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Tips on painting a house of a different color

Homeowners quake at the prospect of selecting paint colors for large outdoor expanses. The walls of a house suddenly seem so public, and it's expensive to make a color mistake.

Having a pleasing street presence is not only important for peace among neighbors but for resale purposes. In the real estate market, a home's street presence becomes all-important curb value.

A few people still own homes that are not cloaked by standard white or taupe vinyl siding. A few bold homeowners are willing to express their color personalities for the viewing pleasure of curbside visitors.

We found sterling examples of such colorful homes clustered in a pleasant Lebanon, Ohio, neighborhood. Driving around and paying attention to house colors is the best training for any decisions about one's own casa grande.

Peggy Van Allen manages color services for Sears in the Chicago area. She tracks color trends and has a colorful track record in repainting homes for herself. About six moves since 1996 is the reason.

She was born and raised in a white house, so she tends to add more color wherever she lands. A yellow house she sold easily within a week in the "hot Chicago market." In Cleveland, she painted a white house "beigey" with sage shutters and dark grape trim. Back in Chicago, her present home she changed to taupe and wants to make the trim an almond color to go with the brick.

Taupe is hot, she says, but lighter and cleaner. "It has evolved a bit, especially in the Midwest."

House colors are definitely regional. Midwesterners tend to be negative about blue, but they love blue interiors. Yellow is a more traditional house color in states like Ohio, so it sells. "More of those we're seeing are paler, not quite so warm," Ms. Van Allen says.

She supposes that white houses are still No. 1 "because the story with exteriors is traditional. White is safe, and they must keep their color choice for a long time."

To venture into bolder territory, she would advise homeowners to consider how best to blend their homes into the street scene and to consider the climate.

"Cotton candy colors look best in the Southeast," she said.

The roof is a big factor. Three-dimensional shingles, so popular now, draw even more attention to the roof, so a home's wall colors must coordinate with it.

The size of a house is also a factor. "Darker colors make a house look smaller," she says. "Lighter colors make it look larger."

Ms. Van Allen suspects we're about to see even more color creativity outdoors.

"If the economy is troubled, people may plan to own their houses longer, so they'll do improvements based on personal taste rather than on resale," she said.

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