Thursday, July 29, 2010


My tenants are moving out of the loft we lived in for 3 years. They are leaving 8 months early with 2 weeks notice, so it's been a flurry of activity. In showing the space I noticed that they had painted the upright piano that stays in the apartment. Who paints a piano? More importantly, if you're going to paint a piano why paint it MasterCard yellow?

Color is a touchy subject. I remember when I'd picked the colors for our new place, and one of Tim's architect friends referred to it as "Candyland." I felt ashamed even though I love most of the colors. When I went to London for 3 years, I made a whole new line of light whitish pottery. People were treating me like I was some whore on Jerry Springer because I like hot pink, so I had to see what I could do with pastels. Begrudgingly I'll have to admit that it's my most popular line when it comes to full-set orders. I still don't understand who said, "Food looks TERRIBLE on blue!" If you put a lobster on one of my mom's blue plates, and there's a dish of butter next to it that's a lighter blue, it doesn't look bad, I promise.

The tenants had published a little blurb about their space on a trendy apartment site. They wrote, "One of the biggest problems we had was picking the right colors to paint the non-wood walls. Originally the kitchen was dark royal blue and olive green while the living room and bedrooms were maroon — all of which made the open floor plan feel small and crowded. We wanted to brighten up the space with light, modern colors that would offset our eclectic belongings and help us appreciate the bare 12 foot ceilings." It turns out that "modern" means white. I can't say I ever liked the blue, either, but taking the only thing in the earth-toned apartment that isn't all that nice (I hate drywall) and painting it white? yuck...

It's so great when I meet a fellow color-obsessed person. I had the following e-mail exchange with a genius who was ordering a set of tableware from me:

Think chocolate brown-
Michelle Obama's skin- citrus/acid yellow, marine blue/turquoise accented by black. I saw that in India one time and decided it was one of the greatest color combinations I'd ever seen. Now I've just seen Michelle wearing acid/citrus yellow and Caribbean blue with a black belt. Of course, she looks fabulous. Ergo: may I humbly request at least one dinner plate, salad plate and one bowl in that combination, please? Another combination that always stuns me is when Matisse combines tomato red with olive green. As you know, that invites pink, chocolate brown, Dijon mustard yellow, black accents, dark plum/maroon, possibly scarlet....

to which I responded:

hmmmm......that sounds great. I've stayed away from lemon yellow, and now you want citrus yellow; are those different colors to you? What I've decided to do is make a bunch of bread plates first. I'll photograph them and you can tell me what you like from there. I'm a big red and green fan myself. I have trouble with red..I only like it with green and maybe a harvesty kind of tan...and pink, but that's so flamenco...with black it looks 80's, with yellow it looks McDonald's, with blue it looks patriotic, (Although I do sort of like it with a slate blue in a "New England blue house red door" kind of way.) With purple it makes me feel dirty, orange...nah, brown-same as purple, white-candy cane. Red is Jack Peter's favorite color. It's so weird.

My favorite thing about the exchange is Adrian's writing, "As you know" It sounds as if we're talking about some objective science in which we both have advanced degrees. I also like the fact that he'd been thinking about a color combination he saw in India for 20 years.

(krōˌmĕs-thēˈzhə) n. A condition in which another sensation, such as taste or smell, is stimulated by the perception of color.

I do sense a mild sulfur taste every time I see yellow and brown together. I could never work for UPS. I could have been saved from some very grating dates if I'd known about my chromesthesia..."I'm sorry, we can't go out tonight unless you change. That kelly green shirt is really setting me off." I think some people have chromophobia..a fear of color. Although bright colors have gotten a tacky wrap or a hippy dippy one in certain communities. Maybe it's not so much fear of color as fear of what people might think of you if you choose a bold color.

When I was first moving into places in my 20's. I couldn't BEAR any tacky furniture, bad colors, or heaven forbid, carpeting. I'd haughtily repaint, strip and remove. Things weren't acceptable unless they were trash-picked and re-habbed or antiques. Way-out-of-reach high design might be acceptable, but I could justify not affording it from some sort of hippy green perspective.

It occurred to me in the middle of giving a tour of the loft that 3 out of 4 closets were nowhere to be seen as well as the 2 little chests of drawers. They were all from Ikea. It wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing decision to put those in, but it solved the problem of creating some storage in an open plan. The tenants thought they were doing us a favor by getting rid of all of them. I can hear my own 20-something self saying, "Ugh! those are awful! They have to go right now!" How much of the horror was about the stuff itself and how much was from the worry that their hipster posse might think that they'd bought it.

It's not that I like ugly things now. I've just built up a tolerance because kid crap is so hideous, and anything nice gets immediately trashed by kids. I suppose you do have to consider what people are thinking; we are all horrible and judgemental. As the 20-something couple was telling me they were breaking their lease I was unable to focus on their words. I was thinking, "My God, she is so pretty. Why the hell is she wearing those jeans?"

1 comment:

  1. It sucks that her jeans were unflattering:(.
    Pretty girls should always have pretty things, as you should!!,especially with kids. We must only teach them how or not to touch. But more importantly, removing(could we call it stealing) someone's things--yuk. Thievery, even when it is just expunging someone of their ugly belongings, is gross. Just a thought, did you already give them their security deposit back? DON'T! Tell them it was an even trade for having to repaint the piano. Fun, fun fun...Love and better future tenants.