Real Estate

Painting the door red (or turquoise or purple)

When it comes to the entry to your home, how risk-averse are you?

Interior designer Kit Davey has advised hundreds of clients on paint colors for their homes and front doors. Some people are bold and take risks with a bright orange or a shade of green that reminds them of a forest. Others stick with a beige house, with a dark beige door.

Real estate agents, Davey said, like "safe" colors like white or hunter green. And, as far as they are concerned, orange is not the new black. Black is actually a trendy neutral now.

So what about those orange or bright gold or turquoise doors starting to pop up around the Midpeninsula?

The first thing to know, she said, is "there is no rule of thumb." But, if you are selling your home, your Realtor may tell you differently.

"If you're a Realtor, the Realtor would say 'play it safe,' with black, forest green or navy," she said.

What about complementary colors, like orange and blue?

"I don't get into color theory (using an artist's color wheel) with a front door," Davey said. Rather, the client needs to find a color that makes them happy. Perhaps it's a color that goes with seasonal flowers in the garden, or even the car that's parked in the driveway.

"It has a lot to do with the client's personality," Davey said, how private they are, how risk-averse or how willing to take risks they are.

She notes that people shouldn't look at the door in isolation.

"It's more of a holistic thing. It's not about the door," she advised.

Getting samples from a paint store is a good idea, but only after the colors have been narrowed down to shades such as greens or blues or oranges. Small swatches can be painted on the door, or you can stand back and hold samples against the palette of your yard. Many paint companies also group colors that go together so you can pick a trio of colors like a stucco color, wood window trim color and door color.

What color is Davey's front door?

She's on her sixth door color, a lilac-purple accented by a purple bench and purple shutters. Her house is seafoam green.

The best thing about painting your front door, she said, is "it's a job you can do yourself. I just use the (old) paint as the primer."

Paint company Sherwin Williams advertises a door paint that gives instant gratification, as it dries in only an hour so you could potentially paint your door and have guests for dinner that evening walking through a newly painted front door.

But Davey doesn't advise making your decision too quickly.

Architecture can definitely play a role in painting the door, she said. For example, a French Tudor home might not lend itself to an orange door, but a Midcentury Modern Eichler would look spectacular with its clean lines and generally neutral wood walls.

"I would suggest just start driving around and see what you like," Davey said, or look up old issues of Sunset magazine. "Start doing some research in three dimensions, then go to the paint store, and then you're not random about it."

Just the names of exterior door colors are enough to inspire. At Benjamin Moore, one of their paint products known as Grand Entrance, specifically formulated for exterior doors, has colors named Amalfi Coast (a deep Tahoe blue) or 10 Downing Street (a traditional British black).

"I think that the front door of a person's house has always offered an opportunity for a homeowner to add a bit of their own personality to the exterior entrance," said Menlo Park architect Kelly Johnson, who designs homes but often gets consulted on paint colors. Sometimes, she said, the homeowner wants a pop of color to say "Right here: front door. Welcome!" Other times, they might want to make everything from the window trim to the door look unified with a more matched palette.

Johnson said while there is no right answer, both the style of the door and the color of the door be considered carefully since the person likely goes through that door a few times a day.

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