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Whose House Is It, Anyway?
Should you live in the house that you like or the one that others say that others like?
Researchers at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and Queen’s University in Ontario say that the popularity of home-decorating media such as makeover shows on HGTV has increasingly influenced consumers to discount their own tastes in favor of what they’re told about trends in the real estate marketplace. For instance, Zillow’s analyses show that having a white kitchen will currently ding the sold price of a house by $612, while a gray kitchen would raise its value by $2,512. Therefore, many people paint their walls gray even if they would actually prefer a mostly white kitchen.
Let’s look more closely at the social dynamics of this phenomenon. First is what I would call the “Joneses” factor. Many people feel better about themselves when they keep up with what they’re informed are today’s trends, with respect to their outfits, tech toys or vacation plans as well as home décor. I’ve always felt that the whole idea of fashionable trends is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy. A Color Institute predicts lavender as the next season’s “in” color and voilà, so it becomes because it’s what’s featured in showrooms, in magazines and on TV. When I was a teenager, this process frustrated me when colors or shades that I liked best and that looked best on me couldn’t be found in clothes stores because other hues were deemed “in.”
With respect to home design, there’s a second factor. Real estate and finance experts drill into the public the idea that one’s home is one’s biggest financial asset and that one should therefore set it up according to what will maximize its value when resold: bland colors, few personal touches, hotel-like bathrooms and open-concept main floors. If the odds are high that owners will resell the house in a few years, I agree that standardizing its style for an easier next sale makes sense.
According to the study cited above, however, many homeowners now worry about diverging from supposed trends even if they plan to stay in their house long term. Essentially they’re being intimidated to regard the house they own and live in not as their castle but as one earmarked to please unknown others in some indefinite future. Out the window is the concept that you should engineer your home in line with what makes you feel happy and what you and your family need for everyday well being.
Just as extroverts and introverts have different preferences for socializing, they have distinct inclinations when it comes to home design. Because introverts especially appreciate having defined spaces where they can relax and recharge alone, they may like more walls and separate rooms in their house than is currently fashionable. They may want a living-room layout conducive to intimate conversations rather than a sprawl big enough to entertain the whole neighborhood. It’s analogous to how extroverts may thrive in open-floor offices that encourage on-the-fly interactions, whereas introverts find hell in such interruptibility, noise and lack of privacy.
My advice? Resist the voices telling you to override your own likes and dislikes.