Why is Sunset Boulevard in such a dark mood?

Shades of black and gray spreading along Sunset.

After used and vintage clothing retailer Crossroads Trading Co.  opened a store at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Virgil Avenue earlier this year, the formerly buff-colored shopping center was suddenly covered in shades of battleship gray and black.  Meanwhile, across the street,  a coat of jet-black paint has been applied to the brick facade of a new coffee house under construction.  The two buildings join the many other Sunset Boulevard shops, bars and  restaurants in Echo Park, Los Feliz and Silver Lake that have gone black or dark gray in recent years.  Black buildings and storefronts can also be found in many other Eastside neighborhoods, and the ebony palate is also now being applied to homes and apartments.

The trend favoring dark colors may look hip but some of those darker shades may not be well suited to L.A.’s bright sun shine.

“I am not a fan of gray,” Gere Kavanaugh, a consultant who advises developers on building colors. “Gray is fabulous in Seattle and the East.  It  has more bounce.  The way they use gray here is more flat.”

Paint colors come and go, with dark earth tones rising to popularity during the 1970s before giving way to lighter shades. Now, black and other dark colors are back.  For business owners, a coat of black paint may not only seem chic but it attracts attention, especially on a block of buff-colored buildings.  “People are going to black and brown so they will be noticed,”  said Kavanaugh, who lives in Angeleno Heights.

Cyrus Farooqi of Par Paint in Echo Park said gray as well as black have become increasingly popular choices within the past five years, with building and store owners taking their cue from the colors they see in apparel and other elements of consumer culture.

“Look at the popularity of black clothes and even black cars,” said Farooqi. “Blacks/grays can be bold yet mysterious,shabby and chic, simple yet complex, sleek, and classic. It’s contemporary, it’s cool, and awesomely fashionable.”

Kathy King, advertising and design manager for Crossroads, said the used and vintage retailer said the colors of its new Sunset Boulevard store reflect its corporate colors, which are primarily orange, black, white and gray.

“We have been painting our buildings gray lately because it is a fashionable, chic color,” King said. “We think our customers like it.”


  1. Sale on black and grey paint?

  2. I think it looks good on some of the buildings. Also, can deter tagging a SMALL amount.

  3. Simple. These dark colors make our blue skies look bluer….they contrast nicely against our beautiful blue skies.

  4. it’s so the dust and smog won’t discolor the building.

  5. To me, they make any house look like a house from hell..

  6. Such depressing looking buildings, give me bright colors any day (from someone whose house is painted in a coral color)!


  7. ‘Cause it’s so dam cool!

  8. Racist question.

  9. Lack of imagination and/or taste.

  10. anything is better than bandaid beige

  11. Obviously it’s because the rates for power have gone so low!

    ….or maybe they want they want the buildings to look skinny.

  12. Hey, why is there no Flesh colored Crayola?

  13. I’m owner of the Hive(in the top picture) and I did it for the simple reason that it draws your attention inside the shop, especially at night when the warm lights are on. The only downside, We’ve been open four years now and had to repaint multiple times, black sure fades in the SoCal sunshine.
    Thanks for noticing eastsider!

  14. I honestly hadn’t noticed the black trend on buildings (much). But I did notice a few years ago when people started painting new cars matte black. I thought it was really interesting because it’s something that used to be (mostly) done with vintage cars when they were being restored and the hobbyist/owner couldn’t afford or hadn’t gotten around to painting the car yet. I always thought of a well done primer job as an attempt to beautify a car on a budget. So I thought it was really interesting as a trend in newer cars because of the timing -being in the middle of an economic recession (which really didn’t hit people who are upper middle class and beyond with the same impact that it hit the rest. I’m just saying, if you can afford to buy a new Mini or a Mercedes you’re having a different experience…..). It’s like marketers and trying to say: “We get it, times are hard. If you buy this new mid-price or luxury car car we’ll put a paint job on it that says you can’t really afford much.” It’s like they’re trying to show us that being broke is “cool”. Symbolically, black is the color of death. And while glossy black has long been at least fairly popular in decor (maybe not so much in building exteriors, but certainly in cars and fashion) matte black is a bit different -more exciting and dangerous. And finally the good news: death is not absolute. It’s just a time between incarnations. It’s the chaos between one way of living that’s no longer working and the rebirth to a new way of living.

  15. Interesting bit of history: The Uncle Jer’s shop across from the Vista was originally Le Sex Shoppe- I know because my buddy Eric and I remodeled it! It was black inside and out. The stuff we encountered during the demo- I can’t tell you how gross it was.
    Anyway it is interesting that it is going back to black (or dark gray). Another tidbit: the multicolored squares that were painted on the outside of the building during the Uncle Jer’s era were painted by Ivan Morely- Jer’s son and a well-known artist these days who shows with Patrick Painter.

  16. I’m an artist that paints urban images and am finding it increasingly hard to find material in a
    neighborhood that’s been sanitized by the “hip and elegant” neutral palette.

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