Any colour you want, as long as it sells the house?

Not that long ago I moved into a new home, the developer had painted the entire interior in magnolia, the natural uniform of new homes, the marginally warmer tone of most rented properties and perhaps also the colour needed to help us sell our homes. This inoffensive and warm tone, named after the colour of the petals of the plant, has become the ‘standard’ household paint. Now in the process of having the house personalised by painting it the question remains – what are my motivations for choosing particular colours? Can I be truly personal and true to my own taste (as though that itself were not influenced by social factors, forces and fashions) or should I be more careful, choosing something tasteful but which wouldn’t hinder a sale in the future? The decorator’s advice was implicitly clear on the day – did YOU choose this colour (terracotta for my daughter’s room)? The fact was this was on sale, but I did like the colour. The tone of the question however was clear – are you nuts? I was told endlessly about what how ‘people’ like to paint their homes, the steer was fairly obvious, don’t be too idiosyncratic in your choices lest you offend some assumed middle-ground of opinion. This raises an important question about the way in which social attitudes and norms spill into the domestic interior and the ironic place of our sense of individualism – we THINK this is our place, our very own taste – ok, it is not perhaps unlike that of many others but nevertheless it is ours. Yet at a more subtle level the sense of connecting with what is cool, trendy, off the wall (and therefore trendy) is very much at work in our practices indoors. In another way much interior practice is linked to some imagined future point of sale at which point our own taste may offend or conflict with those of a potential buyer, themselves scripted by ‘property porn’ and sales programmes which tell them to look out for something similarly bland. The truth is that not only are we never really fully ourselves, but our subjective in the apparently endlessly bespoke and personal space of the home is very much influenced by social tastes and by a need to ensure that the home is a maximally saleable asset at some point in the future. We may of course be interested in how we live and use this space, but we also want to make sure it is going to realise the most money if we should sell it. We are told that certain kinds of home improvement may devalue our property, no doubt we will bridle at the idea and think we are behaving as individuals and yet the logic of these influences is powerful. This is a pretty sad state of affairs and perhaps also says something about the national psyche of the UK which is probably really quit different to other nations and housing systems but, since you ask, the kitchen is cinnamon and the hall is Egyptian thread, not too close to magnolia I hope…

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