People use them as landmarks when they give directions: When you get to the lime green house, make a left.
As an object of mockery: “My eyes! My eyes!”
And, sometimes, as inspiration.
Certain bold homeowners don’t cringe when they look at the rows and rows of paint chips at the hardware store. No, they think beyond neutral exterior home colors and gravitate toward otherworldly ones. How about Magic Wand or Gumby? Snow Cone Green? For these brave artistes, Cotton Candy isn’t just a carnival treat but, just maybe, a lovely shade for their house.
Choosing the right exterior paint is a big decision. Color is the first thing people notice about a home; if selling, it’s the first detail that sways or scares a buyer. “It’s like dating,” said Carol Kelly of Hammond Real Estate in Cambridge. “If a house seems odd on first impression, you won’t give it a second chance.”
Kelly said yellow homes tend to sell quickly because most people like that color. What’s not to love about sunny, buttery brightness? “Lighter houses seem more friendly,” she said, and with darker colors, “unless it’s a historic house, it could look scary.”
Does the color of your house affect the resale value of neighboring properties? “I think it depends on the area,” Kelly said. “If it’s an artsy community, it doesn’t make a difference. People will go wild” and express their creativity. If it’s in a more conservative area, there are likely to be stricter rules in place, she said, because people want to keep the houses historic.
If you’re hedging on a hue, Kelly suggested painting a door. You’ll add a pop of individuality without the commitment.
But if you’re confident about your choice, own it — no matter what the neighbors say. These homeowners did, and they couldn’t be happier.
Owners: Fred and Leonor Carpenito
21 Mohegan Road, Acton
Fred and Leonor Carpenito didn’t always have a peach palace. Their three-bedroom ranch in Acton’s Indian Village neighborhood was mauve previously, due to a slight mishap. “We started painting on a cloudy day, got pretty far along, and then figured out how bright it was after the fact,” recalled Fred Carpenito. “By then, it was too late.”
Three years ago, they switched to their current peachy-pink hue. “It was a more peaceful, softer color,” he said. “My wife likes to garden, and it was a nice background for that.”
The street is popular with walkers, and the Carpenitos get lots of comments from passersby. “My wife does some interesting flowers, and neighbors like how the house doesn’t take away from that,” he said.
That said, the couple will probably paint again someday. “We like to change the color of the house, because it’s a lot cheaper than buying a new one,” he said.
Owners: Peter Schwartz and Silvia Beier
40 Gordon St., Allston
Color: Blue Grotto, Yellow Freestone, red
Needing more space for their growing family, Peter Schwartz and Silvia Beier bought their 19th-century Queen Anne in Allston within 24 hours. “My wife saw it on a Thursday morning and called me. She said, ‘We’re buying this house.’ I said, ‘Can I see it first?’ The color scheme was wonderful,” he said.
Neighbors agree. “It’s amusing,” said Schwartz. “We’ll be sitting outside, and people will stop and look. Or my wife will be outside in the garden, and people will stop to tell her how nice the house is.”
Thomas Silloway, an Allston architect known for designing churches, built the home as his own residence. Schwartz thinks Silloway’s bold, original color scheme has been maintained throughout the years. The home also has an elaborate stained-glass window, adding to the churchy aesthetic.
So far, Schwartz has no plans for a makeover. After all, he owns a neighborhood landmark. “The prior owners bought paint to do a touch-up. Based on the colors they requested, the store knew just where they lived.”
Owners: Andrew Jones and Kristin Neff
1289 Great Plain Ave., Needham
Color: Autumn Harvest
“We bought our house as a nondescript Cape. Boring!” said Kristin Neff. “My husband and I wanted to paint it something different, and there are very few orange houses in Needham.” Perched on a busy street, the house was sure to attract attention.
To find the right shade, they tested samples on their garage. Imagine “American Idol” hosted by Bob “Happy Little Clouds” Ross. “We went through everything from Fireball to Spiced Pumpkin, and neighbors gave feedback,” Neff said.
These days, the house still draws chatter. “It’s a modest home, but we get lots of compliments. But I’ve had friends not love it. Some people will say, ‘Wow, why did you paint your house that color?’ ” Neff said.
The final choice made sense, though. “This is a historic color for New England, and ours is an older house,” Neff said.
Another bonus: It makes giving directions easier, she said. “All I have to say is, ‘We live in the orange house in Needham!’ ”
Owners: Rahul and Emily Bhargava
63 Irving St., Somerville
Color: Evening Blue
Stroll down Davis Square’s side streets and you’re sure to spot Rahul and Emily Bhargava’s funky blue two-family Victorian with teal trim, accented with a lizard mosaic crawling down the front porch.
Color matters to the couple. Emily is a stained-glass artist who has traveled extensively in South America; her husband’s family is from India. “Houses and spaces are colorful there. Color changes the character of a neighborhood,” Emily Bhargava said.
The home was originally a “light peachy-pink color,” she said. They wanted something cheerier. “It can be hard in New England, with so much gray or white,” she said. “Inside, the house is very colorful and eclectic, and we wanted the outside to match that.”
Situated in a busy area, the home gets plenty of attention. “We got a lot of unsolicited comments when we were painting,” Bhargava said. “Our street is really friendly and wonderful.”
Most of the time.
“One of our less shy neighbors told us at the time who liked it and who didn’t. But since then, we’ve only gotten good comments,” she said.
Owners: Jim Brown and Jeri Solomon
4 Lincoln St., Stoneham
Color: Victorian Violet
Jeri Solomon and her husband, Jim Brown, had house-hunted for years with little luck. Finally, “I read about this house,” Solomon said. “I pulled up, and it was purple. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This is a Jeri color. I would wear this color.’ I put one foot in the door, and I just knew.”
The sellers’ realtor had expressed concern over the shade. Thank goodness for Jim and Jeri: She’s a floral designer, and he’s a comic book colorist. Both are chromatically adventurous. “You only need one buyer!” Solomon said with a laugh.
After they moved into the violet Colonial, neighbors inquired about the look. “I was introduced as ‘Jeri in the purple house’ at block parties. People would say, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood. You’re going to paint, right?’ I’d smile and say, ‘Absolutely not.’ There was so much to spend on already, and the paint job was beautiful.”
Solomon now changes her window boxes each season to complement the home. “I love pansies, purple and blue. The house is a beautiful backdrop to bright flowers.”