There’s a new quarantine palette for painting houses

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Nov 4, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
Work from home has some people fed up with the color of their walls. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

There’s a new quarantine palette for painting houses

Kai Ryssdal and Andie Corban Nov 4, 2020
Work from home has some people fed up with the color of their walls. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Spending on services is significantly down, but some industries are booming as consumers adjust to life in the coronavirus economy. As we spend more time at home, people are shopping for new furniture, and according to ARTnews, house paint.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Kyle Chayka about his article on the growing demand for paint and the types of colors people are looking for during the pandemic. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: So this might be the simplest opening question in an interview I have ever asked, but here goes. Paint? Really?

Kyle Chayka: Yeah, yeah, I think people are just so bored of staring at their walls that they have wanted to repaint them.

Ryssdal: Tell me about this engineer you started this piece with because it is just symptomatic of so much of what’s going on.

Chayka: Yeah, so Maris Mann-Stadt, who’s an environmental engineer in Massachusetts, found out, discovered, that she was really not using the dining room of her home very much during quarantine because no one could come over. And she and her husband started using it as an office. But the dining room was painted this kind of dramatic dark salmon color. And it was not helping when the sun went down, and everything got even darker. So they decided to repaint it. And they decided on this kind of light, bluish-gray color. And that has helped so far, like they have been a little more comfortable in their dining room/office.

Ryssdal: And is that the trend? I mean, people are going away from the dramatic that used to be fashionable, and now they just want soothing tones because everything.

Chayka: Yeah, I think like all this outward anxiety in the world, and like how scary everything is, makes you want to have your home be as safe and comfortable and nondramatic as possible. So rather than this like popular, fashionable pink, like just going to something totally neutral and inoffensive.

Ryssdal: I imagine paint companies are making money hand over fist.

Chayka: Yeah, it’s a huge jump. I think Farrow & Ball’s revenue has gone up 20% just this year, and I talked to an Irish brand called Curator who said that some of their colors jumped up like 60% during the pandemic. So it’s actually kind of a bright spot for them.

Ryssdal: You know, it’s funny you named two paint companies that I’ve never heard of. And we’re not talking Sherwin-Williams here, right? These are higher-end paint companies?

Chayka: Yeah, I think this is more kind of like they’re already fashionable. They’re kind of luxury paint brands.

Ryssdal: Right. Let me get back to the actual colors that people are choosing. And I get not wanting drama and all of that. But why the blues and the greens, do you suppose?

Chayka: Yeah, it’s super fascinating. And color is so psychological and emotional. I think it was kind of about bringing the outside world into your house a little bit more. So taking these organic colors that give you a sense of like the distance of the forest or the cloudy sky or something. So these soft greens and blues, they give you a sense of like more space rather than the confinement of a darker color.

Ryssdal: All right, here comes the deeply cynical question. Do you suppose once we can all not have to be in our houses all the time, people are gonna go, “Oh, my god, these greens and blues. This is terrible. Get me some salmon now.”

Chayka: Yeah, I mean, I think they’ll suddenly find that they’re bored. So right now we’re just so overstimulated that this comes as a break from that. But as soon as we can actually experience things again, I think fashion will change.

Ryssdal: Right. And of course, paint companies will say, “Sure, we can sell you more paint, that’d be fine.”

Chayka: Right. They can do whatever. They can switch it up as soon as possible.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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