Originally published in STIR®

Kelly talks to a professional home stager about colors that work, colors to avoid and putting aside your own design aesthetic.

U.S. home sales are finally on the rebound after falling sharply about five years ago. Even with this promising news, the housing market is still slower than before, and buyers are more cautious and savvy than ever. Therefore, it’s crucial that sellers find ways to make their property appealing to buyers on that first glance.

This gives designers and stylists a unique opportunity to offer home-staging services to new and former clients. However, you may have to learn some strategies that go against your design aesthetic. For example, if your designs usually include multiple colors, you’ll have to resist your “color urge” when you’re staging a home (more on that later).

“Staging sets up the home so that potential buyers will walk into the home and respond positively to the rooms and settings, and easily see themselves in the home,” explains Roslyn Ashford of ra reDoes rooms, Inc., based in the Washington, D.C., area.

Ashford, who started her staging and decorating business in 2004, says that 87 percent of people can’t visualize their things in someone else’s home. “That’s why it’s important to depersonalize the house to make it easier for the prospective buyer to see himself or herself in the space,” Ashford says.

That could mean actually undoing a well-thought-out design that was perfect for the present homeowners, but which could turn off prospective buyers. Ouch. I’ve worked with enough homeowners to know that some people are very sensitive when it comes to discussing their belongings. As designers, we also take pride in our projects and resist any changes to them. However, putting personal feelings aside is crucial to staging, which is all about selling a home quickly and for the highest dollar amount possible.

Getting back to the topic of color, I asked Ashford a few questions that I thought designers would be curious about:

What is the best approach when a client has used several paint colors throughout the house? Should they repaint or sell as is?
Ashford: Unless the homeowner has painted within the past year, they should repaint. New paint just gives everything a fresh look and feel. Using several colors throughout the house is fine, as long as they complement each other and the overall integrity of the house. Buyers are more accepting of colors these days. However, keep in mind that color preferences are geographic ⎯ what works in Charleston, S.C., may not work in New England.

Which neutral makes a home the most buyer-friendly ⎯ beige, white, off-white or gray?
Ashford: It totally depends on the style of the house and the amount of natural light. If the house is more traditional with a lot of trim and molding, a little color on the walls really emphasizes these details. So, deeper beiges, creams or grays could work well. If the house is more contemporary with large rooms and open spaces, off-white and soft grey might work better here. Keep in mind that kitchens and baths have their own built-in furniture, so having color in these spaces helps the rooms feel finished.

Are there any other colors besides neutrals that work for home staging?
Ashford: There is something about soft yellow that has consistently been an effective color in selling homes. Typically this works the best in common spaces like living or family rooms and dining rooms.

Are there any colors that should be avoided?
Ashford: Any colors that evoke a strong emotion should be avoided. Pink (in any shade), deep lavender and lime green are some examples.

Although there are other important aspects to home staging, such as furniture editing and placement, color plays a huge role, and as we know, color is personal. Dealing with a color issue also means dealing with a person’s feelings ⎯ in this case, the seller. So, you may have to gently explain that, yes, a home painted in 10 shades of pink may certainly get sold, but probably not as quickly, as easily or for as much money as a home with more subtle colors.