Sandy LeRoy's Blog

January 12, 2012

Beautiful Full Spectrum Paints Are Now Main Stream

Color Stories Fan Deck

Until very recently, full spectrum paints were available only through a few boutique sources, and most people weren’t familiar with them. That’s about to change with the introduction of Color Stories, a revolutionary collection of 240 full spectrum, one of a kind colors by Benjamin Moore. These vibrant colors are so carefully formulated that they seem to come to life on a wall in a way that traditional paint colors can’t duplicate.

What’s so special about full spectrum colors? Unlike traditional colors which normally are made with only three pigments, black being one of them, full spectrum colors are made with between five and seven pigments, and no black or gray. The result is an exceptional, complex color. You can’t fully see the difference until the paint is on the wall, but the colors are breath-taking.

The Color Stories line is made with proprietary colorants and resins, and formulated with Benjamin Moore’s patented waterborne technologies, which means that you can’t take a sample to your local Home Depot and ask them to duplicate it.  It’s available only in Benjamin Moore Aura Interior paints.

Here’s why you should consider full spectrum colors for your next interior painting project:

  • More clarity and purity.
  • Richer, more vibrant color with more depth and luminosity.
  • The color will change more with the light throughout the day.
  • The colors reflect a broader range of light and coordinate more easily with the colors around them.
  • Because they don’t include black, the colors don’t get muddy or lose their character in low light.
There are eight palettes in the Color Stories line:
  • Naturally Neutral
  • Shades of Gray
  • Earthen Hues
  • Elemental Greens
  • Fiery Sunset
  • Fluid Blues
  • Golden Fields
  • Violet Twilight

Click on the image for a closer look:

Naturally Neutal

Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray

Earthen Hues

Elemental Green

Fiery Sunset

Fluid Blues

Golden Fields

Violet Twilight

Paint colors formulated with all the hues of the natural light spectrum, minus the dulling effect of black, will bring new life and energy to the spaces where you and your family spend the most time. I’m excited by this product. Now all I have to do is convince Roger that we need to repaint our entire house. Wish me luck!

If you’re planning an interior painting project of your own, call me to talk about it and schedule an estimate (828-692-4355). If you choose us to do the work, help finding the right color(s) is a free part of our service. With full spectrum paints applied by a professional, you’re assured of a result that will transform your home into a place you’ll enjoy and be proud to share.

January 5, 2012

Farewell to the 100 Watt Bulb

While I’m definitely on board when it comes to saving energy, I’m a little sad about the demise of the 100 watt incandescent bulb because of the traditional warm glow it casts. These bulbs are gone as of January 1st,  followed by the demise of the 75 watt bulb next January and the 60 and 40 watt bulbs the following year. As much as I welcome progress and the new lighting technology, I’m glad that the small bulbs for my chandelier aren’t affected.

Buying light bulbs today is more complicated than it used to be, but there are tools that will make that process very easy and give us better information than we’ve had in the past. Here’s how to go about it:

First determine the wattage of the existing bulb and its equivalent in lumens from the chart below. Click on the image to make it larger.

For each bulb you’re considering, you need to know:

  • wattage in lumens compared with the bulb you’re replacing
  • its color temperature (CCT) which shows whether the light cast by the bulb is warm or cool, as measured in degrees Kelvin on a scale from 2700K to 6500K. The lower the number, the warmer or more yellow the light.
  • its CRI (Color Rendering Index) number which tells you on a scale of 1 to 100 how accurately the light renders color.
The excellent new Lighting Facts Label from the Department of Energy gives you answers to all these questions, and a lot more.

Lighting Facts Label

The Color Rendering Index number is particularly important when you’re making paint color decisions because of the way lighting changes our perception of color. It also helps to know the CRI if you want to cool the look of a room that gets too hot, or warm the look of one that has little natural light, or feels cold.

Today we have many more lighting options than ever before, along with the chance to save energy and money, and the tools to help us make informed choices.  That’s progress!  Now that I think about it,  I won’t miss those 100 watt bulbs, after all…

November 18, 2011

Elizabeth Bradley, Artist and Designer

Filed under: Design — Sandy LeRoy @ 1:57 am
Tags: , ,

Ever since it became the home of William and Kate, the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the once quiet little island of Anglesey off the northwest coast of Wales has been in the spotlight, but I always think of it as the home of famed needlepoint designer Elizabeth Bradley, whose headquarters was in Beaumaris.

Years ago when I was in the insurance business I was lucky to be a frequent traveler to London seeking coverage for my high risk clients. I made the most of these opportunities by adding vacation time to every trip, and soon I became immersed in all things British. At the Liberty Store on Regent Street, a place where I could wander for days, I discovered Elizabeth Bradley needlepoint kits in beautiful, detailed traditional designs. Even in those days the kits were horribly expensive, and way beyond my budget. Fortunately, Elizabeth Bradley had published three books with charts of her designs, and eventually I was able to create my favorite cushions at a fraction of what the kits cost by buying blank canvas and Appleton wool in colors matched to those of Elizabeth Bradley wool.

I loved Elizabeth Bradley’s designs so much that over the years I stitched about 40 (!) cushions, one bell pull, and a huge square wreath of flowers, all of which I have to this day. Most of the designs can be related to a season, so I change out many of the cushions in our house four times a year, and when I make the change,  it’s like seeing old friends. I no longer do needlepoint, but I still have plenty of wool and canvas if the urge comes over me again.

The other day I wondered if there were new Elizabeth Bradley designs, and when I visited the website I discovered that she’s apparently sold her company (now located in Oxford). Further exploration lead me to her new incarnation as Liz Bradley, artist, still in Anglesey, whose drawings of flowers, animals and landscapes are every bit as exquisite as her needlepoint designs.

Here are some of the Autumn cushions that I’ll be putting away, all too soon.

November 3, 2011

Should You Paint Your Wood Paneling Before You List?

A light, bright cheerful house is high on the list of what buyers want. If your house has wood paneling and the interior looks dark, should you paint it before you list?

Recently I did a staging consulation at a house with a lot of dark paneling, including built-in cabinets and shelves around the fireplace. The house had been on the market with a couple of firms for a very long time, and the owners also had tried to sell it themselves, without so much as a nibble. Now the house was about to be listed with a new firm, and their very smart REALTOR knew that it was important to get professional staging help before the new pictures were taken. Before I arrived she had warned her clients that one of the things I most likely would suggest was that they paint the interior, including the dark wood paneling. The sellers told me they weren’t looking forward to it, but if I thought it was necessary, they were willing.

Both the husband and wife worked full time and had demanding schedules plus the added stress of serious financial problems. They needed to sell as quickly as possible. I kept all this in mind as we walked through the house and also looked at the exterior and garden. Some things absolutely had to be done, like packing non-essential items and removing large pieces of furniture that were making small rooms look even smaller. There were also deferred maintenance chores, inside and outside, that had to be addressed. Although these things required some hard work, they wouldn’t cost money and would have a huge impact. Part of the exterior and most of the interior did need fresh paint, but the sellers were going to do the work themselves to minimize the cost. Everyone was shocked (and delighted) when I said that I didn’t see any need to paint the wood paneling too, because there were other, much easier and more effective ways to bring in more light.

Here’s what I suggested:

  • Remove the window treatments in the garden room at the back of the house. They weren’t needed because privacy and light control weren’t issues, and they had been hung on the top of the casing, covering a third of every window. With the window treatments gone, it would look more like a garden room and more light would flow through it  into the dining area which had paneling on the lower section of the walls, and the adjoining the kitchen with its dark wood cabinets.
  • Remove a fifteen foot tall camellia that had been planted all by itself near a corner of the sunroom. Although it was a mature plant, the rose flowers clashed with the yellow brick on the exterior of the house, and more significantly, it blocked a great deal of light in the kitchen and dining area, making them look gloomy.
  • Remove the window treatments over the kitchen sink which were blocking even more light.
  • Repaint most of the walls in a light taupe, particularly the clashing magenta walls above the paneling in the entryway.  Note that I didn’t suggest white paint because there’s nothing less flattering to wood than a stark white because of the high contrast and lack of color harmony.
  • Carefully prune the two overgrown Japanese maples that were planted in front of the living room window and blocked the light.
  • Re-hang all window treatments at the top of the wall to make the ceilings look higher and allow more light to enter. 
  • Add colorful accessories for impact and appeal. 

Now in a perfect world, with sellers who had more time and a larger budget, I would have recommended that all the paneling be painted, as well as all the built-ins and the cabinets in the kitchens and all the bathrooms, plus all the trim. Truth be told, that house needed quite a lot of work, but staging isn’t about perfection, it’s about finding reasonable solutions that sellers can achieve, solutions that will help them sell their house.

July 26, 2011

Choosing Exterior Paint Colors? Use This Questionnaire.

 Many people find it difficult to choose paint colors because they don’t know how to begin or what factors they should consider. To help guide you to a color plan that will make your house look its best, I’ve developed the following questionnaire.  


  •  How large is the site?

               The larger the site, the more color latitude you have. 

  •   What is the relationship of the house to the site?

                 The more secluded the site, the more color latitude you have.

  •   How close and visible are your neighbors?

                Do their color decisions affect yours?

  •    If your neighbors are visible, what colors have they used?  

                Your house should look harmonious, but different.

  •   What is the distance from the house to the curb?

                Is the front yard very deep or shallow? Color can adjust how it looks.

  •   Does your subdivision, neighborhood association or historic district have strict rules about color?  

                New colors may require formal approval.


  •  What is the architectural style of the house?
               Rustic, contemporary, colonial, bungalow, ranch, etc.
  •   Does the architecture suggest a color palette?

                 •   Regional colors (tropical, urban, mountains, desert)

                 •   Historic colors (Colonial, Craftsman, Victorian, etc.)

  •    Does the house have pleasing portions?

                You may be able  to make adjustments  by how and where color is used,  or by adding trim or  other decoration.

  •   Are there different siding materials?

                Don’t automatically accent them. The result could look busy or choppy.

  •   Are there horizontal or vertical banding boards?

                Banding boards are usually utilitarian, not decorative.   If they’re accented, the house often looks busy and chopped up.

  •   What are the dominant colors in the permanent elements, such as the roof, stonework, walkways, etc.?

                Are the undertones warm (yellow), cool (blue) or neutral (white)? 

  •   Is the entryway a naturally attractive focal point, or is the garage door the first thing you see?        

               Paint the garage door with the wall color to minimize its impact.

                (All doors aren’t paintable. Check the warranty first.)

  •   Is the entryway recessed and dark, even in daylight, or shallow and  bright?

               If it’s dark, consider a light or vibrant color for the front door.

  •   Is the front door painted or stained?

                •    If the door can be painted, choose a unique color for pizzazz, and to create a focal point. Coordinate with the other colors and the                        permanent elements.

                •    If the door is stained and in need of refinishing, coordinate the stain color with the paint color(s) and the permanent elements. 

  •   Is there a separate storm or screen door?

               •    Is the style compatible with the front door? Storm and screen doors often hide the features of the front door, or clash with it.

               •    Can the storm or screen door be painted the front door color? 

  •  Are any doors and windows pre-finished, with parts that are  inaccessible, or can they be painted?

             If they can’t be painted, consider them permanent elements and incorporate the color in your overall plan.

  •  Are there attractive, paintable details to highlight, such as   windows, doors,  shutters or trim?

             Don’t automatically accent every detail!  Consider its role and the effect on the house as a whole. Banding boards are a perfect example of a detail that usually shouldn’t be accented, particularly in high contrast colors.

  •  Is the foundation visible?

              Paint the foundation in the wall color, or a coordinated one of similar value, to create unity with the house. 

  •  Are functional items visible, such as downspouts, cable or utility boxes, wiring?

              Make them “disappear” by painting them in the wall color.      

  •  What colors dominate the permanent landscaping?

               Consider the color(s) of foliage, flowers, fruit and bark. Are the undertones  warm (yellow, orange, red), or  cool (blue, green, violet) or neutral (white). Paint and landscaping colors that clash is a common problem.


  •   What colors do you like?

                Light, dark, neutrals, historic… 

  •   What overall impression do you want to create?

               Elegant, modern, rustic, cottage, grand, sophisticated, dramatic, subtle …


  • Pick colors that work with the permanent elements.
  • Plan how to make corrections with color where needed.
  • Choose the right things to accent. 
  • Camouflage the rest.

Details Add Up and Make A Difference…

Getting Started

  • Answer the questions in the survey.
  •  Determine what will be accented and what will be painted in the wall color.
  •  Decide what paint you want to use, then gather brochures to get ideas for color combinations.
  • Choose two or three candidates for the wall color and buy the smallest amount of paint you can to create sample boards. View the samples under varying conditions and choose a color.
  •  Be sure you really do like the color by painting a small wall before buying all the paint you’ll need.
  •  Choose candidates for the trim and front door colors. Create sample boards.   For trim, cut the board into strips and place around a door or window to show how the color would look in proportion to the wall.
  •  Analyze the effect of the wall and trim colors, then choose the front door color.
Choose paint colors that work well together and flatter the permanent elements in your house and landscaping, in all seasons.
©2011 Sandy LeRoy

July 8, 2011

What Color Should You Paint the Garage Door?

Filed under: Paint Color Tips and Tricks — Sandy LeRoy @ 9:54 pm

Because of its size, a  garage door painted in an accent color commands a disproportionate amount of attention and detracts from the entryway which should be the focal point of your house.  After all, the garage door is only the entrance to where your cars live. It’s not where you welcome visitors. People are more important than cars, so paint your garage door the same color as the walls of your house, and choose a special accent color for your front door, a color that’s used nowhere else.  You’ll be amazed at the difference this simple change will make.

April 8, 2011

Pack Those Family Treasures!

Many families place great importance on displaying personal items such as pictures of loved ones, treasured collections, crafts and expressions of political opinions or religious faith throughout the house. For them, one of the more difficult recommendations to implement when selling is the widely accepted advice to pack these special belongings before listing. Often these sellers don’t understand the reasons for the recommendation and refuse to do the work. Many consider it unnecessary, and some think it’s a form of betrayal, particularly when faced with prospect of storing certain things for an extended period.

One seller was certain buyers want to see who lives in the house, so she intended to keep everything in place. Others think that family pictures add warmth, and the house would be cold and sterile without them. Many worry that storing personal items will upset or offend family members. Sellers with collections believe that buyers enjoy seeing them. Crafters want to continue working on their projects while the house is on the market, and know that buyers want to see their work. Many people of strong religious faith need to proclaim their beliefs to all visitors. Others worry that the house will look too decorated and perfect and they won’t be able to maintain it. We continue to hear every possible reason for avoiding the recommendation to store most personal items. Do you see yourself in any of these examples?

For those who are reluctant to pack and store personal items, here are a few reasons to reconsider. They will give you some ammunition to explain your decision and why it should be interpreted as a positive step, and that storing is safe-keeping, not discarding.

  • An abundance of personal items announces that you’re living in the house and aren’t serious about selling.
  • Family pictures, collection, crafts, etc. create clutter, reducing the effectiveness of marketing materials, especially photographs.
  • Too many belongings diminish the chance to make a dynamic first impression.
  • An abundance of personal items makes rooms appear crowded and small.
  • Buyers will look at personal belongings and won’t see or appreciate the features of the house.
  • Visual distractions disrupt communications between the buyer and the agent showing the house, limiting interest.

Smart Selling Tip:

For a quicker, more profitable sale, don’t resist the recommendation to pack personal items before listing the house and marketing pictures are taken.


©2011 Sandy LeRoy and Mary Stephens

April 1, 2011

The Power of Plants

Don’t overlook the benefits of including plants when staging your house. Green plants are attractive finishing touches that convey positive subliminal messages, suggesting that the house is a pleasant, healthy environment in which to live. Plants fill empty spaces and soften the impression of hard surfaces, like countertops and fixtures, creating a welcoming atmosphere. Incorporating plants also produces more attractive photographs, giving a big boost to your marketing efforts.

Strategies for Living Plants

Large plants can be bought inexpensively, often for far less than a comparable artificial one. Watch for sales. Some plants are easy to grow indoors, including:

Cast Iron Plant – Prefers low light. Low moisture requirements.

Pothos – Tolerates all lighting conditions. Allow to dry between waterings.

Dracena – Grows best in bright light. Allow to dry between waterings.

Supplement live plants with artificial ones for an abundant, custom look.

Solid green foliage is preferable in most situations. For special occasions, like an open house, group cell packs of flowering plants in a container and plant outdoors afterward. Use a single color and coordinate with the décor.

When there is adequate light, consider using at least one living plant in a focal area. If the house is dark or vacant, artificial or everlasting plants are best. With a self-watering container or a drip water bottle, you can use living plants in a vacant house.

Strategies for Artificial Plants

Artificial plants go on sale regularly. Look for ads and clip coupons. In addition,

Choose a plant in proper scale with its surroundings.

Avoid plants with dramatic leaf variegation.

Use plants with different growth habits (upright, full or trailing), leaf sizes, shapes and textures.

Use branches from the garden and other dried materials like seed heads or pods to add interest.

For special occasions, supplement artificial arrangements with live flower stems in small water cylinders, or add a few high quality silk flowers.


A well-chosen container improves the impact and perceived quality of a simple living plant or an inexpensive artificial plant. Evaluate the size, color, shape, material(s) and design. Choose one in scale with the plant and top with mulch or moss for a finished look.

Smart Selling Tip:

Include plants, real or not, when staging your house.  Plants create warmth and appeal and convey positive subliminal messages to buyers, while enhancing your marketing efforts with more attractive pictures.

© 2011 Sandy LeRoy and Mary Stephens

March 25, 2011

Unintended Negative Messages

Many sellers don’t realize the unintended negative messages that could be conveyed by the choices they make when preparing the house for sale. Buyers make assumptions about your house as a result of unintended messages, so be certain the impression your house creates is positive before you list. Details matter! Buyers may not be consciously aware of all their negative responses, and likely won’t verbalize them, but their actions, or lack of action, will reflect how they truly feel about the house.

If you were a buyer, consider how you would respond to the following:


  • Overgrown landscaping
  • Dirt and mold on the house
  • Deferred repairs
  • Ragged, unattractive lawn
  • Cracked sidewalks and driveway
  • Chipped and peeling paint
  • Small, pre-fabricated storage sheds
  • Maintenance equipment in plain view
  • Weather-beaten light fixtures and hardware


  • Crowded with belongings
  • Items stored haphazardly
  • Dirty, dark environment
  • Crowded workspaces
  • Oil deposits on the floor.


  • Mustiness or pet odors
  • Rooms not used as intended
  • Space heaters or portable fans
  • Dated, inadequate lighting
  • Dirty carpet or floor coverings
  • Personal or dated  paint colors and wallpaper
  • Walls that need painting
  • Dirty windows and window treatments
  • Dated appliances and fixtures
  • Dirty, damaged grout
  • Bulging closets
  • Crowded cupboards and countertops
  • Family pictures, memorabilia and collectibles in abundance
  • Rooms crowded with furniture and accessories
  • Out of scale furniture

Assumptions Buyers Could Make

  • There has been deferred maintenance that I’ll have to pay for.
  • Major investment is needed to make this house liveable.
  • Extensive cleaning is needed.
  • Other things are wrong with the house.
  • The house is old and dated.
  • There isn’t enough storage.
  • Daily living is inconvenient.
  • The house is uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter.
  • The rooms are too small and my furniture won’t fit.
  • Maintenance is overwhelming.
  • They don’t care about the house. Why should I?
  • They’re not serious about selling.
  • If I make an offer, I can low-ball it.

What unintended messages could your house be sending?

Smart Selling Tip:

Look at your house through a buyer’s eyes. Be sure that you’re not conveying unintended messages that will have a negative impact on buyers. Don’t give them an excuse to move to your competition.

© 2011 Sandy LeRoy and Mary Stephens

March 18, 2011

Curing Your Crawl Space

If you’ve identified a problem in your crawl space, address it right away. Left alone, the situation will only get worse, and the buyer’s home inspector is likely to notice!

The solution depends upon the type of crawl space you have:

Open Crawl Space:  The most common, least energy efficient and most trouble-prone type, with an exposed or partially covered dirt floor and open foundation vents.

Closed Crawl Space: The preferable type, and more costly to build. There are variations in the types of flooring and walls and the encapsulation products and moisture control equipment used.

Crawl Space Strategies for Sellers

Get a pre-listing home inspection. If you’ve noticed any symptoms, ask the inspector to pay special attention to the crawl space and advise whether or not you need a professional assessment by a crawl space specialist. Choose the company with care, as North Carolina does not regulate this work, and there are no qualification standards. Ask how many years of moisture control experience the individual has, and where and how he was trained. Find out how many moisture control projects he’s done. Get the names of client references, and be sure to check them.

Some companies will provide a free assessment. During the visit, discuss the specifics of the ideal products and equipment for your project. Ask if there are any less costly alternatives. Get estimates, but be aware that a low price could be a sign of inexperience, improper shortcuts or the use of inferior products and equipment. For example, the plastic sheeting and tape normally found at home improvement stores are poor choices. In some cases it may be possible to do some or all of the work yourself, but only if you know the right solutions and can implement them correctly, using the right products. Remember that the buyer’s home inspector will be checking your work, and if it wasn’t done properly, you may have to pay for it a second time!

Basic Recipe for a Healthy Crawl Space

  • Vapor barrier or concrete floor (mud pad)
  • Insulation
  • Dehumidifier

The correct solution depends upon the type of crawl space.

Smart Selling Tip: Get a pre-listing home inspection and ask whether or not you need a professional assessment of your crawl space. If repairs are needed, do the work correctly as the buyer’s home inspector will find any defects, and you could pay twice.

© 2011 Sandy LeRoy and Mary Stephens

Special thanks to John Salmon, Foothills Crawlspace (828-817-5380,


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