Flip house gray Decatur style

Washington architectural writer Amanda Kolson Hurley recently examined the origins of what she’s dubbed “flip house gray” for Washington City Paper. According to Hurley, house flippers prefer a neutral, boring color palette. Over the past few years gray has emerged as the dominant bland color in the nation’s capital.

Hurley’s article provided an answer to a question I had back in 2012: why was a Decatur, Ga., house flipper painting a red brick bungalow and its garage matching shades of gray?

East Lake Dr. house, 2009. Credit: Decatur Citywide Historic Resources Survey.

East Lake Dr. house, Decatur, 2009. Credit: Decatur Citywide Historic Resources Survey.

East Lake Dr. house, early 2012.

East Lake Dr. house, Decatur, early 2012.

East Lake Dr. house, early 2012.

East Lake Dr. house, early 2012.

East Lake Dr. house, c. 2014. Credit: Google.

East Lake Dr. house, Decatur, c. 2014. Credit: Google.

Hurley’s article may have provided an answer as to why flippers prefer gray:

All down the chain of D.C. real estate, gray is how flippers “sell up” by evoking the cachet of a more expensive zip code. Columbia Heights plus gray is Adams Morgan; Manor Park plus gray is Petworth, or close enough. On one level, gray really means white—it’s a visual code for gentrification.

In Decatur, red brick is synonymous with old, small, dilapidated, and poor. Throughout the city, especially in gentrifying Oakhurst, 20th century red brick homes are demolished to make way for Hardieplank- and vinyl-clad frame McCraftsmans.

For the mansionized older homes that don’t end up in landfills, “flip house gray” or other similarly bland colors appear to conform to Hurley’s observation that house colors can reflect much more than sales strategies — they can be code for gentrification.

New home, 100 block Lenore Street, Decatur, 2015.

New home, 100 block Lenore Street, Decatur, 2015.

New home, 300 block East Lake Drive, 2015.

New home, 300 block East Lake Drive, Decatur, 2015.

New home, 400 block Fayetteville Rd., 2015.

New home, 400 block Fayetteville Rd., Decatur, 2015.

© 2015 D.S. Rotenstein