“The HGTV-ification of America: You Cannot Escape Gray Floors”
I’ve heard an interview recently on Boston Public Radio with Amanda Mull, a reporter from The Atlantic Magazine, about the article she wrote “The HGTV-ification of America: You cannot escape gray floors”. The main point of the article and the interview was how in the last decade HGTV created a trend promoting neutral and gray environments as a cheap signifiers of newness. Landlords, house flippers and builders love it, because they can get away with doing a superficial remodeling using cheap and neutral looking materials. Gray laminate floors and subway tiles became their favorite standards as they are supposed to signal to a buyer or renter that the space is newly remodeled and, therefore, good, and reliable, which is not always the case. You can use this link to read the entire article: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/08/hgtv-flipping-houses-cheap-redesign/671187/
In Amanda’s words “Gray floors and all of their comorbid design phenomena are cool and crisp and modern by comparison, even if they’re also crushingly boring and totally character-free and really limit a space’s potential capacity to feel warm and alive and like a home.”
Neutral Environments Produce Neutral Emotions
In my work I could see for years that the “gray” trend spread to the homeowners. People are using way too much gray in their homes. Before the gray decade there were two decades of beige. It was not too rare to see beige painted rooms with beige couches in them, decorated with beige rugs and even beige sofa pillows. Guess what? Neutral environments produce neutral emotions!
If we follow the trends too much, we become disconnected from our homes because they neither represent us nor express who we are. These home will not exude a sense of happiness or joy or individuality. I can’t resist quoting Amanda Mull one more time: “… And surely some people do lose their mind for gray laminate or subway tile or barn doors, and not just because there’s no accounting for taste. Once a particular design element becomes a shorthand for newness and freshness and successful domesticity, people come around to it precisely because they want their home to reflect those qualities. But that’s a different phenomenon than appreciation for the thing itself—for how nice it is to look at, or how much more functional it makes a space. In the hands of flippers and landlords, these choices are generally made not by people who want to fill the world with the best, safest, most comfortable homes possible but by those looking for a return on the bets they’ve made on the place where you’ll start your family or play with your future grandkids. They’ve chosen these things just as much for what they aren’t as for what they are—inoffensive, inexpensive, innocuous. These houses aren’t necessarily designed to be lived in. They’re designed to go into contract.”
One of the reasons I wrote my book “The Soulful Home Design Guide” is to help people see the alternative and rather than following the trends, follow the guidance of their heart when designing their homes. From my two decades working with homes, I know that our homes can be much more for us than just a space where we sleep, eat, work and watch TV. Our homes can support and nourish us; they can become sources of stability, nourishment and joy. This is especially important in these turbulent times when we all could use more support. Designing a happy home requires a personalized approach. I don’t mind using the gray color, but it must be balanced with other colors. It is supposed to help other colors be easily seen and experienced. In fact, if the correct shades of gray are used with other colors, the color scheme can bring a sense of grounding, relaxation and warmth. Accessories and art can be not something neutral and abstract that you fill the wall and surface spaces with, but can radiate meaning and a positive vibe.
The Benefits of Using Natural Materials
Over the last few decades there has been a lot of research done on how positively our physical and mental health is affected by exposure to natural materials such as wood or stone, plants and natural light. According to the new field of epigenetics, even our gene expression can be modified and changed by adjusting our environment. Our health, wellbeing and our immune system depends on our environment. See my article on benefits of natural lighting https://nataliakaylin.com/benefits-of-natural-lighting/
A great amount of research has been also done on colors and how they influence us. Some colors have light and expansive qualities, making a room feel larger and higher, while others have constrictive qualities and make spaces feel smaller and more intimate. This definitely impacts the way we feel in those spaces. Some colors will exude an emotion of joy and happiness, some will make us feel balanced and peaceful, while others are flat and unemotional. We are all different and our needs are quite varied, so it is important to understand what we are trying to accomplish when deciding on a color scheme for our home. Read more on interior colors in my article https://nataliakaylin.com/feng-shui-colors-part-2-three-biggest-mistakes-people-make-when-choosing-wall-colors/
We must use a mindful design and intention to create a home that not only pleases our sense of beauty but improves our chances to live a successful and happy life.
If we put our attention into creating the environment around us that is beautiful and meaningful and reflects who we are – this can be transformational.
Maybe all you need to do at this time is to change a few old and tired paintings that depict something sad and uninspiring to something that represents your dream and expresses the feeling you want to feel?
Maybe it is time to let go of an uncomfortable mattress or couch that you had since you were in college and treat yourself to something more comfortable and functional?
Maybe it is time to repaint your bedroom into a color that is warm, beautiful and makes you feel loved?
Designing a home is a process. And you will not be able to design a real happy and authentic home that reflects who you are if you only follow trends and fashions and ideas from magazines or even from your architect or designer. You must tap into your creativity, your heart and soul to express yourself through your décor.
I hope we can say NO to those gray laminate floors and subway tiles and such and choose materials, colors and décor that bring happiness and nourish our senses. Let’s create a home where our soul would thrive.
My new book “The Soulful Home Design Guide: Fill your Home and Life with Beauty, Love, Peace and Prosperity” will be available on Amazon on October 25th.
I am very interested in hearing from you about your experience with “gray” trend. I am curious if you agree/disagree with me on some of these points.
Want to Learn More or Discuss Your Next Project?
Natalia has over two decades of experience as an educator and practitioner in creating inspiring, balanced, and supportive environments. She applies her knowledge of feng shui, environmental psychology, and design sensibility to help clients obtain transformative and sustainable results for their homes and offices. [Read More]
Natalia Kaylin is an author of The Soulful Home Design Guide.