I was sitting in an art history class in college when the professor said to us, “Let’s talk about color. What’s your favorite?” My classmates and I looked at each other and squirmed: Nobody had asked us that question since we were kids on a playground. Make us compare the Post-Impressionists to the Cubists, or give us a pop quiz on the works of Cézanne, but…our favorite color?

The professor pointed to a student seated next to me and repeated her question. “Purple,” the woman shrugged. The teacher asked why and waited. “Because…it’s like a really good meal. It’s not just one thing. It’s nuanced, and it feels complex and…” The woman trailed off as our professor smiled
and pumped her fists.

“Yes!” she cried. “Who’s next?” We hesitantly volunteered our answers, and our professor punctuated each response with a historical tidbit: “Violet! Monet called violet ‘the color of fresh air,’” or “Green! Once a poisonous pigment—rich with arsenic—in the Victorian age. But now it represents renewal! Interesting, yes?” or “Blue! Medieval painters loved blue, ground from expensive lapis, because it gave their pieces high price tags.”

The professor was exuberant—and by the end of class, we were enthralled by her point: Color isn’t just color. It’s feeling, experience, preference, history, and memory.

I think of that day often because it underscored for me the long and complex relationship between human beings and color. But these days, that relationship has become rather superficial; we choose greige wall paint because it’s “good for resale,” or we buy blush-pink dishware because it’s all over Instagram. Our goal for this issue is to help you stop and consider: What colors make you happiest? Could you hang a vibrant abstract painting in your living room (page 26) or choose a lilac hue for the master bathroom? What if you painted the family room ceiling the deep blue of the Colorado sky or decked out your kitchen island in a dazzling wallpaper?

Whatever your answers, I’m smiling and pumping my fists—and wishing you a beautiful, color-full Colorado autumn.

This article was originally published in 5280 Home October/November 2018.
Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.