Not The Target Market

Pop of Color

The phrase pop of color: I think every decorator in the world and every writer who writes about decorating must use it; it appears in just about every article in every home design magazine. I can only think that it was on the decorator final exam and repeatedly stressed as something that must be said to show one’s serious credentials.

To put it simply and brutally – pop of color is twee and overused and banal and lazy. I thought writers and interior designers and style mavens were supposed to be creative. Creative is not using the same old words over and over.

Among the lessons that writers are supposed to learn at writer’s school are Be Original.  Avoid Clichés. Bring a New Perspective. I’m thinking that the writers who use pop of color must have been the ones who raised their hands and asked if all this stuff about avoiding platitudes was going to be on the final exam. Either that or they went to decorator’s school first and the phrase was too ingrained even to be noticed.

The Hunter knows how I feel about these words, so when he saw me pick up HGTVs May issue entitled Pops of Color Issue, his only words were “uh oh.”

The editor even admits pop of color is overused, although she didn’t quite put it that way:

“It’s a phrase as familiar as the doorbell chime during an episode of House Hunters. Designers love to say it. It’s just about the easiest (and budget-friendliest) way to change up a room. I’m talking, of course, about “add a pop of color…”

“O.K..” I thought, trying to be charitable; “Perhaps there is no other way to say it.”

“Nah,” I said. “English has a lot of words. There’s always another way.”

And to prove it to myself, in less than ten minutes I came up with a “pop” replacement list: dash, sprinkle, splatter, splash, drops, infusion, injection, scatters, bursts, buckets, jolts, flash, scintilla, morsel, pinch, smidgen, dose, dollop, flecks, flickers, glimmer, spark, spots, bits, touch, dots, whispers. And that’s without really thinking. If I spent time with a thesaurus or brainstormed with a group of friends, I have no doubt I could double or triple the list.

But why do you need to keep that phrase? A color-splashed room. A room fizzy with color. Exploding touches of color in the most unexpected places. A color-infused space. Color about the room like polka dots on a dress. I could spend the rest of the afternoon crafting these things, but why should I do all the work?

Besides, this pop thing is generally a lie: a pop of color implies a room that is neutral, with just an accent of color. But when we read about a pop of color and then see the pictures of the room, there is color all over the place, rather like a dose of fairy dust gone wrong. The overdone rooms have an odd resemblance to those oily puddles one finds on the road, where the colors swirl together in a confused and muddy kind of way. Hardly a pop.

Once I start on snark, it is so much easier to continue this way and maintain that no one ever gets this “pop” concept right, but to do so would be unjust. There is actually a house in this May issue which justifies writing pop of color. All the walls, trim and fixtures, along with most of the furniture are a brilliant white. The rooms are made dazzling with touches of jewel tones in pillows, in the occasional upholstery, in the art, in the light fixtures, in the throw rugs or in the glass and ceramic knick knacks. These colors truly do “pop.”

If one is describing a rare room like that, go ahead and use pop of color.  If not, then please find some other way of describing it, because if you don’t, you fall not only into the sin of being inaccurate, but even worse, you are boring.

1 Comment

  1. Jo

    Love this article! I could not agree more…this phrase is unoriginal, dated, overused and gets on my nerves. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear people say “pop of color” is that they watch too much HGTV and qualify themselves as decorators or designers. Their homes are usually copycats of rooms they see. They usually have no imagination to make their space their own to fit their lifestyles.

    I was an event stylist for years, and took interior design courses. When I was in the student ASID chapter and networked with other designers, this phrase did not come up one time. Not one time. Thank you for posting this.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *