So you purchased your dream home. Congratulations! Now you’ve got a to-do list a mile long to get through before you’re officially moved in and hanging family photos on the wall. One task that may seem like it will be easy to check off is painting. But while a fresh coat is a relatively simple way to change and personalize your new space, completing a paint job efficiently and correctly is not as simple as just throwing a sheet on the floor and slapping some color on the wall.
“You wouldn’t try to do your own electrical work or plumbing,” explains Paul Viggiano of A.G. Williams Painting Company in Pelham. “You might have fond memories of painting,” he says, but that doesn’t mean we can handle painting an entire house.
There are major benefits to hiring a professional. For one, many Westchester painting companies are willing to start planning with homebuyers before the ink is even dry on the sale of the house. “I recommend new homeowners try to schedule a work date so some contractors, such as myself, can get into the house before they close,” says Viggiano. “A lot of homeowners don’t realize they can set that up, but typically as long as the agent is present we can visit and assess the house.”
This leaves time to have the house painted before furniture is moved in, which can help save time and money in the long run. Viggiano also points out that having a painting consultation early on can help when it comes to scheduling other construction. For example, he says, “A lot of times clients think the floor should be done after the painting. Both the floor contractor that I recommend and myself say that the floors should be done first. As painters we will protect the floors.”
Of course, not everyone may be ready to paint the entire house in one go. If you’re looking to save money or to take a bit more time with design decisions, “I would advise painting the rooms with the highest traffic first,” says Susan Reische of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “You have to live your day-to-day life there.”
And if you’re interested in painting the outside of your home, you’ll likely have to wait for warm weather. “In winter it is harder to prep for exterior painting,” says Reische. “Things like power washing are more challenging. Also, it is better not to paint [outside] when there is lots of rain and moisture in the air.”
After that initial meeting, a professional painter can help you determine what kind of preparation needs to be done to the walls, which colors will work best in your space, and which finish makes the most sense.
“The prep work for painting is so important,” says Reische. “I’ve seen homes freshly painted for sale and it looks like the painter just slapped paint on the walls and it looks really thick and drippy and has all the wrong finishes. With a bad paint job, you might as well not even paint at all.”
At the very least, your painter should be sanding the trim in your home and repairing any cracks in the plaster before they begin painting. Mitch Berliner of CertaPro Painters in Bedford Hills notes that if a home has major issues like “moisture or wall texture or even structural issues,” those things should be taken care of before paint is applied. “While paint is a great solution, the underlying issues must be resolved prior to painting.”
When it comes to finishes, “the lowest sheen is flat, then you have matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, high gloss,” explains Viggiano, listing the options from least to most sheen. “There are other ones in between that some manufacturers come up with,” he says, “but those are the standard sheens.”
So what does that mean? “The higher the sheen,” says Reische, “the more durable and easier it is to clean.” That means you might want to opt for at least satin or semi-gloss for trim. “In a hallway or kitchen eggshell would probably be better,” she says. “Flat or matte is stunning and beautiful but better kept for rooms with less traffic.”
The fun part, of course, is color. While CertaPro will send an interior designer to help you make the right choice, Reische shares some general rules of thumb: “In general, bright colors open up a space,” she says. “Darker colors make a space feel smaller and more intimate.” And though the Internet is a great resource for design inspiration, it’s important to take your ideas off-screen to test them out. “Paint on a poster board and walk around with it to test it in different lights,” she suggests. “Or you could paint it directly on the wall since you’re having your wall painted anyway. Live with it for a few days.”
Houlihan Lawrence agent Kim Arenas notes that more and more homeowners are opting to keep their color schemes neutral. “A hot color right now is Marilyn’s Dress by Benjamin Moore,” she says. “It’s kind of a very, very light bluish gray.”
Wendy Hughes, a Certified Interior Decorator with Wallauer’s Paint and Design Center in Scarsdale agrees. “Gray is quite popular and a good neutral choice,” she says. “And while there is no true gray there are many shades to select from.” For those that are looking for a warm feel Hughes advises her clients to choose grays with a taupe tone, and if you prefer a cool gray those would have a blue or green undertone. “A soft warm gray works especially well with bold accent colors,” she says.
Hughes is fond of saying ‘the walls don’t need to do the talking,’ meaning accessories such as throw pillows, bedding, area rugs and draperies can carry the color load. If you purchase a new home and don’t have furniture yet she advises staying with a shade of off-white or cream so it is easier to decorate. If you do have even a few signature pieces you can be inspired by what you do have. Even if it’s throw pillows, bedding or area rugs you can find inspiration in designing and painting the room with these accents in mind. “I would suggest avoiding the accent wall,” says Hughes. “It’s becoming a little too overdone lately.” Besides paint she suggests that a new homeowner consider wallpaper. “Wallpaper is a great way to introduce color and texture and it has never gone out of style.”
Rachel Wallace is a Westchester-based freelance writer.