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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beige Buildings Make Me Cry

  Source: Cecil Castelucci

This post has been rattling around in my head for so long, I thought it was about time to commit it to my blog.  Obviously beige gets a hard knock as being boring and bland. This is not original news. In all fairness, it certainly has it's place in architectural color and I use it often to bridge or hold hands with other colors.  Beige can be a fickle friend to work with and can broadcast green, yellow or even pink undertones that can wreck havoc on an entire color palette.

My main peeve is when it's used on large exteriors en masse either as a lazy, quick decision or in a misguided notion of trying to choose the least offensive color to the public. From a maintenance point of view, it's somewhat cheaper to maintain buildings with less of an assortment of colors.

But what is saved in maintenace cost is lost in public perception.  It can end up sending the message of "rental" to the observer. It often looks cheap or even an eyesore to the public.  Beige buildings can also be overlooked or under appreciated as they fade into their surroundings but are not enhancing their surroundings.

Source: House Beautiful

I see two sorts of overlooked opportunities.  The first one is using beige on an entire building that otherwise doesn't have a lot of architectural interest.  The other is "beiging" a building that has quite a few architectural and historic qualities.  Color should be used both to give some character to a bland building or hide some of it's more glaring flaws.  Color should also be used to highlight wonderful elements on great architecture.

Now, keep in mind that setting is everything and each of these buildings is located in neighborhoods that boast vibrant architectural color as well as buildings from many different eras.

I see this above building virtually everyday when I drive my older son to high school.  It's in a wonderful neighborhood which is home to two art schools and residential homes of many inspiring, unique exterior color palettes.  While not actually a terrible beige, it's just missing out on something better. It's an interesting building that would lend itself to separating out some of it's layers.

It could stay relatively monochromatic or have a little more contrast and color.  Since this is one of the taller buildings on this street, I'd probably not go nuts with the levels of color which could overwhelm the rest of the area.

This next building is not far from my office.  It's contains rental properties and boasts great Victorian architecture.  Why not celebrate that and highlight it's elements?

 This apartment building is one of the few mid-century buildings down a long street of residential and rental properties.  It has some great stone and woodwork that deserve a more playful hand.

 This last building is also on the same street as the previous one and I've probably driven by it hundreds of times without really noticing it.  It has some great International Style architecture that I'd love to see highlighted.

 Although I'm not a huge fan of cooler white with the lighting situation here in the Bay Area, it's interesting and appropriate to add into the mix sometimes.

Taking the easy or more inexpensive way out of coloring a building can not only end up sending the wrong message to the public, it can broadcast negative feelings to many who encounter it. Thoughtful color is the best gift you can give to not only the inhabitants of your building but to those of us who encounter it on a frequent basis.