About the Swiss and their obsession with white walls

Switzerland Apartment(Photograph copyright MOMENTUM Immobilien)

While working as an interior designer in Switzerland, I have seen my fair share of white walls.

In fact, many of my expat clients have wondered: "Why are the walls in Switzerland always white?" I will not be able to give you a scientifically proven answer, nor one that is based on extensive market research, but I will share my thoughts.

Here's why I feel qualified to assess Switzerland's white wall syndrome

I consider myself an insider with an outside perspective. I was born in Switzerland and spent my childhood and early teens in Basel. But I have also lived in seven countries on three continents and moved 25 times. Trust me, I have seen countless houses and apartments, not to mention the many homes of friends and family across the globe.

Even though I have not kept count on the number of white walls in Switzerland compared to other countries, I can say with confidence that the discrepancy is quite striking. In particular, when compared to Anglo-Saxon countries, such as the UK and the US, but also the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.

Home ownership and risk taking

I do not like stereotypes, yet I think it is safe to say that Swiss people are not exactly known to be big risk takers. At the same time, home ownership in Switzerland is very low at around 42 percent compared to the European average of 62 percent. (Source: statista.com)

Taking into consideration that the majority of homes in Switzerland are rented, it does kind of make sense that the walls are white and the overall color scheme is mostly neutral. Unless you are renting a home from the 70’s with pink or green bathrooms, that is. White walls give the tenants a plain canvas to work with, so they can then add as much or as little color as they like.

But do they? Add color, I mean?

In Switzerland, people tend to stay in the same apartment for many years. Past generations would often spend their entire adult life in the same (rental) home. Yet, they would rarely use a lot of color, let alone paint a wall.

Where it really gets interesting is with the 42 percent of homeowners. Because, you guessed right, the majority still keep their walls white. Why is that?

Switzerland Apartment(Photograph copyright malerexperten.ch)
 

Let's talk about color - or rather, color psychology!

Color psychology is a subject matter that has fascinated humans for centuries - if not for millennia. Apparently, even the Ancient Egyptians studied color and their impact on human emotions and behavior. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci closely studied colors in relation to his works. And the psychologist Carl Jung, ironically a native of Switzerland, was a pioneer in using color psychology with his patients.

Recent studies have shown that colors can be used to promote healing and to change behavior. In the US, for example, they have painted prison cells in a light shade of pink and registered that aggression and violence drastically decreased. (I have a hard time imagining some tough looking dude, covered in tattoos, in a pink cell… but maybe that’s just me!)

Conditioning and cultural associations

Colors are all around us. There are colors in nature, in architecture, in interiors, in shops, in restaurants, in fashion and so forth. Color psychology is a very important consideration in marketing, be it for shop design, logo design or for websites.

Color Wheel by Global Inspirations Design(Photograph copyright Global Inspirations Design)

Have you ever seen a "Sale" sign which is not red, orange or yellow anywhere in the world? On the other hand, color psychology (or rather, the conditioning we have with colors) can depend a lot on where in the world we grew up. This may be due to cultural circumstances as well as due to experiencing a similar emotion around a certain color.

Color and color psychology are a big subject, which I love to talk about in my interior design workshops, when I give talks and of course when consulting my clients.

Turquoise is my happy color

Take the color turquoise. Having lived in the Caribbean for more than 8 years, I associate it with the Caribbean Sea and Caribbean beaches. These, in turn, I associate with relaxation and a sense of happiness. This is why my heart skips a beat whenever I see turquoise!

Global Inspirations Design - Turquiose Accent Wall(Photograph copyright Global Inspirations Design)

It is no coincidence that my logo and corporate colors are turquoise and aqua. I also use lots of turquoise in my own home. It is somewhat intriguing that I magically seem to attract many clients who also love turquoise...

Accepting change as part of being alive

When it comes to color, most people feel a sense of overwhelm. It is not that they do not like color, but they are afraid to use it because they simply do not feel confident picking the (right) one.

Accepting change applies as much to colors and home design as it does to everything else in life. Our needs change and so do our preferences. In the northern hemisphere, desires even change with each season. For instance, we instinctively crave warmer colors in winter and cooler colors in summer. My recommendation is to add warm or cool colors respectively with accessories, such as cushions or vases.

In my opinion, it is the fear of ending up choosing the wrong color, combined with practical thinking, that makes painting the walls anything but white too much of a risk for most Swiss people.

They may be asking themselves year after year, whether or not to paint the walls, which quickly turns into "Which color should I paint my walls?" (My advice on how to select the right color for your walls will be a topic for another article.)

So, I dare you to add some color to your space! You could always start small before painting an entire wall. And feel free to reach out – I would be happy to help.

I have made it my mission to add some color to Switzerland’s white walls, one wall at a time...

Switzerland Apartment(Photograph copyright grundstrasse54.ch)

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Simone Aïda Baur

Simone is an award winning interior designer and blogger living in Zürich. She has lived in 7 countries on 3 continents and has moved 25 times, so designing a home from scratch is second nature to her.
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