Historic Preservation Specialist
State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa
Interesting that this article popped up in my newsfeed today: 2020 Exterior Color Trends
When generally-available articles and big-box retailers tell the American consumer that this is the "current thing to do," it will happen more frequently. However, a few professional design journals claim that the "white farmhouse" trend is over and that exterior color is the emerging trend.
The painted masonry trend (either white or dark gray) is striking both residential and commercial buildings in our Historic District. Our review is limited to work requiring a permit; exterior painting does not require a permit. So-beyond my best efforts to educate and apply SOI Standards (codified locally), the Commission has no ability to curb this trend which is altering the character of our local district.
Michael A. Lambert
City of Geneva, Illinois
22 South First Street
Geneva, Illinois 60134
The City of Geneva, Illinois Since 1835
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I've only seen one example of a house being painted white. But as you pointed out, it's been within the time of the pandemic. (I think it was back in April or May.)
But a trend that seems to be continuing is to paint houses gray or black. We've had several older brick houses painted gray with the grout either left visible or painted white. (I haven't walked up close enough to any of the houses where this has been done to figure out what's going on with the grout. But the brick has definitely changed color... and it always seems to be to gray.) Wood and stucco houses are also being painted gray. (We do have a couple that have been painted black, but dark gray really seems to be the favored color these days.)
We had a landmarkable 1960s church come before our commission just last month with a request to paint the brick and wood faux mansard siding gray.
Everything's gray, gray, gray. I'm getting really tired of gray.
I'd be willing to bet that a white trend is related to the gray trend. What's with the monocrome, peeps? What's with the stodgy colors? Let's enjoy our buildings! Let's have fun with them!
If it makes anyone feel any better about it, the most consistent house paint color trend in American history is white, preferably with green shutters! When I researched residential painting trends and paint colors in grad school, it became clear that from the very start, Americans have loved white houses, even in the periods when more elaborate color schemes were common. If I remember correctly, Lafayette even wrote about it after his 1824 visit to America.
This is an exciting topic, so thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree with what has been said in response. I am a freelance furniture designer by trade, and this national trend of going from gray to white has been happening for several years. And I think COVID is giving it a significant boost in energy. I live in a town that has a 19th-century mental hospital that was built during the "clean air" theory, and it was thought that clean air was essential in making someone healthy, so I am interested in your thought process about white in the era of COVID. RH is the source for the "gray wavy" that hit several years ago, and gray is an effortless color to work around and goes with anything like a little black dress.
I had tried to promote gray back in 2001 while working on a furniture licenses project for an incredibly famous stylist, and we developed a color called "draftsman gray," which I loved. Unfortunately, we were ahead of the curve even with the nationally known name of the slyest behind it. BTW, I cannot name the stylist because of contracts that I have even thought it was a long time ago now. I picked up on this transition to white several years ago, well before COVID, and designed a collection of furniture for American Drew called Litchfield, and it has sold great! It has an English coastal feel but has sold all over the US, so I can say "white works"! I have since followed up with two other white groups, and they have also sold well and were marketed before COVID. We are getting ready for the October home furnishings market in High point right now with pre-market next Monday and Tuesday, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well because the April Market had to be canceled.
It has been a hard, hard road since the housing crises of 2008 for the home furnishings industry because I feel people lost interest in their homes and did not see them as a good investment because of the fall out at that time. Many people were underwater in value and just handed in their keys to the banks, which left a bad taste in the mouth of many Americans. My personal feeling is that COVID is going to be great for the HOME. It is the only place that you cannot get the virus unless you bring it there, so it is a safe heaven. Also, people have been in there home more than they have in a decade and find that they want to make it more attractive or get a new one, which has shown up in retail. So, I think the home is getting a real boost in popularity right now, which was very needed!
I will include a few images of homes in my neighborhood that I walk by every day with my dog that were all painted pre-COVID and a photo of my Litchfield group.
I hope this link is usable that I am attaching, but it is for the upcoming Home Furnishings Market in High Point and beautifully illustrates "White" as a theme in home furnishings now. But I see warmer tones on the way!
Pre-market is over in High Point, and it was a great success thought to be the most important pre-market that the industry has had, and Furniture Today titled it the Mother of All Pre-Markets… Guess what finish my next primary collection will be in for April 2021, White! Yep, it will be in Indonesian Mahogany that is plantation grown and will be wire brushed in a white stain so that the gran of the wood will be apparent! The industry works on a 3 to 5-year life cycle with collections, so the anticipation is that white will be important for the next three to five years. So yes, this too will pass but not very quickly.
Just a heads up!
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