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I’ve been designing a long time and studying design even longer across the years of my life. Noticeably absent from wonderful popular trends most often in America, is color – bright, vibrant, beautiful diversity of color.

So, I got to thinking about that. What is it about color that very often causes it to socially fall out of favor or become muted, greyed out or darkened versions in popular use? What causes vibrant color to not be commonplace among fashions people wear or want in their homes in American culture?

What about diversity and intensity of color in American social context says something undesirable about color to the point of an ever-present tendency toward milktoast neutrals, whites, bland and homogenized looks? What does that?

For a stretch of mental exercise, and not necessarily rational nor factually based – I’ve been thinking about what I’ve seen in America across designs and trends in my lifetime. And I’m conjecturing some purely subjective based thoughts about it.

  1. Across many cultures and races, vibrant color is part of their world, part of their expression of identity. Is it racially motivated to steer clear of vibrant and expressive colors? Is it to turn away from those “lesser classes” who are allegedly not sophisticated enough to want a muted, neutral or greyed down palette?

    Canal with colorful houses – Burano, Veneto Italy – Credit: Romaoslo, Getty Images

  2. Rich enough to wear white, light grey, tan and muted pastels or to own a white couch because it says you don’t work, don’t get dirty, can afford someone else to clean it and are rich enough to do so? Is it classism and class defining to live in and wear designs that are within a strict limited palette that can’t get dirty without being totally ruined? Is it really sophistication to live in an environment where you don’t sit, wear clothing you can’t live in and support color palettes that aren’t appropriate for any real engaged lifestyle? 



  3. Houses that are painted brightly in the US are harassed. criticized and sued by homeowners associations and local jurisdictions, no matter how beautifully they are done. Why is that? What happened to freedom of expression and the freedom to express identity through style and color choices, whether in house colors or choices of landscaping with flowers of color rather than only hedges and trees, or in choices of clothing colors and the colors of furnishings? Is it really better for every house to be of a drab grey, tan, dirty white and black shutters variety that look dismal?

    Colorful Houses Nyhavn Copenhagen – Credit: Mlenny, Getty Images 


    Colorful house in Christiania commune, Copenhagen – Credit: Anna Gorin, Getty Images

  4. There are modern houses with modern furnishings that are kept streamlined in having not one thing where it is visible, no vibrant color – unless grey or tan are considered colors, and where not one person may have ever sat for longer than ten minutes, though people do live there. And are they to determine for everyone else what a color palette of sophistication should be when that appears to be the least qualified space as a living environment to qualify for anything but a photograph?

  5. Tribal and folk arts offer vibrant colors as part of their acceptable palette and are well loved by people everywhere despite not being born into that culture. In some cities and towns, bright vibrant colors define each home individually with an overall look that is stunning and beautiful with a happy, joyous feel to its place. Why is that not an acceptable practice in America – not in any subdivision, not in any city or town, not in any of NYC’s many boroughs despite its cultural “acceptance of diversity”?

    Rajasthani embroidered tribal dress fabric – Credit: Glen Allison, Getty Images