I am done listening to the overused mantra that says in essence - " your home wont be appealing to renters/buyers unless its presented in neutral colors". As a designer who has lived/worked on two continents, and seen how powerful the positive effects of color can be in appealing to peoples emotions - and having been either a renter or homebuyer personally with experience in looking at property for my own use, I have long had a little voice on my shoulder saying that this "neutral" philosophy is simply not true, or at best is seriously flawed. Its time to set the record straight!
I've just had a personal experience in the past week with the sale of an apartment property of my own which has proved to me once again that color is not the first thing on a buyers or renters mind when evaluating a property, and is not the distraction that is often thought. (see image to left of a condo apartment which sold in 14 hours after listing!)
So what's really the first thing on a buyers/renters mind when they are looking at property - what really 'gets' them? Try to recall your own experience, and I bet one of the first things you will comment on is how the property 'feels'. Many people will say "I'll know it when I see it". What they MEAN is how it makes them feel, and how the property responds to our emotional requirements of what a 'home' means.
If the right emotional buttons are pressed, we look past the color if indeed the color is not to our personal taste. Everyone knows that we our buying decisions are based on emotional reactions, right?
Buyers or renters will tell you that their main priorities are usually location, layout and size of rooms, appropriate amount of rooms, adequate storage, access to view(s) etc. These are usually bigger issues than the color of the space. But they also need to feel good about the space, and often color - if its done well - can be the biggest influencer in inspiring this good feeling.
Why do I say that? Because color directly impacts our emotions. Its true that we can't isolate color as the ONLY thing impacting our reaction to a space because we cannot ignore the importance of de-cluttering, removing items of a personal nature, and having well proportioned furnishings and accessories, presented so as to allow the viewer to see the property without distraction. It is these things in combination with color which we see all at once. Yet of all these elements, its color that has the most direct impact on our emotions. Scienctific researchers and color experts have known this for a long time, and surely they cannot be wrong!?
I have seen many badly done 'neutral' interiors which do nothing to lift the spirit and certainly didn't make me feel good in the space because they were bland and totally lacking in personality. I have also seen strongly colored interiors which did not get the color balance right, because they under or over-did it. Both extremes can have negative effects on how we feel in the space.
However, if color is done harmoniously, is balanced and tasteful, which flows through the spaces and creates cohesion/contrast and interest between the walls, floors, surfaces, furnishings, and accessories, then it will be a powerful ally in making a potential renter or buyer feel good in the space, regardless of how strong or quiet the colors are.
I recall back in my days of renting property when I was living in the UK, that I lived in two distinctly different properties. The first property was very colorful with golden yellow walls, off-white carpeting (yes in a rental property!), and there was a dark red sofa in the living room, with rich red damask draperies. These colors created a really warm and inviting atmosphere and made you want to linger and enjoy. The other property (which I lived in only becuase it was for a very short period!!) was beyond bland; carpeting that looked like the color of a 'London Fog' jacket, walls that were a bad shade of off-white, draperies that were anemic strands of basic beige. Ironically, the second location actually had a better layout and more space, but the LACK of color created a very impersonal, even cold, atmosphere in which the concept of 'lingering and enjoying' was overshadowed. The first space said "come in and enjoy" the second space said "I'm not comfortable here so why should you be?" The first space oozed confidence in itself and as such commanded a higher rent, even although the second property had more space, but cost less.
So color does not only enhance how we feel in a space, but it can enhance the perception of value of a property. And is it not every landlord or owners desire to get the most value for their investment?
Its time to ditch the myth that color stops people from taking action on a property and start seeing it as a powerful ally to help promote sales or rentals.
Of course, doing color can be tricky to get right, and many people out there take the 'neutral' way out because they think its easy. But don't be fooled - creating a well-executed neutral scheme can in many ways be more difficult than doing a great colored scheme. To give a neutral scheme personality, there MUST be layering of contrasting textures, interesting shapes, patterns, and tactile materials that will engage the senses and emotions. It can be very easy to 'paint the walls grey' and expect the place to look like a million bucks when all you've achieved is a space that is now more depressing and cold than before.
So before you go headlong in using color or neutrals, its always advisable to retain a good interior decorator/designer to give you advice which will add value to your property, putting personality into it which will engage the emotion of your potential buyer/renter.
Myth busted! Kevin Gray Interiors are available for in-person or online consultations. Inquire for details.
Best Regards, Kevin
Kevin Gray is a residential interiors specialist, who has more than 20 years experience in the interior and architectural design industry.