There’s a new quarantine palette for painting houses
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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
What do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?
It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.
How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?
Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.
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