The Evils of Real Estate Beige and Builder White

Home Stager

For many years now, the general concensus of color when selling a house was that one should employ the 'neutral' shades known as Real Estate Beige and Builder white.  However, it is obvious (to me, at least) that such a sweeping generalization causes more harm that good.

Should one spend even the smallest amount of time researching color and paint selection, one would find that many different factors can alter a paint color once it is applied in a space such as natural light, artificial light and material choices such as carpet and trim.  Choosing the wrong color can have adverse affects on the feel of a home and that is not what you wnat when trying to appeal to today's savvy buyers.

Below are photos of a house that I recently had the priviledge of working on with some very cooperative and open minded sellers who allowed me carte blanche to choose new paint colors for the property.  In this particular case, I was working with both the real estate beige and builders white factors.  Using the before and after photos, I would like to explain why these choices did not work and why the new colors do.

Real Estate Beige:

 This is the classic example of the right beige in the wrong room.  Though this is a very nice color, it does not compliment the architectural features of the room - the crown moldings and the fireplace.  It also has cold undertones, working against the warm tones in the brick and making it stick out in an unflattering way.

In comparison to the beige carpet, this color can actually look slightly pink in a certain light, which is the main problem with beige in general - it is an orange based color and if incorrectly chosen, the red tones will emerge and display a more rosey hue.

Tip:  I have a sneaking suspicion that this color - as most are - was chosen in the store and not in the room, which is the biggest mistake that most people make.  The lighting in the store is vastly different than the lighting in your home. Make sure to test a color in the room where it will be used before committing to it.


By pulling a warmer shade from the brick on the fireplace, it compliments the fireplace and trim rather than working against it. 

Now the brick is an asset rather than a flaw and the room feels and appears much warmer.  It also brings much more attention to the mantle that seemed to disappear in the other first shot.

Tip: Even when working with the colors that already exist in a room, as with this fireplace, you can create a neutral backdrop that produces that 'move in condition' most buyers are looking for.  This color will work with any color scheme a buyer will bring with them via sofa fabrics and artwork.

Builder White:

This is a perfect example of why white does not work.  It is cold and does not add anything to the cabinetry, crown moldings or tile backsplash.  The elements of this room seem a bit disjointed and do not work so well together. The kitchen is the heart of the home and no one wants a cold hearted house.

Tip: When adding a color to a house you are preparing to sell, the kitchen is the perfect place.  In general, people do not choose upholstered pieces for this room, making what they bring with them neutral in nature.  Though kitchen towels may be taste specific, they are an inexpensive change for a buyer to make.


 By adding even the smallest amount of color in this room - over the window and in the appliance nooks - we added a lot of warmth and character to the space. Even though we did nothing to the cabinets other than updating the hardware, they look fresher and more contemporary and the molding pops out in a good way.

Tip: The color for this room was actually chosen to compliment and draw attention to the tile backsplash, which now fits perfectly into the room.  By choosing the right color, you can make elements that work against each other work together.


Color is one of the key elements that need to be addressed when preparing a house for the real estate market.  It is very important that you have not only the right shade, but the proper balance where this is concerned.  Too much or too little color can detract from the marketable features of your listings. When hiring a stager, this is one of the things that they should focus on when consulting on your property.


If you have concerns about the element of color in your listings in the Northwest Indiana area, contact Kimberly Wester at 219-241-7252 or

Visit for examples of Kimberly's work.


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Diana Young
Staging Seattle, King & Snohomish Counties - Edmonds, WA

I agree, Kimberly.  Properly chosen colors make all the difference in how a room looks and feels.  We like to take our Sherwin Williams architectural color box with us to staging previews in case the client needs some color advice.  A color we recommend often is SW #6127, Ivorie.  It's fairly neutral, but has a warm yellow-gold undertone and looks great in most homes.  There are so many "neutrals" out there, that you really need to select the color in the room, not in the paint store.

For those not familiar with the SW architectural color box, they are complimentary to stagers at your local SW paint store.  Check for a store near you.  The box comes with a fan deck and 3 x 4 paper color samples you can leave with your client.  It's a wonderful tool to have! 

Feb 18, 2008 05:47 AM #1
Charlene Storozuk
Dezigner Digz - Burlington, ON
Home Stager - Burlington Ontario

Good post Kimberly and I agree that white and real estate beige are not optimum colours for a home when staging it to sell.  However, if a client is not willing to change the colours for whatever reason, even though strongly recommended by the stager (and this does happen) a stager can't force them to do it.  Especially if it is for monetary reasons and the client does not want to spend the money on painting.  In those cases, a good stager will have to work with what they have and make the best of it.  Your kitchen after photo looks much better after the paint change.  It really warms up the wood.  Good job. 


Feb 18, 2008 06:45 AM #2
Terry Haugen STAGE it RIGHT! 321-956-2495
Stage it Right! - Melbourne, FL
Kimberly, I've notice lately that builders are switching from "builders white" to a more creamy white, which I think works just fine.  Personally I don't have an aversion to white as long as its not glaring.  I do however hate beige because usually its a pinky beige that doesn't go with anything.
Feb 18, 2008 07:23 AM #3
Isabel Gomes
Gomes Design - London, ON
Interior Decorator, Stager - London, Ont

I agree in most cases the cuilder beige and white have no life to them.  There are many neutrals or colours that are pleasing to most people. I do agree with Charlene, we can pick them but the seller has the final say because of budget and time.

Wouldn't it be nice to have carte blanche on from all our clients.

Feb 18, 2008 07:25 AM #4
Kristina Leone
Lionheart Home Staging, LLC - Minneapolis, MN
I agree with Isabel that neutral walls are more appealing to more buyers, but I love to bring in color through accessories.  Pops of color brings life into an otherwise boring area.
Feb 18, 2008 07:41 AM #5
Steve Dalton
219-465-8352 - Valparaiso, IN
Northwest Indiana Home Builder

Man, what a great post Kim.  We battled for years the "builder beige" blahs. 

Eventually we ended up getting away from anything that felt at all yellow, which a lot of the colors would do in certain daylights. 

During the big boom of 2003 and 2004 we even experimented with accent colors, but that's a dicey area since one person's great accent is another person's "we'll have to repaint that entire wall"

Feb 18, 2008 07:57 AM #6
Michael McEleney
Urban Acres Real Estate - Coralville, IA
' Honesty. Integrity. Loyalty.'

Very good stuff. I think we will see the beige thrown out the window soon-I'm seing Buyers wanting bright and bold colors. Off white trim always will look good with almost any color.


Feb 18, 2008 08:16 AM #7
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Diana - I have a few 'go to' colors as well - and I never leave home without the color samples, either!

Charlene & Isabel - You are absolutley right.  Sometimes you cannot get them to do it no matter what.  Especially in an occupied home where the seller is still very attached to the property.  Luckily, these sellers have already moved out of state and have moved to a new home they love.  In the case of budget constraints, I have handed over a seller to a painter on more than one occasion because the painter could do more for their property than I could.  There are some colors so badly chosen you can't make them look good. ;)

Terry - I agree... I'd rather work with builder white than a rosey beige.  I am seeing a change as well and am very happy to see it!

Kristina - The nice thing about accessories is that they are temporary.  It is the colors that stay that count. Neutral wall colors that will work with anything certainly gives the sellers an advantage.


Feb 18, 2008 09:27 AM #8
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Steve - LOL!  The builder beige 'blahs'!!  I think some builders find color so challenging they just give up and fall back on white.  Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't.  Accent walls seemed innovative at one time, but just turned out to be a mine field, didn't they?  I stil see some, but not very often and usually it is just a variation of the same shade.

Michael - Yes, white trim is very popular and as long as you don't pair them with white walls, you are doing okay.  You want the trim to stand out, not disappear.  Beige is not all bad - you just have to know how to pick the right one. 

Feb 18, 2008 09:34 AM #9
Bevin Googer
First Impressions Home Staging and Interior Redesign - Mount Pleasant, SC
What a great post Kimberly! Thank you so much for your detailed explanations of why you made the changes you did. They are all spot on, and the result looks great! Color can make all the difference in a room...
Feb 18, 2008 01:07 PM #10
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Thanks, Bevin!

Feb 18, 2008 03:42 PM #11
Janis Gaines
Staging Sells Eugene Homes - Eugene, OR
Home Stager Eugene OR - The Notably Well-Dressed H

I have so much respect for people who are good at nailing the right color the first time around. I've remodeled 3 homes (my own) in the past 4 years - let's hope I'm finally "moved to stay" in this one.

Its taken me 3 tries to get the right color. The first time, I went with what I had hoped would be a light tan but which ended up more of a light buttery yellow, a decent neutral, but not my style. Good thing I chose this color for a condo I was moving out of.

The second time, I gravitated toward tan but wasn't brave enough to go bold so it was a little washed out.

The third time, as they say, has been the charm. I've gone with camel/wheat. There is just enough wall color now to pop against the white millwork, but not dark enough that I feel like I'm in a cave during the winter months. 

Fortunately, I've now found a contractor who is dynamite with color and if I'm in doubt, I consult with him. 

Feb 18, 2008 04:03 PM #12
Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"
People break out in hives when you mention color, but once they see it, they want more!
Feb 18, 2008 04:09 PM #13
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.
Right on, and when they find out there are many,,,many... shades of white, they really get crazy.  People should leave the color choices to their stagers and painters (in some cases). 
Feb 18, 2008 04:14 PM #14
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Janis - Good for you for knowing your limitations.  I have great respect for people who know when someone else is the best person for the job and align themselves with that person to better serve their clients.  It's better to pass that to another than to ask your clients to repaint.  I'm glad you finally found your perfect shade!

Cindy - I know!  I can't tell you how many clients have screwed up their faces at a color until it was actually on the wall.  Quite a few of those now call whenever they need a color chosen for their new home.

Terrylynn - Your comment about white makes me laugh, because I've heard many MEN say - 'it's white, when we repair the crack, we will just touch it up with more white' - and I start with 'Do you have more of THIS white?' They always look so confused. ;)

Feb 18, 2008 11:42 PM #15
Kym Hough
www.Staged-to-Sell - Danville, CA
Staged to Sell East Bay - Danville, CA
Love this post Kimberly. I am a huge fan of color and its always my biggest challenge getting the homeowners to be open to colors other than the 24 shades of white and neutral that they want :)  Even when I show before and afters of color changes and they love them, they still resist. Thanks for the tips - I will use them! Kym
Feb 24, 2008 02:56 PM #16
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.
I already commented on this one but it keeps popping up and catching my attention.  Attention to the details, like color and how it goes with what you have in the room are crucial to the overall look.  You nailed it Kimberly.
Feb 24, 2008 04:49 PM #17
Kimberly Wester
Valparaiso, IN

Kym - I have been lucky that color has not been as challenging as expected.  I am a firm believer in the effect of color on a house and that it has to be right so that all the other changes being made are more effective.  It all works together, but sometimes it is hard to get them to see that.

Terrylynn - Thanks for commenting again! Did you know I'm obsessed with details?  :)

Feb 24, 2008 11:45 PM #18
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