I have an uncle who is a realtor, and his famous line every time we look at a house with him is “All it needs is a little paint and paper!” Back when we were looking for our first house, I had a newborn. There was nothing about “a little paint and paper” that wasn’t completely overwhelming to me. I wanted to move into a house, put my dishes in the cabinets, the couch & tv in the living room and call it a day. As we looked at house after house, there were places that looked to me to be a total tear down, and he was telling me that it just needed a little paint and paper! What? I mean we are talking hideous carpeting, horrendous drapery & wallpaper everywhere! How the heck was I going to make it look like Pottery Barn??? (It was 2001 & I was exhausted. Forgive me.) So we bought a house that was mostly done, took down a little wall paper, and painted each room a different color. BAM. DONE! BACK then I went with all the tuscan tones. Beige hallways, a red dining room, apricot living room, you get the point. At the time, we loved it. Looking back, I cringe. (You can see this design masterpiece here.)
From there, in 2006 we moved into a house that was pretty much new construction. It was light and bright and we kept it neutral. All of the main living spaces and hallways are Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter – which is a great neutral in the greige family. I then realized that the upside to all neutral walls is that you can have pillow and rug ADD. I learned to love to swap out my pillow covers all the time. It kept me from getting bored with the space & I was able to keep it fresh and updated at minimal expense.
Fast forward to 2016 when we bought an old 1900 New England Colonial and hadn’t sold our other house. It needed a total refresh & I didn’t have much of a budget to work with. I decided to paint all the walls to freshen them up and brighten up the house. The trim had recently been painted, so we were spared that expense. The house doesn’t get much natural light. It’s just the way it sits on the lot and is pretty much enveloped in massive trees with houses on all sides. It needed to really be brightened up. I decided to go with lighter brighter neutrals with Benjamin Moore Classic Grey throughout all the hallways and common spaces and Nimbus in the big long livingroom. I decided to take a risk in 2 rooms and go with darker blues and teals. I knew that I wanted some color in our family room with has this really cool paneling (I will admit that I was completely overwhelmed by the thought at first. The paneling seemed so old-fashioned and stuffy – but I looked and looked and finally settled on Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor. I found it on Pinterest and then scoured the web to see photos of what it looked like in all sorts of rooms. I knew it would be dark, but I decided to take the risk. I absolutely love it and have zero regrets. The other risk I took was in the master bedroom. At the time I was picking colors, one of my favorite designers and bloggers, Emily Henderson, had a series of blog posts up of a renovation one of the designers on her team, Orlando Soria, had recently completed on his condo. I became obsessed with the master bedroom. Every time I thought about color, I went back to that post. The color he used in his master bedroom was Ralph Lauren Iron Blue. My initial thought was to use it on an accent wall in the room, but when it came down to the day that the master was getting painted, I threw caution to the wind and decided to just go for it. I have ZERO regrets. I am so so glad I went for it. It is for sure my favorite room in the house. The color is just so cozy and peaceful.
Bottom line is that painting can be a super cost effective way to freshen up a space. Picking a color can be totally overwhelming. There’s no denying it. My advice would be to look beyond Pinterest. Pinterest can be a great tool for narrowing down colors, but just seeing a small sample of the color on your screen doesn’t really ever translate into what it might look like all over your walls. Dig deeper. Google the color. Find blog posts that feature the color in a room. See how it looks. How it is styled. When picking a neutral, focus on whether you want one with warm or cool undertones. Simply explained, warmer undertones tend to be more yellow/beige and cooler undertones tend to be more grey/blue. Personally, given my 2001 Pottery Barn situation, I really tend to steer away from colors in that “tuscan” family. I loved it back then and maybe it just brings me back to those isolating days of too many babies and not enough hands, but I’m all about the light neutrals that lean towards grey.
Next challenge is do I hire someone to paint or do I do it myself? My answer is, it depends. I tend to be quite impatient (shocker) and when I need a room painted, I want it done yesterday. That’s when I head to the hardware store, pick up my gallon of paint & some painters tape and I dig out my ladder and drop cloth. A great example of this is came this past summer, when on a whim I decided that my Dedham kitchen was just too dark. It gets about zero natural light and felt kind of like a cave. I convinced Ollie (my 11 year old) to drive up with me to paint the kitchen. The 2 of us banged it out in about 4 hours. We had the tunes cranking & came up with a system. I cut in to the trim and he rolled the walls. I was having a hard time settling on a light color, so I decided to go with Classic Grey and I cut it to 25%. It’s pretty much white with just a little tinge of grey undertone. It made a world of difference in the space. If the ceilings are low and the space isn’t too overwhelming, do it yourself! It’s fun and so satisfying! If the moldings look good and are painted some version of tolerable white, don’t touch them. Mr. Clean Magic erasers go a long way to brighten up moldings. This is where your kids can come in really handy – I have been known to pay people to magic erase trim.
The bottom line is that a space can really be cleaned up and transformed in a day and all you need is a little paint, time to scour the web for inspiration, and some elbow grease.
Following are some images from our current house:
Below Benjamin Moore Classic Grey cut to 25%.
Benjamin Moore Nimbus.
Benjamin Moore Classic Grey.
Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor.
Benjamin Moore Simply White.
Benjamin Moore Nimbus.
Ralph Lauren Iron Blue.