Coloring Our World

Decorating schemes are entirely built upon personal preference–and in that, those of us who live alone have the advantage. We need not compromise!

A man I once dated had been divorced for a long while, and, consequently, had erased many memories of his ex-wife by redecorating his home in colors and styles that he preferred. While I knew from our first couple of dates that our relationship would not be long-lasting, his household color scheme alone would have been enough to make me bail on the association.

The worst room was, I recall, his kitchen. It had been painted precisely the shade of bottled mustard and enhanced with a strip of wallpaper border at the top: a coal-black background across which a frieze of golden pears and yellow apples danced. (Where, I still wonder, does anyone even find such a thing?)

It’s possibly needless to say that I experienced difficulty eating a meal in that room.

My own decorating tastes run to pale, rich, quiet colors: shades of ivory and shell pink, lavender and light teal, pale blue and mint green and peach. Since Boyfriend was in the market for a new home to ruin with his lack of taste, I accompanied him while he examined several model houses. Entering one, I found myself enchanted. The walls of the living room were brushed a medium lilac, while a wallpaper border along the top featured wisteria bunches amongst pale green vines on a white background. This room led into a glassed-in patio at one side, filled with white wicker furniture bearing cushions decorated with the wisteria-and-vines motif. I found the combination delightful. He thought it was nauseating.

And that, as I have pointed out many times previously in these blog posts, is perfectly okay. We are each entitled to our personal preferences. The real trick lies in maintaining the validity of one’s own stance while not belittling another’s choices (at least to their faces; in the privacy of one’s own mind is another matter!) By exercising tact, we refrain from making anyone feel that their selections are inadequate or unusual. When Boyfriend, immensely proud of the kitchen that I found so atrocious, extolled the brilliance of his color scheme, I merely remarked that it was “really bright”. I even smiled as I said it. (“Makes my eyes bleed,” was my preferred response, but I bit my tongue. Hard. I may even have drawn blood.)

Another date, stopping by my own condo for the first time, gazed about the lower floors done in my ivory/light brown/shell pink/bottle-green color scheme and remarked noncommittally, “It’s very feminine, isn’t it?” (Well, yes, of course. I live here alone, and I’m a woman.) But I took his actual meaning, and silently lauded him for his tact. Date had admirably overcome the hurdle of expressing his reservations without sounding overtly critical. He actually did a far better job than a female friend of mine. Her tastes run to brighter, deeper shades; she remarked that my color scheme reminded her of an 80s hotel.

Neither Date nor Boyfriend made it into the category of long-lived relationships, so their decorating preferences were really just a blip on the screen. But had there been any chance that I was going to continue seeing either one, I might have been just a touch more assertive in my reply, while still avoiding overt criticism—something along the lines of “Uh, well, to be quite honest, I really prefer softer colors, especially in a kitchen. Dark, bright colors make a kitchen feel very small and hot, I think.” Tactful, while nonetheless honestly acknowledging my own preferences, so that he might file them away for future reference. If Date had been someone I wanted to follow up on, I might have described to him the colors that my condo had originally been painted, while carefully noting his reaction: the living room in camouflage colors, flat khaki green and brown; the tiny half-bath in dark royal purple; the main bath in dried-blood scarlet and poison candy green; a kitchen the shade of Grey’s Poupon and the main bedroom in the darkest teal accented with pale violet and mustard. (Yeesh! The gallons and gallons of paint it took to overcome these shades does not bear remembering! Nor the fact that the young clerk at the paint store insistently debated my decision to use the “eggshell” finish paint, rather than semi-gloss. Once more, an instance of someone attempting to impose their preferences over my own.)

But, as I have pointed out before (and probably at nauseating length), the tendency to compel others to do/think/feel as we do seems to be genetically encoded somewhere in our DNA. No matter, though. I live alone, so I have absolute dominion over my decorating preferences. 80s hotel or not, I will eschew the elementary school Crayola palette and stick with the pale, soft, rich colors that I so love.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like “Roses of the Soul”,
which you can find in the archives from December 16, 2017.

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