When Tracy Proctor Williamson bought her house in Larchmont, N.Y., a year ago, it was "just a kind of dark and sad-looking building."
The front door and trim were a depressing "yucky cream color," says Williamson. The town assessor categorized the architecture of the two-story brick home simply as "old style."
Since then, Williamson has tried to bring the house back to life, most notably by boosting its mood with a sun-kissed yellow front door. "At first I was horrified because I thought the neighbors would hate me," she says. "But I like it. It makes me feel really good."
Painting the front door a color that packs a punch is one of the quickest and easiest ways to change a house's look and help it stand out from the rest.
"It's the difference between choosing classic red or something that has a little bit of fuchsia in it - something more like the color you love," says Kate Smith, a Newport, R.I., color consultant.
"Just that little bit of color can give you the lift that makes everything look better."
Smith - whose job includes advising clients ranging from paint companies to the film industry on color choices - says homeowners like Williamson are making the right move by making bland front doors bold. As the entryway to your home, a front door should be an attention-getter, she says.
"You want it to be the focal point," she says. Emphasizing the front door can "improve the look of the entire house."
Smith tells people selling their homes that if they "can't do anything else, put some time and energy into your front door."
The trick, however, is getting it right; it can be a fine line between bold, eye-catching color and neon that looks better on paper than on doors or walls.
Smith advises choosing a front-door color that jibes with your home's other features, starting with the style and color of the roof. The colors of fixed features, such as window grids, as well as trim and shutters, should also be considered. So should a home's architectural style.
Derek Fielding, who oversees product development for the door manufacturer Therma-Tru, sees a trend toward colorful front doors and spiced-up entryways.
"People don't want that cookie-cutter look that comes with having the same door that's on everybody else's house," Fielding says.
Besides adding color, homeowners are opting for doors with different textures, more ornamental detail and decorative glass, he says.
"It's all about curb appeal and perceived value," Fielding says. "If you look at a neighborhood and every house has a six-panel door that is black, the one that is painted red is going to pop."
Smith says the most popular front-door colors this year among homeowners who want to make a statement are tropical blues, vibrant oranges, violet, mustards and plums. Those who want to perk things up but stay more subdued are choosing blues a notch brighter than navy, warm reds, and classic grays, she says.
Williamson worried initially that painting her door bright yellow was going to make her house "look like a bumblebee," but that in fact "the lemon-yellow is really nice," particularly on gray days.