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Where Have All The Colors Gone?

Key Takeaways:

  • We’re coming off a colorless revolution in real estate
  • Vibrant and bold colors may be on the horizon
  • It’s time to start embracing a broader color palette.

Did you hear the one about color disappearing from the world? TikTok says so and even though I don’t dabble much in TikTok I agree. Have you shopped for well…just about anything for the interior of your home? I’m a real estate agent and we tell people that neutral colors and décor are the best choices when selling your home. I’ve been recommending beige, grays, and greige forever. Two decades ago, taupe was my go-to. But I LOVE color and want abundant color choices when I’m decorating my own home.

Living in a World Without Color

Interior room decorated entirely in beige furniture and accents.

I think I mentioned we shopped for furniture in the last issue. The showroom furniture is SO NEUTRAL! GRAY, WHITE, BEIGE. It was depressing.  Where did the color go? I get that neutrals are great for the larger pieces. I’ve even said, “you can add color with accent chairs, pillows, and artwork”. But can you? As a casual shopper with an average budget and limited time – I’m not sure you really can. I think you would have to shop like it’s your job and spend more time and money than you want.  

Some of the fabric on the chairs and pillows had patterns, stripes, and plaids. In our trio of neutrals. And today, Dear Consumer, your choice is a mon*o*chrome color scheme. I’m walking through the store asking “you don’t sell color anymore?” The salesperson assured me there were hundreds of samples of fabric with color available in the back of the store. As we walked up, you could see black and navy had joined gray, white, and beige on the sample wall. Oh…happy…day. 

Hunting for a Pop of Color

White puzzle pieces with red background revealed under one.

I am exaggerating but just a little. One store truly had nothing that could be described even loosely as a “pop” of color. A snooze of different shades and patterns of the neutrals. The other store had 700 fabric samples. There was color. But if you looked at the extremely long double rack of samples, which were grouped by color; anything with green, blue, yellow, or red was extremely limited. Gray, white, beige, and their family members dominated. 

I read about a study in the UK where 7,000 photographs of objects from a wide variety of categories were analyzed for color. The objects originated from 1800 up through 2020. Blacks and grays accounted for approx. 40% of all colors analyzed in objects from 2020, compared to 8% in 1800. This led people to start looking around and to TikTok to vent their feelings. Color does seem to be disappearing. Cars? There used to be 20 choices of paint color.  Now 70% of all cars are white, black, and gray compared to under 40% twenty-five years ago.  

Coping With the HGTV Effect

Black and white room with small couch, standing light, and bookshelf.

Is Joanna Gaines responsible? Hmmm. I’m blaming Joanna, along with  HGTV and all the other home improvement and home design shows.  

One theory: Our super busy pre-pandemic lives caused the gray-on-gray trend.  Life outside of the home was so stimulating and crazy, we longed for a soft,  calm home to crash in. Enter the non-obtrusive gray. And there’s house flipping. Flippers are decorating to sell, not for their own enjoyment. They want to give the buyers a blank slate to personalize. Buyers liked what they saw, bought the homes, and the weird twist—many didn’t change a thing.  

In an article about sheet colors, I mentioned gray is a tranquil color. Not so says Tash Bradley, a trained color psychologist and director of interior design at Lick, a UK–based wallpaper and paint brand. Her take on gray: negative or no psychological benefits. Blues tend to calm, reds are exciting, and gray is  “soulless,” draining, and dull. Poor gray. You had a good run. 

 A Vibrant Future?

Cans of red, blue, green, yellow, and orange paint next to color sample cards.

Where do we go from here? Tash believes “color is back in an epic way” because the pandemic triggered a reversal. “Everyone has completely done a  U-turn, and they now want to understand the power of color,” she adds. After working and living at home in their gray environments, people are starting to realize they miss seeing colors. Recent trade shows exhibited a strong color presence of bold brights like fiery orange, cobalt blue, and acidic yellow. This all sounds pretty on-the-money to me. Maybe there is hope for next year.  Cobalt blue sounds fun and who doesn’t love a pop of orange? I know I need to be careful what I wish for—please, no return appearances of avocado green and harvest gold.

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