chromophobia

Updated: Jun 6

Hello! It's been a while!! I'm alive! I'm going to be honest -- going through this process (this being the beginning of an interior design career and all the doubts that go with it) has been A PROCESS. So progress and process are almost synonymous.



Looking pretty good, if I do say so myself! I set out to make a colorful and inviting home full of quirk and refinement, just like me. My biggest challenge is to make the space look refined despite the absence of grey. Look very closely. No grey. Not even a speck of it.


chromophobia and you


My #1 goal in life is to introduce color to the otherwise color-phobic. For one, life is in color. Why would I want to eliminate all that happens naturally in favor of a monochromatic color scape? For so long luxury has always been black and white. I just did a cursory google search for "luxury interior design" and here is what I came up with:



I have noticed throughout my life that color has always been associated with cheap design. Conversely beige, grey, white and black has always been synonymous with luxury. A good friend of mine pointed something out to me recently --


CHROMOPHOBIA IS rooted in RACISM IN INTERIOR DESIGN


Ahem. Let's let that sink in for a moment. Sorry for the inflammatory headline, but I can't help but want to SCREAM IT OUT. And I'm very sorry if all you really like is grey and white and black and white. But think back real hard while I spell it out:


"The central argument of Chromophobia is that a chromophobic impulse - a fear of corruption or contamination through color - lurks within much Western cultural and intellectual thought. This is apparent in the many and varied attempts to purge color, either by making it the property of some foreign body - the oriental, the feminine, the infantile, the vulgar, or the pathological - or by relegating it to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, or the cosmetic."


So really, chromophobia is akin to racism, sexism and homophobia. Of course, I'm talking about David Batchelor's illuminating book "Chromophobia". We relegate color to the realm of foreign design trends. In interior design, if you want a piece to speak for itself, one would traditionally leave it blank. Introducing color would somehow corrupt the natural state and trick the viewer into seeing it as something else. It suddenly becomes too queer or feminine or crazy. So white becomes the purest way to showcase natural beauty.


But why is color the bad guy here? In this interview, Batchelor states "The curious thing about color is that it is absolutely everywhere. And there is no meaningful sense where one can separate oneself from it or banish it." Too much color can read like a "carnival", a cacophony of grotesque. Whereas black and white is quiet and refined. Little black dress anyone? Why not little yellow dress? Or little blue dress? The idea is that black goes with everything... but why is that? I personally feel like every color goes with everything, but that's me.


So how is it racist? Well, let's think of interior design from non-caucasian cultures. Better yet, let me show you:

Now what if I were to tell you that the materials and designs used in these rooms were more expensive and rare than those in the "luxury" designs? It's the Fools Rush In scenario. Matthew Perry's character lives in a very button-down and boring gated community in Las Vegas. That is until he meets the Salma Hayek character, she gets knocked up, moves in and her very Mexican family gives his boring tract home a very Mexican makeover.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kHbZ_mz7Bs


Enough said.


The biggest answer to this color problem is marketing. Take blue and pink for example. One has been associated with little boys and another associated with little girls. It's so ingrained in our culture, whole identities are built around it. Girls that like blue are "tomboys" and boys who like pink are "queer" or "gay". But go back 100 years, and there were no such rules in place. In fact, boys and girls used to wear little dresses and grow their hair long until a certain age. Then in the '80s, toy marketers started making toys made for boys predominantly blue and toys for girls predominantly pink. Kids could go down the aisles and quickly spot their gender-specific toy and start yanking on their mom's arm to buy it. Check it out:

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/10/23/gender-toys-capitalism/


While it is true certain colors evoke different feelings, most of that is association. If you associate yellow with your childhood bedroom, you will most likely think of it as a calming, cheery color. Whereas someone who did not grow up with a lot of yellow will think of it as garish and unsettling since that is how it has been marketed.


become a chromonaut


Forget astronauts -- my goal is to turn even the meekest chromophobe into a chromonaut. To boldly go into your own living room and forget all the rules about color. I totally understand why going color might be scary. You will be spending real money -- YOUR MONEY -- on something that historically looks cheap. And the number one rule of interior design is to make your space look more expensive and elegant vs. cheap and unsophisticated.


But I'm here to tell you: No matter what you do to your home, whoever lives in it after you will want to change everything. No one buys a house and keeps it all the same. So forget the idea that these future buyers will love that very boring white wall because it's safe.


And there is another note from me to you. Once you have tried orange, blue, red, yellow and green, you can never go back. Color creeps into your soul and opens your eyes like nothing else. Once you have dipped your toe in the chromatic pool, you can't help but jump in and swim in its beauty. That's right. You will like orange. Orange!


So here's my challenge:

  1. Check out your favorite wallpaper website. Mine is thepatterncollective.com

  2. Filter options by your least favorite color. For example, mine is orange.

  3. Pick out something out of your comfort zone.

  4. Using your favorite moodboard, start designing around it.

Voila!!





Once you begin to see colors for their own merits, it is easy to open your mind to their charms.


Please let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear about feelings about color. Remember, I have been there before!




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