How Color Can Expand the Horizons of Your Home

By Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I have learned much of what I know as The Home Guru from my buyers and sellers.

One example, learned early in my career in real estate from my early buyer clients Jennifer and Tim Nelson, was how the use of color can dramatically change the character of a home.

Not long after I represented them when buying their home in Yorktown Heights, they invited me over for coffee and cake and to show me what they had done with their house 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 had carried that color theme throughout her 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom split, from the entrance foyer, painted in deep chocolate, 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 their “new” home had been built in 1955.

I smile to myself as I think about how I was influenced at that time in my own choice of color when it came time to switch the color palette of my historic home from deep, rich colors to basic off-white on all woodwork and doors. I also went with shades of white or pale pastels on the walls, most of which had been 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 arrived in New York City and rented an apartment in a new building, I was given only two choices – 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.

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 the trouble and expense? So again, I lived with white.

When my wife and I bought our first home in Brooklyn Heights, there was not a drop of white to be found. We painted the façade of the house mauve, the only “pink” house in the community. 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., and when they invited us to their home, they proudly showed us that they had removed wallpaper from every room and painted every wall pure white. Oh, how dull, I remember thinking – and the wife was an artist!

Her excuse was that she wanted the walls to provide a neutral background for her colorful paintings. Okay, I bought that. Soon after in The New York Times, it commented on a gallery that was “painted whiter than white.” I guess that’s the norm for museums and art galleries, to have walls serve as a blank canvass for the paintings that are displayed on them.

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 when it was time to move, more than 40 years later, white was back in my life – 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? Perhaps it occurred to me that white would have the greatest appeal to the greater majority of people. There was nothing to like or dislike about it.

After we had the place totally repainted, I took time to research the psychology of white 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 did we need that we were 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. We also had a white marble sink and white flooring.

“It feels like an operating room,” she said.

“Well, it’s the powder room, right?” I responded. “Isn’t powder white?”

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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