on to the next housing choice in our lives simply by choosing white?

My wife thinks I carried the theme a bit too far when I had our powder room painted entirely in Decorator White, both the woodwork and the walls, along with a white marble sink and white flooring.

“It feels like an operating room,” she said. I responded by saying, “Well, it’s the powder room, right? Isn’t powder white?”

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker as well as a marketer and journalist who writes weekly as The Home Guru. For questions about maintaining homes or to buy or sell a home, he can be reached at or called directly at 914-522-2076.

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