American culture has reached a point in its existence where design and lifestyle are more about market research and fitting in than rebellious self-expression—an enforced sobriety, so to speak.
It is this attitude that is squelching the very essence of creativity.
Consider the average office building—you might even be sitting in one right
now. To be polite, what color might you call your office walls? Beige? Creamy
white? You’re in the pabulum corner of Hades right now, and you subject
your retinas to it more than 40 hours a week, my friend.
Now, walk amongst the landscape of cubicles, those wide open cells that offer
absolutely no privacy or respite from co-worker intrusion—be it shout-outs
from two rows over, or muffled chip crunching from next door or, worse, a physical
presence suddenly looking over your shoulder. What color are your cubicles—the
very safe moss green coupled with soulless beige and light blue? Or perhaps a
tepid tan scattered with a non-offensive bile yellow pattern. When was the last
time you looked around this ordinary environment and felt truly energized by
Consider the average hotel. Any city will do. Artificially illuminated rooms,
bathed in a beigy-pink glow often with windows looking out onto the brick facades
of—more hotels. Potted plants dot hallways in an attempt to add a natural
element. Sporadic pings from elevators. Stale air. Uncomfortable, yet sturdy
furniture groupings dot the lobby areas. Generic artwork, such as the usual pink
vase with calla lilies on a tabletop, line the walls. This is hardly a home away
The next time you drive down your street take note of the house colors. When
was the last time your saw a joyfully vibrant purple house, trimmed in green?
How many tan, brown, white, pale yellow or gray houses are on your block? What
colors are the cars in the driveways? Why must the image we present to the public
be so lobotomized?
Consider Benjamin Moore, paint giant. The company is currently listing these
Comfortably Traditional: Make yourself at home in muted wilderness tones.
Fresh & Hopeful: Bask in the softness of clean, watery hues.
Safely Neutral: Create a soothing backdrop with chameleon, neutral tones.
No one will hear me screaming in my rubber room, decorated in muted wilderness
AMBERCROMBIE & ME
But it isn’t just in environments—the Stepford Wife mentality has
reached into the most base need of self-expression—that of fashion. In
a recent article to the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune, fashion designer Anna
Sui was quoted as saying, “Maybe the concept of edginess doesn’t
work anymore.” And James LaForce, a fashion publicist, rued the thought
that the “margin for error” in fashion—passion, decadence,
excitement—had been squelched in the name of formula.
Why do girls and boys, men and women who reach for self-expression get pummeled
with harsh words and sharp looks from those who run with packs? Why is it that
six girls wearing Abercrombie T-shirts are considered less dangerous than one
girl with pink hair and a nose ring? Why does everyone wear black?
Note the bland taupe, black and white ads for the Gap.
Worse yet, note that Devo’s punk anthem, “Whip It” is now the
Designers. I know you must please your clients; they’re the ones paying
your bills. But for heaven’s sake, before you present that soothing tone-on-tone
interior design to your next client in a “safely neutral” color scheme,
consider what Devo really said, before they sold out.
“When something’s going wrong
you must whip it
now whip it
shape it up
try to detect it
it’s not too late . . .”
Use it to buck the establishment. Trends are just trends—it doesn’t
mean they’re good, and it especially doesn’t mean they should be
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chemistry Creative, based in Minneapolis, MN.
She has more than eight years' experience covering trends, window treatments
and interior fashions, and is a former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions magazine.
Stoehr can be contacted for comments, queries and trend information at kstoehr@chemistry