The Politics of House Paint

There is something profoundly sensitive about our shared spaces. They are laden with the implication of ‘rights’ – my right to do what I want vs your right to control your own environment. I suppose it begins at home with “Pick up after yourself.” We learn early that we can’t negatively impact other people’s environments and still be embraced by the group. Learning to live with a college roommate may be our first real negotiation about space – mine, yours, ours.

Neighborhoods are no different. How a neighborhood looks often drives a decision to buy. A lovely home on the edge of a highway – well, not so appealing. Where we live, our surroundings, say something about us – with income and status being core. George Jefferson’s “Movin’ on up to the East side ….” is a good example.  When we have achieved a certain status, we want the world to know.  

Middle class neighborhoods often take pride in the requisite well-tended front lawns, or symmetrical shrubs – and a paved driveway. If someone flouts these expectations, there will be ‘talk.’ People feel it is within their rights to expect a nod to group standards. 

Like all the other art forms, our need to belong rubs up against our need to be special. It’s a balance you can explore in the following articles. Enjoy.

Neighborhood Etiquette: When Personal Style Becomes Public

The politics of paint: How to pick a color that fits your neighborhood

Garbage cans causing blight to neighborhoods

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