How Beige Took Over American Homes

The beige interior of a luxury home.

The beige interior of a luxury home. [Photo: Breadmaker/shutterstock.com]

How Beige Took Over American Homes

In the early 2000s, the mortgage crisis and HGTV gave us a new use for our houses: flipping them.

When I was in middle school, my parents renovated our family home. The house, an unpretentious 1,844 square-foot one-story traditional—a rather minimal house with a front facing garage, one cross-gable, and a miniature porch—was originally built in 1996, and the fads of the ‘90s were not aging well.

The 2006 renovation was technically the second one. Old photographs show a home that was entirely white, with the exception of the wallpaper in the kitchen and hall bathroom. In the first few years my family lived in the house, it shed its sterile white skin in favor of salmon pink—the color that genuinely reflected on the places my Texas-loving parents had lived before—their personal history, if you will. The walls were festooned with pictures of chili peppers, the sofa awash in geometric shapes in navy and red. Overall, you could call the style “southwestern”.

Although these details are tacky by today’s standards, there was a vibrancy in every room, which made the house seem alive. People lived there—people with their own lives, pasts, and tastes, each reflected in some way on and between the walls of their home.

In 2006, everything was painted beige.

Beige, or beige? (Photo: severija/shutterstock.com)

The living room furniture was sent off to be reupholstered—beige with red flowers, beige with red plaid. My parents sold the great leather armchair and the coffee table. The wallpaper in the kitchen disappeared, swallowed up by the beige. The countertops became granite; the linoleum floor became stone tile; the screen porch became my dad’s beige office, and the wallpaper borders became crown molding. The white carpet transformed into light-colored wood. The painting of the cowboys over the fireplace became the flat-screened TV.

But why beige? Why was interior design in the 2000s so mind-numbingly mundane? Who or what is responsible for this nationwide obsession with dull neutrality? With its coordinating furniture sets, “Tuscan” flair, and an overall preoccupation with cheap icons of luxury on a beige background, interior design in the 2000s is an interesting period to study simply because there was absolutely nothing interesting about it at all.


The culprits are different, but related: the economics of the mortgage crisis and the rise of home-improvement network TV and how they changed the American perception and concept of home over the last 36 years.

Charting the history of home improvement TV. (Photo: Courtesy Kate Riley)

A combination of deregulatory economics, a heavily commercialized and materialistic culture, and the public thirst for excess post-‘70s energy crisis made the ‘80s a perfect time for conspicuous consumption. During this decade, a heavy emphasis was placed on luxury and the display of personal wealth, which, of course, was reflected in our houses. Mixing this shiny new materialistic culture with the economic reforms of the 1990s created a perfect storm for a housing bubble to form in the early 2000s.

In the 1990s, the Clinton Administration pushed for huge mortgage reforms in order to stimulate growth in the home-building sector and provide more housing for lower-income Americans. Combine these with tax relief acts, the repeal of Glass-Steagall (the barrier between investment and commercial banks), and the relaxation of oversight on exotic financial commodities, and you get a bunch of people pushing loans on a bunch of other people to buy houses.

We all know this story. But how does it relate to beige?

The point is a bunch of people were buying and selling houses. In order to keep up with the Joneses,  grew dramatically during the period between 1973 and 2009. Conveniently, at this time, new media swooped in and put everyday American houses on TV.


When HGTV debuted in 1994, it was mostly devoted to home improvement and simple crafts. But then came the overnight sensation of House Hunters in 1999. Although HGTV was not the first home improvement or interior design network, it was the first to make realty into a reality show. The national home-buying and home-selling fervor had finally hit the big screen. Capitalizing on the drama of making a huge financial decision, HGTV focused most of its attention on the theme of buying or selling a house, with shows such as Designed to Sell, House Hunters, Love It or List It, Flip or Flop, Property Virgins, and Buy Me becoming huge hits.

From hgtv.com, “Old World Style”. (Photo: Courtesy Kate Riley)

These shows were focused on renovating or redecorating houses in order to make them more appealing to potential buyers. Most of these programs (and other interior design programs on the network) featured sidebars where performing certain home improvement acts such as adding crown molding, a double sink, wood floors, and yes, neutral paint colors would add hundreds and thousands of dollars to a home’s equity. (How these calculations came to exist is beyond me.) Building an addition, updating appliances or HVAC systems, and performing repairs on a home’s roof, insulation, or other structural properties does in fact add a great deal of value to a home’s equity. Replacing the linoleum floor with slate, painting the house beige, and adding crown molding is arguably negligible in what determines a house’s true value when it comes time to refinance—but these became standard “improvements.”

Yet, constantly, HGTV threw around dollar signs at every corner on their interior design shows, and the American public ate this up. Interior design on HGTV had a dollar number attached to it, and people believed it even if they had no intention whatsoever to sell their home. The message was clear: decorating your home this way will make it more valuable. This accounted for why neutrality and HGTV dominated design at the consumer level from 1999-2009, and, in some form, even today.

From HGTV’s 2005 “Dream Home”. (Photo: Courtesy HGTV.com)

People, even those not selling their houses, painted their houses beige by the boatload, invested in icons of home luxury (granite countertops, stone and wood floors, sybaritic bathrooms, and European-themed furniture and décor), and made their houses virtually identical. Why? Because the TV said we were making money on our houses by doing these things.


So the beige-faux-European-complex prevailed supreme above other forms of interior design of the time, such as those practiced by publications like Architectural Digest or House Beautiful. Never were the names of architects or famous designers mentioned on HGTV. Our houses lost their personal worth and touches; they were worth to us only as much as they were worth to others. Our houses were painted beige because beige enabled the prospective buyers we (even unintentionally) were designing for to picture their own lives in our houses. Beige is a blank slate – a canvas upon which anyone’s personality can be painted over. The irony is that beige became the painting itself, because of the media-driven trend towards overwhelming interior neutrality, spurred by the idea that it added concrete value to our asset-houses.

Lists of available mortgages in February 2005. (Photo: Kate Riley)

Beigeification was part of a larger shift that happened during the early 2000s. After centuries of the home being primarily a place or a space, during the 2000s it was seen as primarily an object or, more specifically, an asset. At a time where mortgage speculation made our houses disposable and impermanent, beige slipped happily onto the walls of millions of Americans, who wanted easy ways to make their house “worth more” at the behest of HGTV and other media, who treated the home as a thing to be changed, or disposed of on a whim. Beige was not a harbinger of the clinical, minimal design that is so popular now; it was the harbinger of a bubble. When houses stopped selling, our design aesthetics immediately changed, streamlined by a tight wallet.

The age of IKEA was upon us.

From HGTV’s 2006 “Dream Home”. (Photo: Courtesy HGTV.com)

If the economic crash had any silver lining, it might be that beige became to lose its appeal after 2008. It’s cheaper post-recession to buy one piece of furniture than a set, and as the 2000s purchases began to fall apart, people began to realize that it was smarter in the long run to invest in fine quality merchandise. The mixture of architect-designed furniture with other novelty pieces, the revival of the accent wall and the belief that the home is truly a reflection of one’s personality were the views of a generation that had suffered through a lot of beige.

And what life lesson did beigeification teach us, if anything?

As my parents found out during their 2010 refinancing: Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

8 Amazing Penthouses You Can Spend a Night In

~ Check out the link from Trip Advisor. Some of these look pretty fun and amazing ~

8 Amazing Penthouses You Can Spend a Night In

 

 

California’s housing shortage will hamper the economy, reports say

California’s housing shortage will hamper the economy, reports say

The dearth of housing in California will put a drag on the state’s economic growth, according to two new studies.

California will continue to pile on jobs in 2017, but its advantage over the rest of the country will shrink in the future, say a report from UC Riverside and another from UCLA.

The state cannot continue to grow as fast as it has in recent years, said economists who wrote the reports, unless it funnels more people into the workplace. But there aren’t enough homes in the state to accommodate a wave of new workers.

“Long-run growth is a function of the number of bodies in your economy,” said Chris Thornberg, an economist and the coauthor of the UC Riverside report released Tuesday.

“If we aren’t going to build new housing to meet demand, we are going to limit population growth and limit economic growth.”

Part of the problem is a slump in residential construction. In the first half of this year, new housing permits totaled 2% fewer than in 2015, and multifamily permits were down 11%, the report said.

California is nearing full employment, which is when nearly everyone who wants a job has one. The unemployment rate has hovered just above 5% for the last several months.

That means that there are fewer and fewer people already in the state to recruit into the labor market, which will naturally tamp down on the economy, according to the UCLA report released Wednesday.

“The high cost of living in California discourages some migration to the state,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist and the coauthor of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

The median price for a home in Los Angeles is $615,000, compared with $1.19 million in San Francisco, according to Redfin, the real estate website.

Seven years ago when the housing bubble burst, it nearly took down Wall Street and the entire U.S. economy.

The state will add jobs at a rate of 2% in 2016, but it will slow to 1.7% in 2017 and 1.1% in 2018, the report said.

“It sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it’s actually a decision by Californians to restrict the rapidity of growth,” Nickelsburg said. “Additional migration means more congestion and more pollution.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s aggressive posturing on trade represents another potential headwind for California, Nickelsburg said.

If Trump’s policies toward China and Mexico, for example, lead to a trade war with those countries, California would suffer more than other states because California is so reliant on the flow of goods through its ports and across the southern border.

Nickelsburg said a Trump-led trade war could undercut employment growth in the state by more than 20%.

New home sales drop 7.6% in August nationwide but rise in the West

New home sales drop 7.6% in August nationwide but rise in the West

Sales of new homes retreated in August, one month after surging to the highest level in nearly nine years. Activity fell in all regions of the country except the West.

New home sales dropped 7.6% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 609,000 units, the Commerce Department reported Monday. That followed a surge in sales in July, when they jumped 13.8% to a rate of 659,000, the fastest pace since October 2007.

Sales had been expected to slow after the July surge.

One problem weighing on the industry is a lack of new and existing homes available for sale. Sales of existing homes slipped 0.9% in August to an annual rate of 5.33 million units.

The median price of a new home sold in August was $284,000, down 3.1% from July and down 5.3% year-over-year.

At the August sales pace, it would take 4.6 months to exhaust the supply of new homes on the market. That’s up from 4.2 months’ supply in July. Both months represent low inventory levels, even though construction of new homes has accelerated for most of this year. Builders would like to boost construction even more, but they face rising costs for land and labor.

By region, sales fell the most in the Northeast, dropping 34.3%. Sales were down 12.3% in the South, and they fell 2.4% in the Midwest. The West, with a rise of 8%, was the only region of the country that saw a sales increase last month.

27 Insanely Clever Things To Finally Organize Your Messy Garage

~ In case you might needs these. I am not saying that your garage is messy, but mine is so these might be just as helpful to you ~

27 Insanely Clever Things To Finally Organize Your Messy Garage

In case you want to actually park your car in there.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

1. This sturdy overhead storage system designed to fit snugly above a raised garage door will get goods up off the floor.

Stash stuff you don’t use on the reg above with this heavy-duty unit that can hold up to 500 lbs.

Get it from Hayneedle for $116.16 to $219.99. / Available in 2 platform sizes and 3 heights.

2. This pulley system will keep bikes from being mangled by parking cars.

The system can lift bikes as heavy as 100 lbs. and as high as 12 ft., and has a safety locking mechanism to prevent accidents.

Get it from Amazon for $30.99.

3. This 3-pack of bungee cords will let you let you wind up extension cords and hang them from the ceiling.

Each bungee cord and nylon hook can hold up to 100 ft. of cord or hose that weighs in as much as 50 lbs.

Get it from Amazon for $15.97.

4. This hoist and lift storage system gives kayaks and canoes a ceiling-adjacent parking spot.

The lift works on sporting equipment up to 120 lbs. and you can operate it solo.

Get it from Amazon for $29.01.

5. This folding tire loft will hold spares or large storage bins.

The fully adjustable rack can hold a hefty 300 lbs. and makes good use of tall walls.

Get it from Hayneedle for $43.99.

6. This paper towel holder will keep a new roll fresh and clean.

Buy another holder and mount them on the ceiling to keep rolls of paper towels and contractor-grade garbage bags pristine for even-easier cleanup.

Get it from simplehuman for $26.

7. This mounted fishing rod rack will keep gear in place.

This holder has a powerful grip base and can take on as many as 6 rod combos on a wall, (or as a customer reviewed), on the garage ceiling.

Get it from Cabela’s for $19.99.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

8. This adjustable surfboard wall rack will keep your beauts wave-ready.

The steel rack’s adjustable arms are padded to protect your board’s finish and can hold both short and long boards.

Get it from Store Your Board for $69.95.

9. This ski and snowboard rack will file away your family’s snow bunny goods.

The lifetime warranty-protected rack can hold snowshoes, 4 snowboards, and 3 pairs of skis at a time.

Get it from Wayfair for $79.99.

10. This ladder and wheelbarrow hook will safely keep supersize work tools out of the way.

The streamlined hook keeps bulky items secured safely against the wall without taking up much real estate.

Get it at The Container Store for $7.99.

11. This galvanized-steel pegboard starter pack will easily place hand tools within reach.

Its 20-gauge steel construction out-performs standard hardboard pegboard material, and has slots and holes for arranging the kit’s 20 hooks of different sizes.

Get it from The Home Depot for $44.62.

12. This coat rack will be the perfect place for hats, gloves, jackets, and other heavy-duty gear.

Mount it near the interior garage door so you’ll easily track down your gloves and coat before you go outside to rake the leaves.

Get it from Amazon for $14.98.

13. This deep wall hook can handle a coiled-up garden hose or extension cord.

Its coated steel is resistant to chips and rubberized grips keep whatever you store here in place.

Get it from Hayneedle for $12.46.

14. This expandable wall-mount tool organizer will keep cleaning tools separate from (dirty) yard tools.

Removable hooks make this unit customizable for changing organizing needs.

Get it from Bed Bath & Beyond for $24.99.

15. This stainless-steel work shelf can hang solo or with friends to hold coffee cups, soap, and more essentials.

Raised shelf edges up top prevent items from toppling over and curved edges below prevent painful bumps.

Get it from Brookstone for $55.99.

16. This foldable step stool makes lofty storage shelves easily accessible.

The lightweight, foldable model is easy to stash and can support up to 225 lbs.

Get it from The Container Store for $29.99.

17. This wheeled storage bin with see-through compartments makes corralling sports balls a cinch.

The catchall makes balls easy to spot and prevents them from rolling under cars.

Get it from Brookstone for $69.99.

18. This handy golf equipment shelf can serve as your personal garage caddy off the green.

It’ll hold as many as 2 golf bags and has a top shelf perfect for loose golf balls. Keep it level on an uneven garage floor with adjustable feet.

Get it from Wayfair for $52.99.

19. This set of powerful magnetic tool holders will fit on a pegboard or the wall.

Mount them above a workbench or close to where you expect to tackle a bunch of projects.

Get the set of 3 from Northern Tool for $15.99.

20. This rolling tool tower will take care of your long-handled tools that track in dirt.

As many as 40 rakes, brooms, shovels, and more will stay put with its clips and curved tubing.

Get it from Joss & Main for $47.95.

21. This plastic, lockable freestanding cabinet is a good spot to stash dangerous chemicals and cleaners away from kids and pets.

It has adjustable shelves, won’t rust, and can hold the stuff that won’t fit on a pegboard or hook.

Get it from Lowe’s for $79.

22. This open-shelving unit can carry the weight of packed containers and bulky items.

It can be assembled in minutes and the adjustable shelves can hold a staggering 600 lbs. each.

Get it from Bed Bath & Beyond for $147.99.

23. These stackable, heavy-duty storage bins will protect important goods from the elements.

The 70-quart bin has a recessed lid for stacking and secure latches to keep contents where you want them.

Get a 4-pack from Amazon for $35.99.

24. This base garage storage cabinet has a wood worktop and handy storage inside.

The cabinet makes space for tasks without hogging garage space. Inside, mini peg boards on the doors and an adjustable shelf leave room for lots of stashing options.

Get it from The Home Depot for $179.

25. This clear 60-drawer organizer will help you track down the perfect size screw, washer, or bolt.

Keep this organizer on a work surface or mounted on the wall near tools for workshop projects. It just may save you a trip to the hardware store in pursuit of the right fastener for a project.

Get it from ACE Hardware for $26.99.

26. This slide-out storage tower will fit snugly in odd spaces beside tool benches.

The plastic unit is easy to wipe down and perfect for oddball stuff like like a tool belt or hat.

Get it from Bed Bath & Beyond for $29.99.

27. This equipment mat will tell you exactly where to park the lawnmower.

It can hold as much as 4x its weight in moisture and will protect your garage floor from snow blower drips and other outdoor equipment. Remember, every precious inch of floor space counts!

Get it from Wayfair for $58.99.

Here’s How Much Money You Need To Make To Buy A Home In 27 Major Cities

Here’s How Much Money You Need To Make To Buy A Home In 27 Major Cities

In a few cities in the Rust Belt, you can afford to buy a house while making less than $40,000. In San Francisco, you’ll need to quadruple that.

Credit: f11photo/Getty Images

In San Francisco, a household income of $150,000 still isn’t enough to afford the median home price.

In most of the U.S., a household income of $150,000 means you’re doing pretty well. In San Francisco, it’s probably not enough to buy a home.

A report released Monday by mortgage and loan site HSH.com looks at what salary families in 27 metro areas would need to afford the local median home price, including principal, interest, taxes and insurance.

The report assumes a buyer’s down payment is 20 percent and uses the lending standard that a monthly home payment shouldn’t be more than 28 percent of income. It relies on the National Association of Realtors’ quarterly data for single family home prices, and excludes condos and co-ops.

According to the data, home prices have gone up since the first quarter of the year in every metro area except three, all in Florida: Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Pittsburgh was the most affordable metro area, with a prospective buyer only needing to make $32,400 to afford a typical home.

The San Francisco metro area requires the highest salary, $162,000. If a buyer wanted to put down 10 percent instead of 20 percent, they’d need to make over $196,000.

And while there have been signs of housing costs leveling off in the area, the HSH report shows prices increasing nearly 15 percent from the first quarter of the year, to a median price over $885,000.

Of course, the dollar amounts for home price and income level look very different depending on where you live: The median household income is $40,000 in the city of Pittsburgh, compared to over $78,000 in San Francisco.

But costs are still spiraling out of control in the Bay Area (and several other cities), putting homeownership out of reach for all but the wealthiest residents.

In San Francisco County, only 13 percent of households can afford a median-priced home, according to a report this month.

Though more people are renting, it’s not necessarily a more affordable option: Rent increases have continued to outpace income growth, and around the country, nearly half of renters are spending more on housing than they can afford.

See more details for each metro area at HSH.com

Home prices in the region up for 50th straight month

Home prices in the region up for 50th straight month

House prices continued rising in July, increasing from year-ago levels for a 50th straight month in Orange County and for a 51st straight month in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire, the CoreLogic Home Price Index showed Tuesday.

Orange County has had the lowest appreciation rate in the region, with July house prices up 4.6 percent. By comparison, prices were up 6.3 percent in the Inland Empire and 6.7 percent in L.A. County, CoreLogic numbers show.

Nationwide, the price of an existing single-family home increased 5.4 percent from July 2015 levels. Prices were up 5.9 percent statewide.

CoreLogic’s monthly price index is based on same-home comparisons, computing the average price change of all homes sold compared to each home’s previous sale price.

Mortgage interest rates hovering within a fourth of a percent of all-time lows is a key factor in the housing market’s four-year-plus upward trajectory. But resistance to Orange County’s higher prices is keeping a lid on the rate of increase.

For example, O.C.’s price gains averaged just over 5 percent for the past year, compared to 6.1 percent in the Inland Empire and 6.5 percent in L.A. County.

“If mortgage rates continue to remain relatively low and job growth continues, as most forecasters expect, then home purchases are likely to rise in the coming year,” said Frank Nothaft, CoreLogic chief economist. “The increased sales will support further price appreciation, and according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index, home prices are projected to rise about 5 percent over the next year.”