DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR, PAINT PROBABLY offers the best value in a house. Consider how much a gallon costs and how much area it covers—about $22 and 400 square feet to 450 square feet; that works out to about five cents per square foot. Where else do you get more bang for your buck? Its low cost, however, in no way diminishes the flexibility and importance that paint can play in your homes.
The easiest and cheapest way to create drama in a room is with paint. “Color, sheen, pattern, and texture can be combined to create a number of interesting and individual looks for the home,” says Debbie Zimmer, paint color and decorating expert for the Spring House, Pa.–based Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, a consumer education organization. Color and patterns can visually change the perception of a room's size, she says, and texture can make a boring space come alive.
Manufacturers say it's time for builders to move beyond white and beige. Colors that would have been unheard of 10 years ago are now becoming acceptable as more and more consumers are willing to experiment with them. “People are exploring the use of color more because there is a lot of self-expression going on,” says Tim Bosveld, vice president of marketing at Los Angeles–based Dunn-Edwards. “They are becoming more comfortable with color in their homes.” Home improvement programs and shelter magazines, he says, have helped make home buyers more at ease with dark colors and patterns.
Manufacturers know what's hot because they see what's flying off the shelves, but they also forecast what colors are likely to be a hit with buyers. Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams recently released its forecast for 2007, outlining the color trends that will be a springboard for decorating schemes next year. Escapism and balanced living are in vogue, the company says. Influences from faraway places such as Asia and Africa yield rich, saturated shades such as deep wine, ginger, leathery brown, and brassy colors, while interest in the environment and botanical-inspired motifs call forth the deepest blues, washed aqua, bronzed gold, plum, and sun-warmed yellow.
The number of colors that are available these days is nothing short of amazing. The average manufacturer offers more than 1,000; Dunn-Edwards alone has 1,696. In order to make it easier for consumers to choose among them, companies often offer them in groupings of complementary colors.
Right now, how paint smells is as important as what it looks like. And indoor air—tainted with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpets, building products, and paints—has the potential to be more polluted than the outdoor air, the EPA says. As a result, more manufacturers are offering odor- or VOC-free paint.
Dunn-Edwards' Ecoshield is one of the latest on the market. “We saw a demand for products with little or no odor that are durable with similar performance properties as traditional products,” Bosveld says.
Glidden Professional Paints, a brand of Cleveland-based ICI Paints, also has responded to customer demand with Custom Home, a line of products that targets the new-home construction market. The High Build interior latex and exterior latex flat paint feature low odor formulations; the company also offers Lifemaster 2000 solvent-free and no-VOC interior latex paints.
Manufacturers also realize that builders want to increase productivity, save money, and increase customer satisfaction, so companies are introducing tools to help do just that.
“Our research suggests that builders want paint that goes on faster and that has high hiding properties,” says Rich Stewart, brand manager for Glidden Professional Paints. The company now offers nine popular colors in ready-mix containers so that builders don't have to wait for mixing at the store. It also offers more-sprayable paints that go on faster. Finally, the company offers builders consumer home kits containing samples of each color used in the house, a list of the colors, and tools for touch-ups so that home buyers will know what color to buy when Rex scratches the wall with his paws.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.