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Color Me Sold

How to Choose the Right Paint Colors When Staging a Home to Sell

When you’re staging your home to sell, you can’t just paint every room in your home your favorite colors—you must choose ones that will have broad appeal to prospective buyers. Colors that show your home in the best light. Colors that evoke good feelings. Colors that will ultimately help someone else envision themselves in your home. Don’t know which colors to choose? That’s OK, we asked a team of real estate and paint experts for exclusive tips about the best paint colors to use when staging a house.


The Right Mindset

Staging your home to sell means considering things in your home a little differently. For example, what color would make a random stranger feel comfortable in your kitchen? Does this shade of gray make my bedroom appear smaller to others than it really is? It’s an unusual perspective, but asking questions like this—from the viewpoint of an outside observer—is essential to the home staging process. And it’s especially true with paint colors.

Curb Appeal

If you want to make an impact with color, why not start with the entryway? If your house is on the market in the spring or summer months, Dee Schlotter with PPG Paints has a unique tip: match the front door to the garden. “If the flowerbeds are ripe with roses, consider painting the front door red to reinforce the hue,” Schlotter suggests. “If you have sunflowers in bloom, choose a yellow pigment to bring out the sunny shade.” She says the dual impact of the colors will give the doorway a welcoming feel—and add to the home’s curb appeal.

The Case Against Bold Colors

The staging process is generally not the right time to try out a vibrant, trendy color. Emile L’Eplattenier, a real estate marketer and former New York City real estate agent, believes that you want potential buyers to be able to see themselves living in the home. “This can be very difficult with bright, vivid, or very dark colors,” L’Eplattenier says. “Worse, dark or vibrant colors can distract from how large (or cozy) a space might be.”

L’Eplattenier explains that darker colors make a room feel smaller and darker, while lighter colors open them up. He also suggests keeping the color timeless. “While dark greys are very trendy this year, as a general rule I would avoid them unless it’s for an accent wall,” he says.

Avoid Using All White

While white is useful in certain rooms, an all-white house can come across as stark or clinical. Edgar Marroquin, a designer and stager at ABQ Home Staging in Albuquerque, likes neutral colors, but usually avoids colors in the off-white family. “I think white is often boring,” Marroquin explains. “But there are exceptions: a white bathroom or laundry room feels clean.”

Marroquin also avoids white for ceilings. “If possible, I recommend painting the ceiling of a room the same color as the walls—but make it a few shades lighter,” he suggests.

Color Moods

Keep in mind that the colors you choose should match the mood of the room. “Bedrooms should be inviting and comfortable spaces,” explains Nicola Croughan, interior designer at Blinds Direct. “Opt for a neutral that creates this type of ambiance, such as a warm gray or soft cream,” Croughan suggests.

Sara McLean, a color expert and blogger for Dunn-Edwards, has a few ideas for the kitchen. “Soft, buttery yellows with slight brown undertones are popular, happy colors,” she says. “Olive and sage greens make kitchens feel fresh.”

If you’re still not sure what color a room should be, let your floors dictate the choice. “For hardwood floors, a warm beige or linen shade will brighten the tone of the room,” explains Schlotter. “If the floors are carpeted, consider a cooler neutral with blue or green undertones to highlight the sophistication of the space.”

The Final Paint Choice

So, you’ve picked a few colors that aren’t too bold and fit your home nicely. What are your next steps? McLean recommends painting a section of the wall near permanent structures like fireplaces, flooring, or cabinetry. “Live with the samples for at least a full day to see them in all light sources,” she says.

Once you’re happy with the color, the next step is to choose a gloss level. “Flat, velvet, or eggshell are good choices for interior walls, while higher sheen looks pretty on trim and in kitchens and bathrooms,” McLean explains. “The higher gloss levels are easier to clean, so they are ideal for higher traffic areas.”