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What's the Secret to Picking the Right House Paint?

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Sarah Buys a House has been a chronicle of Sarah DeGiorgis' journey along the road to becoming a property owner in West Philadelphia. Now that she owns the home, it will chronicle the renovation.

By Sarah DeGiorgis
I touched last time not wanting my house to be trendy. But now I’m thinking of colors. I like colors. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about colors in my everyday life, though I don't have any particular reason to. My favorite color has always has been (aside from a short time when I was young and wanted pink everything) green. Pretty much any shade will do, but a nice deep moss or hunter is better than, say, yellowish green. There are certain shades of green that are so pleasing to my eyes that I sigh with satisfaction when I see them. They actually make me feel calmer and happier just because I love the color so much. Am I crazy?

Don’t answer that because I’m going to go with no, I just like certain shades of green. Surely this is the case for people who really like blue or red or whatever other color. So now that I’m thinking about interior and exterior colors, green is definitely the first on my list.

But I also want to keep the house bright and airy, and the deep shades of green my eye finds most pleasing really are the antithesis of bright and airy. I’d like the exterior of the house to be on the lighter side, so now I’m thinking of green as an accent color.

Depending on cost, I’d like to have the exterior painted with three colors: one light main color, then one for trim, and one for little accents like the garlands below the windows and some details near the roof. I’m thinking off-white or beige or maybe a soft butter yellow for the main color and then either two different shades of green or green and another color for the trim and accents. The trick for me is trying to imagine how the colors will look on something as big as a house. Lots of shades of green I like are on plants, but the color on a leaf and on a whole house is a bit different.

I learned this the hard way when my parents bought a car and let me pick out the color. I should be a little more specific: It wasn’t just a car, it was a Volkswagon Eurovan, the ’90s version of the old VW bus except, like, five times bigger. My parents were very excited about this reincarnation of their old beloved van, this time with modern upgrades such as heat and seat belts. For some crazy reason they let me pick out the color and so I went with the only green there was: Bold Caribbean Teal. The name, which has been seared into my memory, should have been an indicator that this was a, um, bold color, but one little square inch looked like a very nice shade of dark bluish-green.

Well. I was not so excited about my parents getting a VW van when I was just a few short years away from getting my driver’s license. And I was definitely not excited when we drove to pick it up and there it was, practically glowing in the dusk and visible from about five miles away. I think I may have started crying. For a shy girl who was just starting her freshman year in high school—where everyone’s mantra seemed to be “blend in”—this car (that I'd have to learn to drive on!) was basically the equivalent of the universe laughing at me. And to top it off, I had done this to myself! I’m still scarred from that incident and I don’t want the same thing to happen to my house—though I’m not so worried about blending in anymore.

So I try looking at other houses for color inspiration, since at least I can see how colors look on such a big scale. And...there are a lot of ugly house colors out there. Also, it seems like every house is brick or stone, two materials that are already lovely colors. My house, like most houses in Philadelphia, is brick—but brick that has been painted multiple times. If it’s possible, I’d like to try to get the paint off the brick, but I’m not banking on that. So I try to notice other house colors and see what I like and don’t. Right now I have my eye on a butter yellow painted brick house with light blue trim, a color scheme I find visually pleasing and that satisfies my “bright and airy” requirement. But I also don’t want to copy someone else’s house colors because that feels oddly like plagiarism or something. So I’m still looking. In the meantime, I'm painting all the interior walls white, which has done wonders already. Although I think even Bold Caribbean Teal would be better than the blue that’s been on the walls until now.