Pantone Colors Of The Year, Ranked

All colors are good. But some colors are better than others, and that’s why Pantone selects a Color of the Year. According to Pantone, the Color of the Year is “a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.” Since the Color of the Year was introduced in 2000, we’ve seen the palate swing wildly from Radiant Orchid to Tangerine Tango, and less wildly from Aqua to Blue Aqua. Do they represent our “global culture?” Maybe not, but it’s always fun to see what they come up with.  Not all symbolic color selections are created equal, so here is our ranking:

This Is A Boring Color
19. Sand Dollar – 2006

 

This color was only called Sand Dollar because Landlord Paint didn’t get past the Pantone Board of Directors.  I’m going to sell my house and someone boring might buy it? Boom. Sand Dollar. Also while sand dollars themselves are pretty, the color of them is just sand. And sand is just ocean dirt.

All Aboard The Arbitrary Dislike Train
18. Marsala – 2015

I arbitrarily dislike deep reds, but above that, I arbitrarily dislike colors that don’t know what they’re trying to be. Brown? Red? Tan? Rust? Mauve. Marsala is all of these and none of these at the same time.

17. Chili Pepper – 2007

If Sand Dollar is Landlord Paint, Chili Pepper is Dining Room Red. I even painted my parents’ dining room this color years ago. It’s perfectly nice, but plays into my arbitrary dislike of deep reds.

These Are The Same Color. Right? Pantone. These Are The Same Color.
14, 15, and 16, Aqua Sky – 2003, Blue Turquoise – 2005, Turquoise – 2010

Anyone who’s been to my house or seen my wardrobe knows that I love me some blues and greens. So does Pantone, or the universal zeitgeist as distilled into a color by Pantone, I guess. If there was just ONE turquoise-y color it might land near the top of my list, but I don’t know how to rank these so they’ll have to rank in the lower-middle. If you forced my hand I’d give the advantage to Blue Turquoise because it reminds me of the color they’d paint a water park in the ’90s …. or today, because every water park somehow lives within a 1993 time warp.

12 and 13, Tigerlily -2004 and Tangerine Tango – 2012

I love the peppy zip these colors bring to the Pantone family! I don’t love how they’re the same color. I’d have liked to see one orange with more pink to it, and one with more yellow, or something. I’m actually surprised that a true coral wasn’t chosen yet, as it’s been the accent color at every outdoor wedding since 2007.

I’m Pretty Sure This Is Cheating
10 and 11, Rose Quartz and Serenity – 2016

In 2016 Pantone really outdid itself by selecting two colors of the year: Rose Quartz and Serenity, better known as pink and blue. Pink and blue don’t really capture the essence of the global consciousness of 2016, although what COULD capture that year – puce? Baby poop green? If they capture the essence of anything, it’s a baby shower. Still, these two values are gorgeous. Serenity has a nice periwinkle hue and rose quartz is gentle but not babyish. But don’t think I didn’t notice that you picked two colors in one year, Pantone.

Lumpy Blue Sweater Color
9. Cerulean – 2000

This color would rank lower but it has the distinction of being the only Color of the Year that is the subject of a Meryl Streep monologue.

“You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

Good Pink
8. Honeysuckle – 2011

This is a good shade of pink. While cloying if it’s the wall color for an entire room, it brightens up when paired with bright green or yellow and can look more understated with gray and cream.

‘Pop Of Color In Your Kitchen’ Color
7. True Red – 2002

Option 1: You redid your kitchen, everything’s all gray and subway tile, and you want to add a kitschy, cheerful, 1950s feel. You buy a vintage wall clock and fiestaware in True Red.

6. Greenery – 2017

Option 2: You redid your kitchen, everything’s all gray and subway tile, but you want a pop of color that says that you enjoy the outdoors and love to cook with local, seasonal ingredients. That’s when you add some glassware or a painted island in Greenery. Greenery is fresh, it’s lively, and it works best as an accent color when things are a bit too Home Depot Special.

Better Pink
5. Fuschia Rose – 2001

Fuschia Rose does what Honeysuckle was trying to do, but better. It’s poppy and fun, and it feels very 2001. We had only recently come out of the glittery, pop-infused late 90s and Carrie Bradshaw and all her friends were bringing playful feminine style to the forefront. I appreciate that Fuschia Rose knows what it is and really goes for it, pink-wise.

Normal Blue
4. Blue Iris – 2008

While Blue Iris sounds like a celebrity baby name or an independent film, it’s actually a very nice, normal shade of blue that pairs well with practically everything. Think of blue jeans: wear them with black or pastels or brights, they’ll always look good. Even though some of the punchier colors are fun, Blue Iris is the kind of color you could paint a whole room in or use as an accent throughout your house, and it would still look fine in ten years.

Normal Yellow
3. Mimosa – 2009

Mimosa is the only yellow Pantone has chosen (but sure, y’all needed THREE turquoises), and it’s nice and normal. That might sound like faint praise but it isn’t. It’s hard to find a yellow that’s not too bright or too soup-y. A perfect match for normal blue, normal yellows are optimistic and sunny. (I’m also biased because someone once said I have a great yellow aura. I don’t necessarily believe in that, but also that was years ago and now my aura’s probably … marsala.)

Now That Is A COLOR
2. Radiant Orchid – 2014

This was one of the only Pantone colors that actually surprised me. It’s a vibrant yet relaxing hue that looks amazing with all kinds of decor or style. I love a purple that’s not too grape-y or eggplant-y, but doesn’t delve into Easter Egg territory. I love you, Radiant Orchid.

A Totally Biased Top Pick
1. Emerald – 2013

I’ve always loved a true green. I was one of the only little girls I knew whose favorite color was green, not pink or purple (although I appreciate those too); relatives I seldom see still remember this and buy me things in this color. So this is totally ill-informed and arbitrary, but I loved when Pantone chose Emerald as their color of the year in 2013. Green can be as stately as shutters on an old mansion, or deep and lush like jungle plants, or crisp and classic paired with navy blue. When I studied abroad  I used to walk past a boutique with a storefront ‘living room’ painted in emerald green and swear I’d paint a room that color one day. I still haven’t done it, but that’s what is so great about colors. They tap into feelings and memories and, sure, Pantone, “what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

 

20 Things I’ll Never Forget About Trading Spaces

Trading Spaces was a TLC decorating show that premiered in 2000 and ushered in the next 17 years of home and garden television, and if you’re an adult of a certain age there are probably some parts of the show that are branded onto your memory. That’s why when I heard that TLC is reviving Trading Spaces for its 2017-2018 season, I was that special mix of excited and dismayed that you get when one of your former favorite shows gets a reboot.

I haven’t seen an episode since the Trading Spaces was cancelled in 2008 — more accurately, since I graduated high school in 2004 — but somehow I remember those afterschool Trading Spaces episodes better than anything I learned sophomore year. The premise of Trading Spaces – neighbors and friends pair up with a designer to redo a room in each other’s houses in 24 hours, usually with a terrible design scheme and poor execution, because you need more than 24 hours to redo a room – was so high on drama that I can’t believe I didn’t realize it was straight-up reality TV more than it was a decorating show. Of course, the rooms were all VERY early 2000s, like the decorating version of empire waist tops, chunky highlights and flared jeans. In no particular order, these are the Trading Spaces quirks, designs, characters and moments that are still taking up my brain space in 2017:

Frank’s designs were always kind of barnyard-y. That country cute style (ahem… country geese!) had mostly gone out of fashion by the early 2000s, but Frank was always there with the stencils and gingham anyway.

Vern was very minimalist and if he was doing your house, you would probably get something kind of normal and livable.

Hildi knew what this was: reality TV. You can tell because she did things like glued straw to the walls of a house with children living in it and suspended furniture from the ceiling. This is extra silly when you remember that most of these homes were suburban tract houses that were otherwise pretty Pottery Barn-normal. At the time I thought she was nutso but now I think she was a crazy genius.

Doug did things people would hate, on purpose, just because they would hate it. I might love him for that.

Gen always painted barefoot.

When Paige Davis got married, her husband’s surname was Page.

Also her first name isn’t Paige, it’s Mindy. And her hair was SO FLICKY.

Every time a homeowner told a designer not to touch something – be it a fireplace or an antique credenza or a mural – the designers were contractually obligated to mess with it. Probably.

You know what got the biggest excited reaction from homeowners? Every time? When a designer would take their photos and blow them up and hang them on the walls. Things like Shutterfly and Flickr did exist, and you could even get your Kodak prints blown up at Wal-Mart during this era, but I guess it was big news to Trading Spaces homeowners. Last weekend I was at my brother’s neighbor’s house – a McMansion-y suburban cul-de-sac – and one whole wall was giant blown-up canvases of the family. I blame Trading Spaces.

Trading Spaces is also responsible for a lot of early 2000s dining rooms that were painted dark brown, which they told us was chocolate-y.

This lady’s really averse reaction to one of the least-bad rooms I remember seeing:

Theme rooms were so theme-y that they were the interior design equivalent of a Claudia Kishi outfit. If there was a desert theme, your floor was sand. Or if there was a dessert theme, your floor was hot fudge.

The theme rooms were also usually really really tenuously connected to an interest the family had. If a couple went to a Sandals resort in the Caribbean for their honeymoon, the room would be decorated as a giant papaya. That sort of thing.

It was that era when televisions couldn’t just be out in the open, so usually Ty or Amy Wynn (Remember Ty Pennington and Amy Wynn Pastor? If you’re reading this, of course you do) would have to build a giant armoire or false wall or something for it.

In a very 2000s crossover, Natalie of the Dixie Chicks participated. So did the Camden sisters (Jessica Biel and Beverley Mitchell) of Seventh Heaven fame.

They definitely designed a kitchen to look like a horror movie crime scene. Unlike the other list items, I had to look that one up for confirmation because it seemed too outlandish. Yup. Hildi.

Laurie painted everything yellow and had Grace Adler hair. Her rooms were normal.

They said you can spray paint upholstered furniture. To rip off Sondheim, can is different than should.

On day one, they’d get maybe 5% of the work done, then when the designer left they’d give the homeowners their “homework.” The homework was usually along the lines of “paint the entire room and all of the furniture.”

Trading Spaces is what taught a lot of us that you could tape off sections of wall to paint stripes, and I think that as a people, we got a little carried away with that idea for a while.

 

It’s 2016: Let’s All Decorate Like It’s 1979!

::SPOILER WARNING: If you have not watched the pilot of This Is Us yet, and you plan to do so, stop reading now and go to your nearest Hulu account or On Demand platform. We’ll still be here when you get back. ::

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 Did anyone else watch the This Is Us pilot with no idea of the twist — or that there even would be a twist in the first place? It’s a show about different people who were born on the same day and are turning 36 years old during the pilot. The conceit: the people are twins Kevin and Kate, their brother Randall who was adopted after Kevin and Kate’s triplet brother was stillborn, and the siblings’ father Jack. You watch the whole pilot thinking the characters are all contemporaries until the camera pulls back and you realized that Jack and Rebecca’s story is taking place in 1979, and he is the father of Kevin, Kate and Randall. You wouldn’t think that it would work, but it does.

The reason? Hipsters. Jack and Rebecca’s story takes place in their new home and in a hospital maternity ward. Anyone who’s been to visit a new baby recently knows that hospital decor is frozen sometime around 1972. As for the home, if you follow decorating websites and magazines, you will recognize that the hottest trend for hip 20- and 30-something professionals is to decorate like they’re in Pittsburgh in 1979. There’s stark white mixed with dark wood, orangey and earthy accents, and a whole lot of DIY-looking crafts. Can you blame me for not realizing that Jack and Rebecca’s story took place 37 years ago?

For a little context, my parents got married in 1975 and their first child was born in 1978. Like most couples, they acquired a lot of their decor in the first years of their marriage. I’m child number 4, born in 1986. The burnt orange carpeting, dark plaid sofa and geese in flight that my mom was carting off to Goodwill in the ’90s were all the same features you’d see in Jack and Rebecca’s home. They’re also the same features you’d see on Apartment Therapy and Dwell today – so maybe my parents should have suffered through 20 years of being unfashionable and waited for it to all come back around again.

Usually we time travel during our Let’s All Decorate posts, exploring trends like geese in bonnets or sponge-painting. This time we’re doing something a little different: it’s 2016 and we’re decorating a hipster haven … in the spirit of the late ’70s, the most hipster era of them all.

Macrame

Then: The hippie DIY craze was going strong and people were looking for a fresh way, other than paintings and photographs, to add some interest and texture to their walls.

Now: Literally just replace hippie with hipster. There are ‘wall hangings’ that are basically macrame everywhere from West Elm to Target to Etsy.


 Big Graphic Wallpaper

Then: The psychadelic late ’60s led into a more peace-and-love floral look in the ’70s, and the result was giant, bold patterns on walls.

Now: Although big, loud patterns are definitely in vogue – usually you’d call them “statement” now – they’re often paired with an otherwise calm color scheme so they really “pop.”


Plush Rugs

Then: The first big household project I remember, c. 1990, was my mom ripping out the orange shag wall-to-wall carpeting that basically sold my childhood home for my parents when they were 20-something househunters in 1979 (to reveal gleaming 1920s hardwoods, naturally).

Now: After years of low-pile, berber-style carpet, things have taken a turn. But don’t expect to see ’70s-style fitted carpets – now it’s more like a funky, comfy rug tossed across bare wood floors.


Dark Wood Cabinets

Then: If you’ve bought or renovated a 1960s – early 1980s house, there’s an excellent chance you’ve had to contend with the dull, dark-finish wood that ensconced cabinets during that time.

Now: After a late 80s through early 2000s flirtation with light oak and pine, darker woods are back. Unlike the ’70s, a glossier finish is in style.


Natural Elements

Then: We may associate the hippies with the late ’60s in popular culture, but a flip through a family photo album will tell you that the love for mother earth extended into the decorating styles of the ’70s and early ’80s. Natural stone, water features and big houseplants were especially groovy (NB: I’m told that hardly anyone actually said ‘groovy.’

Now: Look at any bespoke house in Dwell or Houzz and you’ll see that letting the outside in is a modern priority, too. Skylights and local stone are all things homeowners are wishing they hadn’t ripped out in the 90s.


Afghans

Then: The DIY craze hit the blanket industry hard and granny squares were too cool.

Now: They better be cool again because this is my living room (see sofa).

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Upcycling

Then: Yep, this started as a ’70s fad. The economy wasn’t doing so hot, and homeowners were getting creative. Popular projects included turning things into lamps, incorporating old whiskey barrels and wagon wheels into outdoor decorating, and creating planters out of EVERYTHING.

Now: Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s just homeowners following the adages to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” and “reduce, reuse, recycle” – either way, there are thousands of tutorials out there to create a garden bench from an old crib, a table from a suitcase or a bedside table from a TV case. Again, I HOPE this is cool, because this is my bed with a barn door from the 1800s as a headboard:

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Color

Then: I think the 1970s are unfairly maligned as a decade with no taste. Sure, things got garish for a while, but after the sleek midcentury modernism and colonial revivals of the past decades, it’s nice that decorators were playing and having fun. Nowhere was that more evident in the uses of color. Lots of it. On things like appliances, even.

Now: We circled back to beige and taupe for a while, but unless you’re staging your house to sell it’s actually cool to have lots of bright color again. (Or… I hope so, because you saw those pictures of my house.)

It’s 1994: Let’s All Decorate Your Grandma’s House!

In this edition of Let’s All Decorate, we are delving into one of my personal fascinations: grandparents. For the design-obsessed, there’s something even more fascinating about grandparents than their stories about the Great Depression: their houses. It’s almost like irrespective of income or geography, everyone’s grandmas and grandpas were decorating from the same catalog.

The best thing about your grandma’s house – other than your grandma, naturally – was that it was sort of a time capsule. After a certain point, your grandma probably decided that she was done redecorating, so visits to her house were like going to the Happy Days set. Even my more modern, design-minded grandma had these amazing artifacts of my mom’s 1950s childhood in her basement and closets. Visiting your grandma was a bit like time-traveling or visiting a living history museum.

Like all of our Let’s All Decorate installments, we are focusing on a time in the near past – roughly 1994, during our peak childhood years. In 1994, the relatively hip baby boomers weren’t yet grandparents (my boomer parents have 8 grandkids, but they don’t have a “grandma” house). No, grandparents of 90s kids were members of the “greatest generation” – which did not stand for “greatest generation of decorators.”

Let’s all decorate in 1994: when your grandparents’ house was full of love. Love, and probably a wooden television case.

Candy You Weren’t Allowed To Eat

“Eat me!”, the candy said.

“Eat some candy!”, your grandma said.

“Don’t eat that!”, Your mom said.

Everyone’s grandma seemed to have glass jars of candy – gumdrops and Werther’s Originals were popular choices. And your mom never let you eat it. Was it old? Dusty? Merely decorative? Who would keep jars of candy that children weren’t allowed to eat? Old people, is who.

It’s like every trip to grandma’s kitchen was a visit to one of those wedding candy bar tables and nobody gave you a gift bag.

A TV In A Giant Wooden Box

 

In the 1950s, there was an unfortunate collision of home decor forces: the rise of the television, coupled with the rise of suburban Colonial Revival. The result: the television set they would have watched in Colonial Williamsburg, complete with spindles and a drawer that didn’t open.

Fun fact: I remember my grandma searching for a new TV in the mid or late 90s. She complained about how hard it was to find TV sets in the giant wooden box, which she preferred because she said it looked nicer and warmer. Grandparents found naked televisions sort of stark and electronic-looking.

Grammy eventually found the wooden 13 Colonies Television, by the way. I imagine it was in a special basement stockroom marked “Grandma TVs.”

Paneling, Somewhere

When the grandparents of the 90s were the parents of the 1950s – 1970s, somebody convinced all of them that wood paneling was easy to clean and maintain, and could look either stately or rustic depending on how you styled it. My dad’s parents proudly proclaimed that they would never have to paint their living and dining room again!

Yeah. Because it looks like Pa Ingalls’ cabin, instead.

By the 1990s, nobody was installing wood paneling, but most grandparents still had it somewhere in their home, even if only in a basement lounge.

These Bowls

You know why everyone’s grandma had these bowls – often in way less appealing colors? Because she bought them in 1961 and Pyrex is indestructible. My mom has a set too, and I wish I did as well, because these bowls are the best.

Carpeting Where There Shouldn’t Be

And it was always gold or brown for some reason? And just a little bit too long.

When my parents bought their house from some older people in 2000, the entire house was full of gleaming original hardwoods – except the kitchen and the bathroom. The two very worst places to have carpeting.

Possibly Some Clear Runners On The Hardwoods Or Carpeting

Why even have hardwoods? Or carpeting? It really added to the “this is a museum of American life in 1976” vibe.

Toilet Paper And Kleenex Receptacles

Where grandma’s glue gun chops really had a chance to shine. Grandparents loved keeping a spare role on top of the toilet, and covering it in either a floral and lace-trimmed box, or maybe a hand-knitted cozy. Sometimes the toilet paper cover looked like like a human woman from the past, to go with the misguided colonial motif.

Weirdly Dark Lamps

They’re lamps. Yet they’re somehow making everything look darker.

This one kind of chair

Both sets of grandparents had these. I scoffed, but now I kind of which I had them for some of those hard-to-fill corners of my house.

Drapes. Not Curtains. Drapes.

That you’d draw, not open or close. These were usually heavy, light-blocking, and in some kind of a gold  or mustard color.

A tweed couch

Not always the primary couch, it may have been a pullout in the family room for grandkid sleepovers. It wasn’t necessarily plaid.

Knick Knacks From The Land Of Their Ancestors

Whether your grandparents were right off the boat or daughters and sons of the American Revolution, they probably displayed their pride in their ancestral homeland through figurines, dolls, and plaques.

[Aside: in my weird family, my grandpas were both those Irish-American guys for whom “being Irish” is like their number one hobby, so ancestral knick-knacks abounded. I don’t even think I knew until mid-childhood that my grandmothers weren’t at all Irish. Go figure.]

Maybe some religious stuff, too

This varied. I had one of those Catholic grandmas who had all of the merch, so there were statues, portraits and rosaries all over that joint. At the very least, your grandparents probably had a church or synagogue directory with their photo in it, and phone numbers of all the other old people.

There were other things some grandparents’ houses had, like absurdly old photos of you, old people smell, and plates full of baked goods that were foisted on you as soon as you walked in the door. But without the heart and soul of the 1994 grandparents’ house – their total love for and obsession with their grandkids – it would have just been a collection of decorating mistakes and DIY disasters.

It’s 1996: Let’s All Decorate Our Childhood Bedrooms!

In this Let’s All Decorate, we’re taking it back to 1996 – one of the summers that stands out sharpest in my memory, although I’m not sure why. The Olympics were on TV and I was obsessed with the entire U.S. Gymnastics team and their flat snappy hair clips. My brothers and I knocked a pint of wall primer onto the hall carpet imitating old people at a wedding dancing the Macarena. I spent my days at acting camp, falling hard for improv. Mitzi, my beloved, gentle mutt, slipped out of the front gate and was never seen again. My mission in life was to be the kind of person who owned a bra, and by fall I had one (I concede that it was, and is, completely unnecessary).  Inspired by the summer’s hit film Harriet The Spy, I took to observing my inner-city neighbors and writing down their activities in a notebook … for about two weeks, when I forgot. There were kind of a lot of drug deals, to be honest. And with my older sister about to head off to her first year of college, we were all shuffling bedrooms.

Nothing says “child of privilege” more than getting your very own bedroom, and being given permission to pick out a new bedspread, wallpaper, and accessories. I took the mission very seriously for an almost-10-year-old: I went antiquing. However, most of my planning consisted of flipping through the giant fall Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs and dreaming about the perfectly coordinated tween bedroom.

A Stupid Comforter

THIS EXACT SET. Yes. The back had pink dots and teal bows.

Now, as an almost-fifth-grader, I wasn’t going in for licensed character merchandise anymore. But there was a comforter set for any tv show, movie, or hobby you were into. In my previous bedroom I had Minnie Mouse because my mom predicted that I’d only be into Beauty and the Beast for a year of so (so instead I got a character I was never into ever).

Here, you like unicorns? Of course you do. Enough to sleep under them? Hell yes:

Sports? I don’t get it, but sure, why not:

Maybe you’re just generically the kind of kid who likes to listen to music and eat ice cream, probably? (AKA the “your dad’s new girlfriend helped decorate a room in his new townhouse and things are okay, but sort of weird” set)

Curtains That Match The Comforter A Little TOO Well

I have to go put my head between my knees for a sec. Yikes. That’s a sick Mrs. Potts on the bedside table, though. Also: canopy beds. YES. Yes. Like sleeping in your own secret tent/fort every night.

But did anyone have parents who bought the whole curtain/rug/bedding set? Because my mom was always  like “come on, Moll, you can have the comforter but I’m just getting white curtains from K-Mart.” Unlike this nerd (who is probs really great at Carmen Sandiego):

A Bed That’s Trying To Be Something Else

Today my bed is just trying to be a bed. Well, I made the headboard out of an 1800s barn door, so I guess it’s trying to be that, but it’s mostly just a bed. But in 1996, your bed could be anything! It could be a race car, a doll house, or – as I had c. 1999 – a bookcase. I don’t know why beds couldn’t just be themselves but it was sort of a weird time socio-culturally.

Like, look at this lucky freaking kid. You just know that in 2015 she’s one of those girls who has a ridiculously lucrative job doing something vague in marketing and who actually enjoys bridal and baby showers, because her life has been blessed from day one:

By the way, I slept in my nephew’s race car bed last year and it was just like a tiny, awful bed with static electricity on the sides.

A Desk You’ll Never Use

Yeah, you’ll never use that desk. You do your homework at the dining room table.

Above is Abbi Jacobson’s childhood desk, and who knows, maybe she DID use it. Maybe that’s how she became who she is today, by being the kind of person who actually uses her desk.

A Regrettable Chair

Hey, former 90s kid, current adult person! How’s your back feeling? Not awesome? Yeah, that’s because we sat on bean bags and, like, pool toys. The inflatable chair was more late 90s and the bean bag was more early-mid, if memory serves.

Fun fact: my cat used my inflatable chair as a litter box (as it should be, honestly) and then my dad sloshed cat pee everywhere getting it downstairs. So not worth $21.99 from the Delia*s catalog.

A Shelf For Your Treasures and Collections (AKA Beanie Babies and Creepy Porcelain Dolls)

In the 90s, children and old ladies alike were really into collecting useless things. I actually still have a mix of mine and my grandma’s 90s porcelain doll collections in boxes in my attic that I won’t open because they’ll probably start haunting me. Like Kirsten Dunst, pictured above, you probably used your shelves to “express your personality” and stash your Dottie the Dalmation and World Book collection, plus maybe a Sand Art creation or two.

Maybe A Rug That Looked Like A Road?

As far as I was concerned, these were strictly for rich kids and dentist waiting rooms.

It’s 1997: Let’s All Decorate With Sponge Painting!

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate! It’s 1997. Maybe we’ve discarded our bonnet-wearing geese, and maybe the last of our weird pastel southwestern stuff has been shipped to Goodwill. If we’re really cool, we might even own a giant tv armoire. But if we are creative, artistic, and like to amp up our home decor using household cleaning products, we have some serious sponge painting going on. It’s like when Elaine Benes wondered who was sponge-worthy, we as a people said “NO. The question is what is sponge-worthy?” And then we collectively answered: Everything. Leave no wall un-sponged!

If you’re too young to remember, or just preferred your walls to be one continuous, non-spongy color, let me explain sponge painting. First you’d paint your wall a base color. In modern times, that is where we leave it. But it was 1997, you were blasting Hanson or Jewel on the radio, wearing one of those shirts with one big stripe across the chest, your curled-under-with-a-round-brush bangs hadn’t drooped yet – you were feeling good and you wanted to keep going. Did you have a sponge and a second paint color? Well then you were ready to create a home decorating masterpiece trainwreck! You’d get a bigass sponge – not a flat kitchen sponge but a big old textured mofo. You’d dab it into paint color number two, then you’d just freaking blot it all over your walls. I mean, you’d re-up the paint when it ran out, which was often because it’s a SPONGE whose job is to absorb stuff. Like, the sponge tried to prevent this decorating atrocity from even happening, but we just kept at it.

You could have more or less overlap depending on how much of the “base” you wanted to show. You could leave the sponge ghosts loud and proud instead of overlapping, like these brown kitchen people. Yeah, that was not how you were supposed to do it.

Also, it helped if your base and sponge colors were variations of the same color instead of… this:Sometimes sponge painting made it look like your house was overtaken by a mud-tornado or a sewage explosion:Sometimes it looked like you chewed up paint and then regurgitated it atop other paint, which doesn’t really make sense, but then again neither does painting your walls with a cleaning implement:But be careful not to press too much paint into your corners! Or actually who cares, it’s all terrible:But hey, if you sponge painted your counters, maybe they’d look like marble!

NO, oh my God just kidding, it would look like your cat walked through tar then trip-trapped across your sink.

You could even sponge up your dresser even though looking at it kind of triggers my vertigo.You could combine your sponging with solid paint and wallpaper, too. It was a way to “mark your territory” for all future homeowners, because this mixed-media masterpiece can’t be easy to remove.

Okay, but why? Look, I’m not an outsider. I was all about the “texture” and “interest” that sponge painting provided. I sponge painted a table and a guest bedroom at my parents’ house. So this is not the perspective of one of those “flat-painters” or “wallpaper people”: I was THERE. I remember. I just don’t totally understand.

Like most members of my generation, I cannot pass up an opportunity to shift the blame to Baby Boomers. Their kids were growing up and they had more time to sink into household projects. This was their answer to a childhood in post-war houses that were painted in solid colors, I guess. Always the rebels, those boomers. Obviously I sponge painted as a child, so sure, my generation was in on it. And after a lifetime of “everyone is special” and “you all get a trophy” we believed that maybe we were decorating savants. But with most decorating trends, “so simple a child could do it” isn’t really an endorsement.

Maybe there weren’t generational factors at play. Maybe it was just the final gasp of 90s DIY culture. Maybe El Nino led to an explosion in the sea sponge population. Or maybe we just all lost our damn minds for a while there.

It’s 1999: Let’s All Decorate With Giant Armoires To Hide Our TVs!

It’s another installment of Let’s All Decorate!, a series where we explore the design trends of the not-so-distant past! Today we look at what happened after the geese in bonnets and pastel southwestern decor was sent to Goodwill.

A wise man once said “when you’re living in America at the end of the millennium, you’re what you own.”

And when you were living in America at the end of the millennium, one of the things you owned was probably a bigass faux French-Country armoire that you hid your tv in.

We just all sit facing this closed up armoire GUYS IT’S TOTALLY NATURAL.

The question of how to make your television seem appealing is as old as TV itself. In the 50s, televisions were encased in these weird wooden tv boxes that were probably supposed to make them seem like furniture. My grandparents used one their whole lives. By the ‘70s, a lot of families had TV stands with shelves on the side and a big cut-out hole for the TV.

Raise your hand if you grew up with one of these guys; now raise your hand meekly if your parents still have it.

By the late 90s, we had moved beyond that. Television was no longer novel and impressive. All the fanciest people didn’t have giant televisions, they were bragging that they didn’t own one. What’s a TV junkie to do?

Sometime around 1997, some brilliant mind came up with a solution. Oversized, plush furniture was in vogue, and we all wanted to look like we lived in a cushy French country house. Except, with television. Because we’re Americans. So why not hide the TV in a giant tv sized armoire?

I’ll tell you why not. Because that was weird. First of all, most people’s TV armoires had the doors flung open all of the time anyway, because – will wonders never cease – people like to watch their televisions.

Second, why is your TV a secret? Are you actually embarrassed that people will enter your living room and know that you like to watch the NBC comedies on Thursday night? Do you even remember the late ‘90s? That TV block was amazing. I’d be ashamed NOT to watch it.

They even watched TV on TV.

And finally, is an armoire at all BETTER than a TV? If you’re going to be embarrassed about the state of your home, it’s probably worse to have guests think that you have so little clothing storage that you have to keep your armoire in the living room. Unless you are Belle (Poor Provincial Town Belle), and that thing is going to fling open its armoire arms and dress you in the finest French country fashions, it’s not a piece of furniture that needs to stay out in the open.

I can’t blame Americans for trying. At the time, I thought the TV armoire was a great look. Trading Spaces was about to hit the airwaves, and we were trying to channel our inner Grace Adlers. It replaced an unsightly television with a classy yet chunky piece of furniture. Then flat screen televisions came onto the scene, and as quickly as they appeared, the armoires were all sent back to… France? Maybe? Bedrooms? Closets? Where did they go?

Actually, a lot of people are finding fun ways to upcycle their TV armoires. And other people are still using them, which isn’t a terrible option if you don’t watch TV much or if it fits your living room. At this point they aren’t as ubiquitous as they used to be, so if you have a TV armoire today you aren’t following trends, you’re following your heart.

The point is, it took us decades, but eventually we realized that televisions are made to be watched, and hiding it in a weird piece of furniture doesn’t make it more attractive. No, what makes a television attractive is what is on it. Or who is on it. Whatever.

It’s 1995: Let’s All Decorate With Pastel Southwestern Stuff

Welcome to another edition of Let’s All Decorate!, where we explore the baffling interior design trends of days past! Today we look into a craze that swept the nation in the 1980s and 1990s, when pastels reigned supreme and appropriation was king. Long before we were all wearing “tribal print” shorts and flats, our parents were decorating in “Southwestern” style. Today, my friends, our walk down memory lane is lined with cacti.

It’s 1995. You’re a mom shopping out of the J.C. Penney catalogue, and you’re looking to revamp your home’s current look. All of those geese in bonnets and powder blue gingham are so 1890 1990. It’s 1995, Clinton is in office, TLC is on the radio, and “Navajo” motifs are all over page 178 of the fall Sears catalogue. You are modern, you are edgy, you are worldly, and now you own peach and seafoam lamps based on Native American vases. You are my mother. Hi, mom.

I think there were a few months when ducks in bonnets and “Southwestern” lamps lived in harmony in my childhood home. That’s before the Southwestern lamps killed themselves. One day one of my brothers knocked over one of the lamps. It was made of powdery terra cotta, and it shattered. The lamp was quickly replaced. Months later, we broke another one. My mom declared that the next person to break one of those lamps was going to pay for it themselves. Not a week later, she knocked one over dusting. Elizabeth Bishop had it right: “so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” Those lamps were freaking ugly, and eventually, they lost the will to exist.

It wasn’t just my family: plenty of middle-class Americans – some from the Southwest, but just as many from the Northeast like us – wanted to paint our living rooms with all the Colors of the Wind. Possibly in Benjamin Moore’s Blue Corn Moon.

This living room from Ugly House Photos is peak Department Store Southwest. Note the pastel teal, the Native American porcelain doll, and what appears to be a Horn Of Plenty on the side table:

And how about this bedroom? America: where we will take your sacred land and build a strip mall on it, then fill the strip mall with a Pottery Barn that sells knockoffs of your art and furniture. I do really appreciate how they incorporated both a canopy bed and tiny rodent pelts.

 

Faux painting was a 90s decorating trend I’d rather forget. We all remember sponge painting and marbling, but this home, featuring faux primitive cave etchings, really takes the cake.

Is this a set from the smash tv hit Hey Dude? No, it’s a house with dehydrated cow skulls. If it looks like clip art scenery from Oregon Trail, maybe it doesn’t belong in your house. Or maybe it does.

 

I believe the following look combines the 90s penchant for Southwestern motifs with our brief love affair with Magic Eye paintings:

 

Falling under the category of “well, at least it’s less bad than the trail of tears, but then again so is just about everything:”

 

You don’t see Southwestern interior decorating much anymore, at least not outside of the bona fide Southwest or actual Native American homes. In those cases, it’s great! But I like to think that in white, northeastern homes, all of these teal and peach monstrosities made like my mom’s J.C. Penney lamps and offed themselves while they could.