Why the floors in America are gray

Why the floors in America are gray

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Today our staff writer Amanda Mull answers my questions about her recent article exploring gray floors, flipping houses, and how America fell under the spell of HGTV.

But first, three new stories from Atlantic Ocean.

“Exercise and Credit Score”

Amanda Mull really dislikes gray floors. Of course, part of her distaste has to do with aesthetics—”the reality is that gray isn’t all that versatile,” she told me—but she’s more concerned with which floors to tell us. “In my work, I often take something that has become very common and try to understand why it happens,” she said.

Isabelle Fattal: when you shared your recent history on twitter you wrote“May I interest you in my grand unified theory of the US housing market explained by gray vinyl plank floors and barn doors.” Tell us your theory.

Amanda Mull: These types of doors and flooring (mostly faux wood with a gray finish) are especially popular with people who are remodeling homes as an investment, either homeowners or homeowners.

Gray finishes are quite cheap and have a lot of growth potential in the rental or resale market because that’s what people see when they walk into a home. And gray floors weren’t popular until the last 10 or so years, so if you, as a tenant or buyer, walk into a home and see gray floors, you’re thinking, “Oh, someone just redid this place. “It gives a sense of novelty.

Isabelle: How did the feeling of novelty come about – even in a place that is not actually new – to become such an important part of interior design?

Amanda: Novelty is really important in the life of the American consumer, especially in the last 15 years. We have seen in all categories of consumers this emphasis on having the latest and greatest. Most people are familiar with this in the fast fashion arena. The things you have seem to be disposable because they cost very little per piece and there is a constant stream of new things available that are also very inexpensive. You get to the point where it seems like having something for a long time is a fool’s game.

The opposite has happened in the housing sector. We as a country have really slowed down the construction of new housing, and this has created problems with prices. Housing is very expensive and what you get for your money is getting worse. When the houses are old and the buyers or tenants are used to the newness, if you can create a feeling of newness in these old houses, you can rent more. These are mostly superficial things that don’t improve the home’s livability and don’t even necessarily make it a more aesthetically pleasing space.

Isabelle: How are potential buyers or renters fooled by talk of “upgrades” that aren’t really improvements?

Amanda: What people try to do when they look at a place they could live in is just to figure out if it’s functional, and that can be hard to judge on a superficial level. So people tend to look back and think Okay, the appliances are new, the floors are new, this should last a while.. Many people who move into newly renovated apartments end up recognizing Oh it was done wrong or It was made using the cheapest materials.

Because of the precarious situation many people are in with housing in the US, and because of how difficult it can be for your offer to be accepted, you feel a sense of scarcity. In such situations, gray floors and tiles on the backsplash, and you’re like: Okay, someone did something about it; let’s write a proposal or apply before anyone else sees it.

Isabelle: You write that “overall, almost a third of US home sales last year went to people who didn’t intend to live in them.” How does the current economic moment affect the trend of changing houses?

Amanda: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that gray floors are the physical manifestation of the economic realities of American life. For many, homeownership is the path to financial stability, and this path is most common in America. Since housing is a good investment, many people are interested in it who are not interested in living in the houses they buy: especially since the United States does not build much more housing, it is indeed an attractive asset for institutional investors. property managers and flippers. There are many people who are dissatisfied with their careers and salaries, who are looking for something else that will make a profit.

Isabelle: Your article is titled “HGTV-Fication of America”. Why do you think home renovation shows are so popular?

Amanda: The biggest thing that made me write this article is how much HGTV I have eaten in my lifetime, which is a frankly embarrassing amount. I find it fantastically interesting. It’s interesting to see how people think about their homes – their private properties – and how our homes become what they are. And it’s interesting to fantasize that our houses could be, with a bit of elbow fat or a home equity line of credit or something.

Some of the most popular shows on these networks focus on large repair products and flipping in particular. They became very popular after the financial crisis, when there was a lot of dilapidated housing available at a very, very cheap price. If you’re a little savvy and have done some housework, you watch enough of these shows on HGTV and think: I could do it. I have a drill and a credit score. I don’t think it’s all HGTV’s fault, but they have instructions on how to do it.


Today’s news
  1. Freight railway companies and labor unions reached preliminary agreement to avoid a strike.
  2. Tennis champion Roger Federer announced his retirement from the ATP Tour and Grand Slam tournaments.
  3. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and thanked Xi for his “balanced” approach to the war in Ukraine; he also said that Russia is ready to take into account China’s “concerns”.


Evening reading
(Christopher Furlong / Getty)

What They Don’t Tell You About Hypoallergenic Dogs

Sara Zhang

As someone with a dog allergy who has nonetheless worked with many dogs as a trainer, caregiver and owner, Candace has learned not to trust the promise of a “hypoallergenic” dog. She has met low shedding, hypoallergenic Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs, which supposedly were not supposed to cause her allergies, but very often did. But she’s also met fluffy, long-haired breeds like Huskies and Pomeranians that didn’t sneeze. “I had more misery with short-haired dogs,” she told me. Including her own Belgian Malinois, Fiore, whose symptoms worsened so much that she started getting allergy shots. And Fernando, Fiore’s equally furry sister? Perfectly normal. No reaction!

Candace, whose last name I withhold for medical confidentiality reasons, is not alone in not being able to figure out which dogs she is allergic to.

Read the article in full.

More from Atlantic Ocean

cultural break
black and white photo of Ian McEwan wearing a straw fedora and white collared shirt
(Eva Wermandel for The Atlantic)

Read. LessonsIan McEwan’s new novel is an anti-memoir that captures the author’s enchanted life and everything that could go wrong.

Watch. Fall is approaching, and with it the season of comfort films. Start with Once, on a wonderful dayavailable for hire, a 1990s romantic comedy that ends with the “movie equivalent of a warm bath”.

Play our daily crossword.


amanda recently wrote about why non-American candy is better than American candy, so I asked about her current favorite. “Panda Strawberry Licorice from Finland,” she told me. “It tastes amazing, has a perfectly chewy texture, and isn’t cloyingly sweet like many American versions of red licorice.” (If you’re in the New York area, she gets it from Perelandra Natural Foods in Brooklyn Heights.)



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