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A Wall Design for the Color-Shy

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As a person who grew up in a house dated 1760, I am a little afraid of color in the home. This wasn’t always the case: At the age of five, I requested to paint my walls purple; this request was turned down on the premise that because purple walls would never have existed in 1760, they should not exist in my room now. I wondered briefly if this meant I should be wearing a bonnet, too.

And so, as with most things you tolerate for many years, you grow a special kind of affection: for the dog that can’t keep her cool when guests come over, for the creakiest floorboards in the world (1760 never did want me to sneak out), for white walls.

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I accepted that I would never paint, even later in life; I thought I would never want to. Until I met the wall designed for color-shy people like me.

notes to self: paint trapezoid on wall, stop underestimating yarn.

A photo posted by Kenzi Wilbur (@kenziwilbur) on

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This is a snapshot from my bedroom wall at the Freehand Hotel in Chicago, and it’s genius: They used the absence of color to create something just colorful enough (I'm talking about the big trapezoidal shape painted on the wall, under the wall hanging). To me, this is wild, in a good way. I can picture my dad, the one who bought and restored the house I grew up in, calling it “newfangled” but shaking his head up and down, barely, in the way that means he doesn’t disapprove.

And this is why I love it: It’s the kind of wall color that bridges the gap between the Puritans and the free-wheeling hippies of home design. Between those who’d rather things be stark-white and those who were allowed to paint their walls purple. And then yellow. And then neon green.

If there’s a science to the way this trapezoid of white is positioned and painted, I don’t know it—and I prefer to imagine that there isn’t. Even if my lines aren’t exactly straight when I paint one on my wall I dream I’ll love it anyway, like the dog, the floorboards, the 1760 plaster walls. And if all else fails, I’ll call my dad—maybe this will be the wall he helps me paint.

Tags: color, paint, wall art, white paint