Stop being beige

When I was a kid in the 70s in Melbourne, Florida, there was a house where the owners painted huge murals of 19th century nautical scenes. The entire house was the painter’s canvas. I cherished the times we drove by that house. I thought it was beautiful. And you never knew when it would get repainted into a new battle scene.

I remember hearing that the neighbors hated it and people complained. And then one day we drove by and it was all white with green shutters. I don’t know if the owners moved away or were pressured to conform.

In 1988, I left for college in Savannah, Georgia. The historic district there has a strict covenant on how the Victorian homes are to be painted, landscaped, etc. One rogue homeowner used to paint their home in bright purple, sometimes pink, and filled the windows with large murals of Victorian ladies. It was fantastic. They got away with their crazy shenanigans for a week or so before you would see it back to a respectable blue and off white. Then after a couple of months, they would stir up trouble again with a bright color and the murals.

This article on AIGA’s Design Envy site of a building being used as a canvas for an illustration, reminded me of these homes from my past. It also reminded me of how strange it is that in the US, people feel comfort when their surroundings are bland and easy to understand. I once had a co-worker say that she liked living in the suburbs because of the “consistency of the neighborhoods.” I knew we could never be friends.

The weird, wacky and inexplicable is so much more interesting to me than conformity. As I look out the window of my office upon two big beige boxes – one an apartment building and the other a Public Storage, I wish someone would paint some wonderful characters on them. Or at least introduce some pink and purple.