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Neutral means style as well as color
By Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff

Lisa LaPorta, a designer on HGTV's Design to Sell, recommended a beige paint for this Palatine family room.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Lisa LaPorta, right, talks color with Linda Franz Fischer.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Lisa LaPorta liked the clean way the living room is decorated in the Palatine townhouse.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Linda Franz Fischer and George Fischer's family room is in an English basement.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Lisa LaPorta recommends painting the walls in the family room beige.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Family photos are confined to shelves in the library of the townhouse.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

A framed mirror and new light fixture would update this bathroom, said Lisa LaPorta.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

This Palatine bedroom is light and bright, but the decor is a little too country, said Lisa LaPorta.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Designer Lisa Laporta, left, of HGTV's Designed to Sell, gives tips to Palatine sellers Linda and George Fischer.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 2/14/2009 12:01 AM

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We almost stumped the queen of staging.

Believe it or not, Lisa LaPorta of HGTV's Designed to Sell has seen homes that looked like visitors - much less ones carrying television cameras - were unexpected.

Not so with the Palatine townhouse that Linda Franz Fischer and her husband, George Fischer, are trying to sell. It is listed at $389,900 with Century 21 Temme & Temme.

LaPorta was impressed with the decorating of the three-story townhouse in the Willow Glen neighborhood with its views of a protected wetland.

But she still managed to come up with a few suggestions.

Her main critique was that the country theme was a little strong.

"It's beautifully consistent with great taste," said LaPorta. "It could be a little softened, a little more neutral. Any style in overwhelming quantity is not good."

A contemporary touch like a great vase with decorative sticks rather than flowers would work for an accent, as would a stack of pretty books. A large picture or framed map avoids a feeling of clutter better than several smaller ones, and remote controls should be in a drawer or basket.

Most impressive was watching the Los Angeles designer suggest from memory new paint colors to warm up the family room and entry hall that are now light blue.

She was concerned mostly with the green and red plaid sectional sofa - the darkest item in the room. Sofas are such a decorating commitment, she prefers solid colors.

"You want to bring the tan out of the sofa, soften it with pillows and brighten it up. The right shade doesn't get too orange. There's a lot of butter with peachiness in this plaid," said LaPorta.

Not finding the correct shade on the fan decks she brought, LaPorta still came up with names - Ralph Lauren's Cotswold Breeches and Crab Apple.

A representative of the Kilz brand, LaPorta said the colors can be mixed into any brand of paint. And she also recommends using a tinted primer.

Squinting is her secret.

"If you squint, it's very obvious which color is darker. One has more yellow in it."

And if you or your design guru does not have perfect color vision, bring home swatches before you commit.

Here are some LaPorta tips inspired by the Fischer home.

• The entrance hall is not a traditional entry, and LaPorta found it tunnel like. She recommended removing most of the furniture to eliminate any navigation issues in the narrow space. This included a small church pew and a clothes tree.

"A coat rack might imply there's not enough room in the closet. Yes, it's good to have a place to sit when you take off your boots, but house hunters don't need that," she said.

• Metals should match the current fashion. That includes lamps in the family room, knobs in the kitchen and lights in the bathrooms. Changing any of these to pewter, brushed chrome or nickel, antique brass, oil-rubbed bronze or black wrought iron would update the room.

When you're looking for new light fixtures or chandeliers, she recommends buying a few and then holding them up in the room to see which works better.

"Scale is hard to anticipate," she said.

• In one of the secondary bathrooms she lobbied for a framed mirror to replace the large sheet glass.

"What am I seeing in this mirror? Double of this wall. You could have had a beautiful frame and something decorative."

• One of LaPorta's signature tricks is making a valance with place mats.

"It could be a solid color with texture. Place mats come in really beautiful fabrics, and they are thick and lined. Velcro them over a rod, and you can have the illusion of a pleat."

• In a bedroom, the wall painted with an accent color should be the one that the bed is against. "It's all about the bed wall," she said.

• LaPorta praised the way Linda arranged the furniture in the family room, making a grouping for conversation and watching television rather than putting the sofa and chairs against the walls.

"Most people have 50 percent too much furniture," she said.