Could a paint colour change on a property land a condominium corporation in court? What about result in physical threats? The answer to both is yes. Experience painting condominiums confirms that colour can be a contentious issue.
Once a board decides to move ahead with painting maintenance, it must decide whether to match the existing colour or change it. Since paint colours fade over time, even matching the existing colour presents problems. What colour should be matched: the faded one or the one closest to the original?
Whether the project involves doors, siding or trim and fascia on a townhome site or suite doors, trim, balconies or interior or exterior walls in a high-rise building, colour is personal and change often generates volatile discussions. When a long-standing colour is changed, those charged with the responsibility of maintaining a building can find themselves maligned and accused of lack of taste by residents.
Many boards avoid the pitfalls of changing colours by repeating the existing paint colour. But making the decision to stay the status quo can leave a condominium looking dated, with reduced curb appeal — affecting every owner’s return on investment.
There are effective ways and not-so-effective ways to initiate a colour change in a condominium community.
Painters have had to be removed from a site after they were physically threatened by owners who disagreed with the new colour choice being applied to front doors. A large exterior painting project had to be put on hold as owners and management negotiated through court proceedings to stall a site-wide colour-change decision.
Conversely, when owners are engaged early and consensus is reached, residents have been excited to see the positive face lift of a condominium site with a simple, professionally executed colour change.
What can a board do to make the transition easier when considering a colour change?
Ask for volunteers
Canvass owners and residents, form a committee, and communicate plans to make colour changes well in advance to the condominium community. Engaging owners like this helps to diffuse or prevent accusations that a board operates in a vacuum.
Present a digital rendering
How colour will change a room or the exterior of a home can be hard to imagine. Colour rendering can often bridge this gap by helping owners and residents visualize what the space will look like.
Examine a full-size paint sample
The sample strips supplied by paint stores are just too small to use to make a large-scale decision. Also, the other colour shades on the sample strip have a tendency to influence a person’s eye, making the process even more difficult. A large sample board painted with the new colour can be moved to multiple locations with varying light exposures to get a better sense of what sort of result to expect.
Remember: While colour samples are typically examined under 100 per cent light, rarely do all of the surfaces on which the paint is applied receive 100 per cent light all of the time. Experience also suggests that colours chosen under artificial light can look very different — for example, washed out — when applied outside under natural light.
Use website galleries
Photos of buildings with similar architectural features and substrates painted in colours close to the newly proposed colours can be helpful in presenting a future vision to owners. Often these websites offer ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, which can inspire design committees. Several websites offer the ability to test options online — just upload a photo and apply a variety of possible colour schemes.
Hire a professional
Many of these options require a working knowledge of architectural features and the overall impact of the colours being considered. What happens when a board just wants to update the colours but has no idea where to start?
A professional designer will bring experience picking colours. Colours are very much an individual preference but a designer will be able to gauge the vision and expectations of the condominium community. More importantly, by hiring a professional the colour decision is in the hands of a third-party expert, relieving the self-identified ‘resident designer’ from being subjected to criticism from their neighbours about their choices.
Have a mock-up done
For individuals who have difficulty visualizing the new colour or design, painting a complete wall, door, or unit will give the board and owners confidence that their decision best reflects their expectations.
A board can save a lot of time, energy, and money by trying to engage ownership early in the process of maintenance projects like this. Even for just a simple paint colour change, communication is key.
Phil von Massow is the owner of ArmourCo Solutions, which has more than 25 years of experience in the condominium industry. The company provides full-service maintenance including interior and exterior painting and caulking, flooring/membrane, repairs, and underground garage projects for townhome and high-rise condominiums.