DURHAM, NC, Nov. 16 – A ground-breaking new “Décor map of America” pinpoints the best U.S. city to live for fans of each of 19 different design styles – from paisley to polka-dots, Victorian to mid-century modern, and Aztec to Native American.
It reflects data from nearly 200,000 purchases on the website Spoonflower (www.spoonflower.com), which lets customers design and have printed their own fabric, wallpaper and gift-wrap.
“Our map provides a unique insight into the décor tastes of America and the psyche of its cities,” says Stephen Fraser, co-founder of Spoonflower. “It also pioneers an entire new field of what we’re calling ‘décor geography’.”
Spoonflower designates as the “capital” of each design style the city where a higher share of customers than anywhere else have purchased that style.
The findings of its study confirm some expectations, while confounding others.
New York, for example, is capital of checkered designs – as in the black and white checks that adorned New York’s checker taxi-cabs for so long that they seem to have pierced the city’s subconscious.
“It’s probably no surprise that Arlington, home to the national cemetery and major military memorials, is the top town for stripes”, says Fraser.
It likewise makes sense that San Diego, on the doorstep of Mexico, ranks top for Aztec designs, while Native American décor is most popular in Oklahoma City, capital of a state where some 40 Native American tribes have their headquarters.
The university town of Berkeley, California was famed half a century ago as the capital of hippiedom but turns out nowadays to be the U.S. capital of Victorian décor. This may be because rising house prices have attracted a more upscale and – whisper – conservative crowd. But it may also be due to the many Victorian homes in town and a simple desire for décor in keeping.
Portland is Spoonflower’s capital of ditsy designs, which, like the good folks of Portland, express the belief that small is beautiful. Denver, the city where Midwestern cheer meets Californian chill, is the top town for mid-century modern. Orlando, home of Disney World, makes an appropriate capital of kawaii, the Japanese style of cutesy cartoons, which might be considered Japan’s answer to Disney.
But who knew that Washington DC, the nation’s capital, would also turn out to be its capital of hipsters; or, at least, the city where décor with hipster motifs would sell best?
Yet it does by some margin, leaving the likes of Austin, Seattle and San Francisco in its trail, while Brooklyn, historic center of the hipster universe, trails all of them. “It seems likely that hipsters in Brooklyn are simply too hip to buy décor labeled as hipster,” observes Fraser.
Washington, however, also ranks top for floral designs – making it a town divided between hipster shades and floral drapes.
It is also one of just three cities to top the national rankings in two different categories. The others are Greensboro, North Carolina, top for both stars and for retro designs, and Houston, the top town for both paisley and zombie décor.
“Hipster” and “zombie” are not traditional décor styles in the same sense as, say, damask, paisley or plaid, but they qualify for Spoonflower’s map as niche décor categories which are scarcely available elsewhere. Spoonflower is, for example, the world’s leading source of zombie fabric and wallpaper designs, with over 400 unique examples on offer.
“The title of ‘Zombie Capital of America’ is as big as it gets in the world of zombie décor”, says Fraser. Houston alone can now claim it, on the grounds that its residents are more likely to buy wallpaper and fabric with zombie motifs than are those in any other city in the U.S., if not the world. “Like I say – as big as it gets.”
The following Spoonflower designs were featured in the “Décor Map of America” infographic: “Aztec” by Cjordan10; “Checker” by Vo_aka_virginiao; “Mermaid damask – dk grey/teal” by Serenity_designs; “Ditsy flora and fauna (tomato red)” by Cerigwen; “Winter floral // pine” by Ivieclothco; “Quirky geometric pastels” by Littlesmilemakers; “Grey hipster deer” by Taluna; “Super cute kawaii bunny and panda” by Marcelinesmith; “Mid-century modern – grid & stars” by Studiofibonacci; “Native american digital bead pattern turquoise” by Khaus; “Navy lime and pink paisley” by Gunnesscreative; “Plaid” by Barsteads; “Reef polkadots storm” by Colour_angel; “Sew retro” by Jennartdesigns; “S43xcv1 neon baby stars” by Sef; “Sripes – horizontal – 2.5 – dark red” by Elsielevelsup; “bright indigo blue greyhound toile de jouy” by Artbyjanewalker; “Geometric tribal aztec triangle blue modern patterns” by Littlesmilemakers; “Victorian flourish (multi)” by Studiofibonacci; “Large flesh pile” by Sugarxvice
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METHODOLOGY: Spoonflower crunched the data from nearly 200,000 recent purchases by its customers of custom fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap – and organized them under categories that each represented one design style. In order to avoid the biggest cities topping the the rankings for each style simply due to having more people, Spoonflower weighted the scores by calculating the number of customers for a particular in any given city by the total number of Spoonflower customers in that city. That gave a better measure of the popularity for each style in any city and identified the city where each style was most popular.
ABOUT SPOONFLOWER: Spoonflower is a website that allows anyone to upload their own designs to print on fabric, wallpaper or gift-wrap. Making things with Spoonflower is also the subject of a new title from Abrams Books titled “The Spoonflower Handbook: A DIY Guide to Designing Fabric, Wallpaper & Gift Wrap with 30+ Projects.”
And Now A Bit of Analysis, Style-by-Style, City-by-City
|Capital||SAN DIEGO, CA|
|Analysis||San Diego, on the doorstep of Mexico, makes a fitting U.S. capital of Aztec designs. It is the historic home of the Native American Kumeyaay people of the southwestern U.S. and northwest Mexico. The independent student paper of San Diego State is The Daily Aztec.
Aztec designs tend to feature geometric motifs like triangles, zig-zags and diamonds, with vivid use of either bold or pastel colors.
Some major clothing retailers picked up the Aztec aesthetic a few years back and helped it enter the mainstream. The result is that purchasers of Aztec patterns on Spoonflower may now also be younger people with no ancestral links to Aztec culture but who simply like the smart, earthy, closer-to-nature vibe of Aztec design.
|Capital||NEW YORK, NY|
|Analysis||The strip of black and white checks that for so long adorned the yellow taxi-cabs of New York remain an iconic symbol of the city. But black and white checks are also popular in such big-city subcultures as punk rock, skateboard and Ska.
More colorful checks are a classic pattern, which can make a bold but perhaps more mainstream style statement.
|Analysis||Damask is a design classic, whose popularity has lately been boosted by its appearance in the BBC drama series, Sherlock. It has something of an old-world feel and, like Milwaukee, a strong European heritage (even though its name comes from the Syrian city of Damascus, an historic center of textiles).
Down the years, it’s been used to make drapes, upholstery, tablecloths and wallpaper. Nowadays, some younger folks also use damask to give their home a more traditional feel. Many of the damask designs on Spoonflower are dark, evoking the style of an elegant but sedate Victorian house.
|Analysis||Portlandians are known for thinking small. They make it their mission to buy from small businesses, regional artisans and anyone resembling the little guy.
Ditsy designs are celebrations of smallness and therefore perfect for Portland. They fizz with a riot of small, scattered motifs – traditionally floral but also sometimes small animals, insects, hats or whatever else.
If you want to picture a lover of ditsy, then imagine, say, a crafty Portlandian with a flair for retro dress patterns – someone who prefers small details to bold patterns and feels, above all, that small is beautiful.
|Analysis||The nation’s capital is also its capital of floral décor.
Floral designs are traditionally but still widely popular – perfect for couches, curtains and entertaining guests of all political leanings.
The color palette of floral designs on Spoonflower is varied but many feature bright, stereotypically feminine tones, with lots of summery colors, likely to appeal to old and young, Republican and Democrat – perfect for brightening up a gathering otherwise depressed by too many sombre grey suits and drab ties.
|Analysis||Geometric designs feature motifs including chevrons, arrows and triangles. They are frequently seen on Spoonflower mixed with animals, such as deer, bears and cats. Many young designers seem drawn to the minimalism of angular, geometric shapes.
Such designs are popular across the country, though nowhere more so, it seems, than in Midland, Texas. But then Midland is known as the “Tall City,” noted for its skyline of tall, geometric buildings (as well as for being the hometown of the Bush family).
|Analysis||Who knew that the nation’s political capital would turn out also to be its capital of hipsters, or, at least, the city where décor with hipster motifs would sell best? Yet, it does by some margin.
Is it thanks to what’s been called the “hipster caucus” – such hip congress members as Rosa Delauro, Earl Blumenauer, Kristen Sinema, and Al Franken? More likely it’s due to a bunch of hipster neighborhoods, led by the H Street Corridor, big with politico hipsters and recently named by Forbes among America’s top hipster hoods.
|Analysis||The Japanese cutesy style of kawaii – the Japanese word for cute or pretty – typically features brightly colored designs showing diminutive animals or characters from popular Japanese cartoons and “animes” (animation shows enjoyed by both adults and kids).
Orlando, home of Disney World, seems an appropriate capital of kawaii – a sort of Japanese answer to Disney perhaps, with its own Nipponese blend of cutesy cartoons and adorable animals.
|Analysis||The architectural and design style known as mid-century modern is where modernism first met the suburbs of post-war America. With its nods to Bauhaus and the International Style, it may have been cool in the 50s but is nowadays hot. Its color palette includes yellow, red, green, blue and pink, often mixed with natural wood and white.
Denver turns out to be where mid-century meets the Midwest. Like mid-century modern itself, Denver is cool, stylish and artsy – teeming with galleries, while blending Midwestern cheer with Californian chill. It also boasts lots of millennials and young families wanting to give their homes that certain retro-modern twist.
|Capital||OKLAHOMA CITY, OK|
|Analysis||Where else would you expect to find America’s biggest purchasers of Native American designs than the capital city of a state where some 40 Native American tribes have their homes.
It’s not clear whether such designs are being purchased mainly by Native Americans themselves or by other Oklahomans inspired maybe by the Great Plains vibe but also by a more mainstream version of hipster culture, which gives them a fondness for teepees, feathers and other Native American motifs.
|Analysis||Paisley has Persian and Indian roots and a Scottish name but paisley kerchiefs were long, of course, the neckwear accessory of choice for the well dressed cowboy. This helps make paisley one of the more gender-neutral design styles on Spoonflower. So, while paisley may lately have fallen somewhat from favor with fashionistas, Texans stay true to both it and their cowboy heritage – nowhere more so, it seems, than in Houston, their biggest city.|
|Analysis||Plaid is the North American term for what the Scots, who invented it, call tartan. With its vertical and horizontal bands in multiple, criss-crossing colors, plaid manages to be both utilitarian and trendy, popular with both the hip and the square. It prompts images of everyone from Midwestern farmers, Scottish clansmen and British royals (Prince Charles is a fan) to 90’s grunge.
Yes, Columbus has its own Scottish Festival and Highland Games, and some town-folk of Scottish descent, but also more than its share of the hip and the modish, a more likely cause of its fondness for plaid.
|Analysis||Lovers of polka-dots, found one recent study, are dynamic multi-taskers. This is good news for Dallas, hitherto better known for the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders and for Kennedy’s death but from now on to be famed as the polka-dot capital of America.
Although Dior tried to move them upmarket, polka-dots, like Dallas, are an American classic, worn by everyone from Rosie the Riveter to Marilyn Monroe – but never with greater panache than by Emmitt Smith, the legendary Cowboys running back, still fondly remembered for nailing the spirit of the city by showing up for his press conference on joining the Cowboys 25 years ago in a… brown and yellow polka-dot jumpsuit.
|Analysis||The “Retro Run” 5K race staged in Greensboro each summer asks runners to turn up in bell-bottoms and tie-dyes and offers a prize for the best retro running outfit. But is this cause or effect of Greensboro’s fondness for retro design, now made official by its proclamation as the official U.S. capital of retro?
Retro, however, is not just about bell-bottoms. It can also mean rockabilly, cat-eye glasses or old video games – almost anything from the recent past. It’s about nostalgia, with a half-dose of irony and another of longing – but often expressed by those who weren’t actually around at the time being recalled.
|Analysis||Named after a general in the American Revolutionary War but these days better known for its Civil Rights Museum and the famed sit-ins that inspired it, Greensboro is American to its core – the perfect place to be the U.S. capital of stars.|
|Analysis||What could be more American than stripes (alright, except stars)? So, where better than Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of America’s capital, and home to the national cemetery and three major military memorials, to be the U.S. capital of stripes?|
|Capital||SAN JOSE, CA|
|Analysis||Toile de Jouy fabrics and wallpapers traditionally show pastoral or historic scenes. Invented in Ireland in the mid-18th century, toile – from the French word for linen cloth – then grew popular in both France and Britain, whence it was reputedly brought to America by Benjamin Franklin. It has enjoyed periodic revivals ever since, the latest starting early this century.
San Jose may be California’s oldest settlement, founded in 1777, and among its most educated, but it also boasts the most concentrated tech cluster in the world. What better relief from all that gleaming technology than some escape to the rural past in the form of a pastoral scene once enjoyed by British or French aristocracy?
|Analysis||Who would have thought? The Californian university town famed half a century ago as the U.S (world?) capital of hippiedom now turns out to be the first official U.S. capital of Victorian décor. How have the mighty fallen and the hip turned square.
This may be because higher house prices have attracted a more affluent and – whisper – conservative type. But it may also be due to the many Victorian homes in the area and a simple desire for décor in keeping.
|Analysis||The title of “Zombie Capital of America” is as big as it gets in the world of zombie décor – at least when bestowed by Spoonflower, the world’s leading source of zombie fabric and wallpaper designs, with over 400 examples to choose from. Many cities aspire to it but now Houston alone can lay claim to it, on the grounds that its residents buy more custom zombie designs per head than those in any other city in the country, if not the world. Like we say – as big as it gets.|