Love It or List It? or The Reason Why I’m Allergic to Paint The Color of Peanut Butter

I met Gary and Lynda Young a couple of years ago, when they were considering putting it on the market to sell within the year and decided to do some updating. During the course of working with me, they decided to “love it” rather than “list it” – at least for a while longer. Although I wrote an article about their home and their story for The Tennessean over a year ago, I have never shared it here on the blog with you.

artist gary young

 Gary and Lynda Young – Melanie G Photography

During my first visit, I found that the Youngs’ home was filled with art.  There were paintings collected from their favorite artists, as well as Gary’s own landscapes.  I quickly learned that Gary was a prolific landscape and still life painter.  Although some of his paintings hung on the walls, Gary’s studio and an upstairs storage room were stacked with his work.



The walls of the home were covered in a paint color that could best be described as the color of peanut butter. Although this orangey-tan color was a very popular paint color 10 years ago, it did absolutely nothing to complement or enhance the art that hung upon it.  I knew that an updated paint color palette for the home would make the house more appealing to buyers, as well.  Changing the paint color was not really what they expected me to recommend, and they were initially more interested in the other suggestions I made for their home that day.



Lynda emailed me a couple of weeks later, asking to book another appointment. It seems that once I had labeled the color “peanut butter,” Gary couldn’t stop thinking about it and decided they needed to change it after all. Oh, happy day!

2012-10-25 12.14.34

dining room before

With all the antiques and beautiful art I knew we had to work with, the dining room only required the right paint colors, interesting color placement, and minimal styling to completely transform it. Even the existing light fixture was made new with some black matte spray paint specifically formulated for metal.

painted ceiling

gray mirage dining room


butlers pantry decorologist


designer dining room

 Melanie G Photography 

Over the next several months, I helped Lynda and Gary choose new paint colors, update lighting, purchase new rugs, group and hang their art, arrange furniture, style bookcases and stage their accessories.  Here’s the before of the living room of the home:

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 living room before

Lighter paint on the walls and white paint on the brick surround brightened up the living room, and a new furniture arrangement with updated lamps, a new rug, and a few fresh accessories opened up the space in a way that invites you in. You can feel the difference when you walk into the room.

blue designer living room




designer pillows



fireplace living room

  Melanie G Photography

Along the way, I learned more about their story and their lives. Decades ago, Gary Young built a career in medical capital equipment sales and raised a son with his wife, Lynda.  Over time, the couple became art enthusiasts and collectors, and Gary enjoyed building Windsor chairs as a hobby in his spare time. He even made about 30 Windsor chairs by hand over an 18-year period.

billard room

a pair of Gary’s handmade Windsor chairs – Melanie G Photography


Then 9.11 happened.  At the age of 50, Gary’s perspective on life changed overnight.  He realized he was spending time on things that didn’t really bring value to life and desired a real change in his own.  He began studying Betty Edwards’ Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and completed his first painting at the age of 51.  He and Lynda traveled to Italy in 2002.  As they toured the art museums, Gary remembers turning to Lynda and saying, “I can do this.” And with that utterance, his life was about to change.

serene bedroom

master bedroom after 


wall art grouping



gray wisp bathroom

 Melanie G Photography 

Soon after their return from Italy, Gary signed up for a class in basic drawing and portraiture and began taking workshops from local and national artists.  With the tireless support of his wife, Gary sought out artists whose work he loved, wanting to learn more and pursue this growing passion.

art studio

Gary Young’s art studio – Melanie G Photography

gray mirage


Gary began to study the fundamental science of art and incorporated that into his everyday life. Now his art drives everything else in his life and is woven into everything he does.  Gary feels that his art motivates him in other areas of his life, including his sales career, and that it often becomes a relationship-builder with other people.

slipcovered sofa


Lynda is her husband’s most steadfast supporter and #1 fan.  The couple’s devotion for one another has grown through the struggle of Lynda’s recent breast cancer and subsequent health issues, as well as through Gary’s artistic metamorphosis.  The faith they share and their commitment to learn and grow throughout their lives’ journey was evident in every conversation I had with them over the course of the time we worked together.

2012-10-25 12.16.05


blue bookcase


Gary believes that the ability to learn the fundamental science of drawing or painting is in everyone.  He is passionate about the relationships that his love of art has fostered.  Gary speaks of the support and blessings he has received from the artists he has met and the friendships he has developed.

2012-10-25 12.15.09

Gary’s office before


When I began working in this field, I never anticipated the heartfelt relationships that I would develop with many of my clients. Home is an intensely personal thing, and to be trusted to improve someone’s home is a great honor for me.

paint colors for office

Gary’s office after

Gary is an inspiring example of pursuing a dream in the midst of everyday existence, allowing it to complement and enhance one’s life and relationships.  Gary taught me something that still sticks with me to this day: the gift is not the “talent,” and it isn’t necessarily inherent or inborn. The gift is the passion you have for something, and that passion drives you to learn, train, and improve.

gary young art studio

art studio – Melanie G Photography


Those words resonate so much with me because that’s exactly how I feel about what I do. If you share that passion with me, I’d love you to join us May 7-9, 2015 in Nashville for my intensive Expert Psychological Stager™ training. Whether you would like to start a home staging business of your own, or if you want to take your skills to the next level in your current design business – this course is for you! I’ll teach you how tapping into buyer and seller psychology can change the way you think about staging and marketing a home.


styled bookcase


I hope you enjoyed the tour of this home! To find out more about Gary Young and his art, visit his website here.


  1. Martha

    I absolutely love the colors that you chose for their home. Do you remember the blue paint colors for the bedroom and the study.
    Thank you.

    • Kristie Barnett

      I remember the office/study color to be Ben Moore’s Atmospheric – it’s in the Affinity fandeck.

  2. Patricia

    What a wonderful, inspiring couple! And your skillful eye, Kristie, has enhanced the beauty of Gary’s paintings. Are the hard floors in this home on the orangey side? Another designer I admire, Maria Killam, says that if you’re stuck with orange hardwood floors, as I am, don’t let them dominate your decorating decisions. Think of the floors as denim jeans — any color can be worn with them. Do your agree? Great post!

  3. Allyson

    One of my very favorite posts of yours so far! This house is lovely, so soothing and welcoming and very inspirational. And the art of Gary Young is quite lovely. Amazing to think he didn’t start painting until his 50’s. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Kristie Barnett

      What I love about his story most is that he didn’t start at 20, or 30, or even 40! He never painted a painting until he was 50, and in 10 years he has created so many amazing and beautiful landscapes!

  4. Isabel

    I agree with Gary, the gift is the passion with which one lives things!
    The house looked well before, but now it looks much better! Well done, Kristie!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you, Isabel – Gary is such an inspiration.

  5. kathleen barry

    this transformation is like you turned on the light switch! Sweet job ………….

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thank you, Kathleen! The end result was definitely much fresher 🙂

  6. Karen

    I was compelled to read that post (via Pinterest) by your ‘peanut butter color allergy’ title, although I was a little confused because i’m not a big fan of the pistachio green in the photo. I’m so glad I did! The transformation of that dining room by paint was amazing, and NOW I know why I dislike my tan kitchen colour so much. It’s peanut butter. Incredible transformation of their home with paint.
    What colour is in his studio? It’s beautiful. Reminds me of my aunt’s former Farrow & Ball Arsenic dining room.

  7. Laurel Bern

    OMG! I laughed my head off Kristie! I had a client who wanted this color and yes! It was 10 years ago. And yes. It was barfola and yes, it all ended in tears! What a gorgeous transformation! Absolutely gorgeous!

    • Kristie Barnett

      BARFOLA is my new favorite word now, Laurel!!!! 😉

  8. loroy

    Beautiful, Kristie! It reminds me in many ways of my home. I’ve been working on sprucing things up in my home for years, and, I, too, had peanut butter walls (or maybe mustard) in some rooms. I chose to repaint with a lighter beige and greenish-blue. The rooms are all painted, most of the junk has been tossed or donated, the bathroom remodel is basically complete, and I’m working on the final touches. Much of my color choices and inspiration came from your blog and paint video. I’ll send a few pics once the rooms are complete. Thank you for all the advice!

    • Kristie Barnett

      I would LOVE for you to send me photos when you finish!!! Make sure to send them to [email protected] and my assistant can forward them to me 🙂

  9. applehillcottage

    Lovely! And I knew you would paint that brick fireplace. It looks much better, btw. Do you remember the gray green of the living-dining rooms? It is so restful! And what an inspiring story. Great post!

    • Kristie Barnett

      The fireplace didn’t necessarily need to be painted because the red brick was nice, but Lynda actually really wanted to lighten it up so we did! I’ll see if I can look up the paint color of the living and dining rooms –

  10. Donna Frasca

    Oh I remember that color – it still give me hives! Love the updated colors so much better. They’re healthy!

  11. Beth

    Love, Love, Love this story and the new color scheme. I agree that the best part of this job is the wonderful people we meet!

  12. Lisa

    Hi, Kristie. Long-time fan and reader. I have a burning questions I’ve always wanted to ask … why do decorators always “karate-chop” throw pillows on a sofa or chair? I see this in these lovely photos and had to ask.

    • Kristie Barnett

      Haha, Lisa, great question! And not an easy one to answer, but here goes: Poly-fill pillows look flat and cheap to me. Down-filled pillows have a luxurious quality and by “karate-chopping” them, it gives a bit of enhanced form to the pillow shape and that shape gives you a visual indication of the down inside – which to me looks more high-end. I’m not sure if that makes good sense, but down-filled pillows with a slight karate chop always take the room up a notch. Maybe I should do a post on this . . .

  13. Serena

    Peanut butter!!! LOL. That’s it, all right. Back when all the golds, and “Tobacco Road”, etc. were all the rage. They were fine, but you sure freshened up this house. Love it!

    • Kristie Barnett

      Thanks, Serena! Sometimes we all just need a change 😉

  14. Karen Coyle

    We just moved into a house with the ‘peanut butter’ color, which I’ve always called paper bag brown, and I used to love, but no more. What are your paint colors for the living room, kitchen, office and bedroom PLEASE-exactly what I’d love to do! Gorgeous, and love all the art work. So inspiring!

  15. Kristi Brown

    Paint color of the bathroom and bedroom please? Or rather yet, all paint colors? I also love it and my house is differing shades of peanut butter!

  16. Patricia

    Alas- all my walls are the color of peanut butter! My husband and I recently moved from Minnesota to Tennessee. Before we bought the house, almost all the walls in the house were painted the same color. I thought it was great that everything was freshly painted until my daughter informed me that all the walls looked like they were smeared with peanut butter- now I can’t get that image out of my mind. Now I can’t wait to get a brick fireplace painted and start choosing some fresh colors for the walls. Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. June

    What are the other paint colors? I am interested in the lighter greens: living room, dining room, Master Bedroom?
    Thank You!


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