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408: Bedroom Color

A Thousand Things to Talk About
408: Bedroom Color
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If given your choice, what color would you paint your bedroom?

Show notes and links:
Franklin Painting
History Today
Color Matters


Full episode script

Though it is not the room is most homes with the shortest modern history, the idea of a separate bedroom that is reserved for only the most intimate and personal of activities is a fairly new one.

Lucy Worsley, author of “If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home” wrote in History Today:

Looking into the bedrooms of the past, I was intrigued to discover that they were rather crowded, semi-public places, and that only in the nineteenth century did they become reserved purely for sleep and sex. Victorian houses saw the climax of a trend for increasingly specialized rooms that’s since been reversed. In a medieval house, people were often to be found sleeping in the central living hall, and in a sense we’ve come full circle. In my own home with its single separate bedroom, guests are often to be found sleeping on the living room sofa.

With this newfound personal space came the newfound personal choices of what and how to decorate that space. Of course, history has no lack of examples of how the walls of rooms have been decorated. In more recent history, one of my personal favorite anecdotes — even though I can’t find a reliable source for it — is of a pilgrim preacher in 1630s Charlestown who was charged with criminal sacrilege, having shown immodesty, wealth, and vanity by choosing to paint the interior of his home. Thankfully, that’s no longer an illegal practice, for the most part.

There’s plenty of color theory, too, about what colors you supposedly should or shouldn’t paint a bedroom — or any room — based on the supposed psychology of the color. The most famous example is Baker-Miller pink, otherwise known as Drunk Tank Pink. This color has been slapped on the walls of prisons, jails, and even some schools in an attempt to make the inhabitants less aggressive and more docile. However, the studies behind that particular choice are often discussed only in part, because studies after the initial one in the 1960s have produced mixed results, and there’s never been any proof that the calming impacts of this color last any longer than 15-30 minutes.

So, it may really be all about taste. So…

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.