Originally published in STIR®
"Small wonder many of us race home these days, bolt the door and sink gratefully into our most comfy chair. As consumers around the world and across all economic sectors look for ways to downsize their lifestyles, broke is the new black."

This is a blog by Alexandra Penney – artist, best-selling author and a fixture at New York society functions – upon learning recently that her life savings had been wiped out in Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme.

Color Clues From a Past Economic Crisis

For those who didn't live through the Great Depression and World War II, there's a tendency to paint the era in funereal tones of black and gray. So it might be natural to wonder if our own financial and military turmoil will soon find us dressing ourselves and our homes in a similarly somber color palette. But before you break out the mourning attire – or recommend that your client repaint their fiesta-red dining room – remember that the predominantly black-and-white movies and photographs from that time are what have fostered this monochromatic impression. But the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division has preserved 1,615 color photos of the era for posterity. Be warned: While our modern eyes, accustomed to saturated hues and daring color combinations, might still read pessimism in the color palette, no matter how subdued, these color photos represent an irrepressible, if restrained, hope. Even the Sherwin-Williams Streamlined Preservation Palette®, featuring historically accurate paint colors of the 1930s, presents a range of understated and sophisticated tones designed to provide a cozy sense of home.

The main lesson to be learned from the Great Depression and the WWII era is that while economic events may cause us to adopt a more sober and serious color palette, the human craving for color is universal, ever-present and unquenchable.

Feathering Your Nest for Recession, Stagflation and More

Today, more and more Americans are looking at their homes as a place of refuge in a stressful world of challenges and economic instability. Instead of going out to dinner or social events, they're cocooning with their families. Now, more than ever, they want their homes to be restful and soothing, yet stylish and chic.

Interior designers and industry experts across the country have noted this trend, along with an increased focus on cost-consciousness as homeowners become more selective about how their money is spent.

So with this in mind, here's a look at some home décor color trends for 2009.

  • Dress your recession in purple. This past fall, when Michelle Obama made an appearance in St. Paul, Minn., during the 2008 election season in a purple dress, she almost single-handedly assured us that this popular color, called a “new neutral” by some because of its versatility, would not be considered played out anytime soon. And for her President-elect husband, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and virtually every news anchor and talking head, purple has usurped red as the color of the power tie. The color of royalty and enchantment is the “it” color this winter. Its many shades and hues are showing up in fashion apparel, accessories, cosmetics and personal-care products. Its hues range from deepest amethyst, grape and plum to delicate lilac, wisteria, orchid and pansy. Depending upon the shade, purple can be formal (eggplant), feminine (lavender), or warm and cozy (violet).And purple's popularity doesn't end there: The royal hue is popping up on walls, textiles, tabletops and even home furnishings. “Purples, especially red-cast purples, are going to be important in 2009,” said forecaster Michelle Lamb, editorial director for The Trend Curve. “I'm seeing dark, passionate plums, used along with black, and layered purples. It's a feeling of luxe. Think purple velvet.” Why? Because purple symbolizes both luxury and fun – both things that people feel they can use more of these days.
  • Got the financial blues? Try color therapy. Residential interiors are incorporating more intense paint colors – not only as accent walls, but throughout entire rooms. Deep shades of blue are in demand by customers of Jan Hubbard, ASID, and Candice Mathers, Allied Member of ASID. And on a brighter note, both Mathers and Susan Pantaleo, ASID, see yellow emerging as a very versatile color. Popping up in every shade from Sunlight to Dijon Mustard, Pantaleo lauds yellow's attention-getting appeal and ability to add life to any room.And here's a way to not only go energy-efficient, but color-cool as well: Purchase a front-loading washer and dryer from LG Electronics. Delivering on its promise to bring stylish design to all of its home appliance products, LG Electronics recently added Bahama Blue and Emerald Green to the color palette available for its front-loading washers and dryers. Choices already included Wild Cherry Red, Midnight Blue, Stainless Steel, Titanium and Pearl Gray.Not for the color-phobic, these saturated hues make a major color statement and go a long way in elevating the humble laundry to a room of distinction. Gerald Celente, director of trend research with the Trends Research Institute, says this type of color push by product makers is a “smart and timely move” during an economic downturn.”People want to be cheered when the economy is in a slump,” says Celente. “It's like how the greatest time for music was the Swing era during the Great Depression.”
  • When all else fails, go practical. With the economy on a downswing, you can anticipate that neutrals will be a safe choice through the economic recovery and beyond. Neutral tones – from gray and camel to cinnamon and mocha to bisque and green-gold – have become a mainstay in home décor, providing a solid foundation for the brightest of accent colors – or for a comfortable monochromatic color scheme. And black-and-white patterns, popular in Europe for the last couple years, are anticipated to make a big impression stateside very soon.Let's just hope that 50 years from now, when historians are mulling over color photos documenting our current period of economic turmoil, they'll see we picked colors that spoke of hope and optimism. Color trend experts are banking on it.

For more information: