Deep down in their hearts, consumers prefer brightly or boldly colored spaces. But when it comes to decorating their homes, they tend to opt for neutral tones. Interestingly, though, when shopping for a home, prospective buyers gravitate toward those with color and shun those with a lot of pale spaces.

These are the findings of two recent consumer surveys. This begs the question, why are consumers so conflicted about color?

Without doubt, the design and décor media are obsessed with color. Each year there are more stories by far about color preferences, color fashion and color choices than any other topic. Many of these stories emphasize the benefits of using color generously in the home.

Color trends come and go, of course, and are themselves often ambiguous. This year, for example, Pantone proclaimed its Color of the Year to be "Greenery" a yellow-green that speaks to environmentally- and wellness-conscious consumers. In a similar vein, Dunn-Edwards selected a cheerful yellow they dubbed "Honey Glow."

Benjamin Moore, on the other hand, is promoting "Shadow," a grayish purple it describes as "allusive and enigmatic," for those seeking a more luxurious or sophisticated look. Sherwin-Williams chose to straddle the fence with "Poised Taupe," a warm neutral tone somewhere between beige and gray, for those seeking "a cozy lifestyle," but with a definite leaning toward millennials and younger Gen Xers. Both Behr and Valspar opted for a palette of earthy hues, ranging from rich deep blackish purples to bright pastel-ish and jeweled tones.

Media articles on design trends for the year reveal a similar mix of color preferences. An article in the Seattle Times, for example, headlined "2017 décor color trends: Vibrant, moody shades," offers four trending styles — Ephemeral, Luxurious, Moody, and Outdoorsy — that run the gamut from blacks and purples to greens and yellows, picking up blue-grays, whites and jeweled tones along the way.

Plus, the media keep pushing new trends all the time. There is what's in for spring, what's in for fall, and then what's in for next year. Moreover, look at the interiors featured in home décor magazines, and what you see are predominantly neutral colors.

When you examine at the mixed messages the industry is sending, is it any wonder consumers are conflicted about color?

Surely, it would be a dull world indeed if we all wanted everything to be the same colors. However, consider the poor consumer. How often is one going to paint one's home or replace one's cabinets?

This may help account for the disparity found in the 2017 National Painting Week Color Psychology Study conducted by the Harris Poll for Sherwin-Williams. Using a combination of an online survey of 2,021 adults and analysis of more than 12,000 comments gleaned from social media sites, the study found that while more than half of consumers indicate a preference for the use of more vibrant color such as blue, red and green throughout their own homes, they are more likely to select neutral colors, like white, black and gray.

The findings track with those of other surveys. For example, the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Study found that "white continues to gain in popularity" in kitchen projects, with gray and beige being the most popular choices for walls. Gray and white were the top colors reported in the Houzz 2016 Bathroom Study, as well.

One reason consumers may prefer neutrals especially for walls appears to be that they are a safer choice. One can introduce bolder colors in other ways, such as with accessories and artifacts or as an accent on one wall, that are easier to change out as trends shift.

The other may be that prospective buyers prefer them, if they are the right shade. A 2017 Paint Color Analysis of homes listed on the internet, conducted by real estate website Zillow, discovered that those with cool neutral shades, such as grays or blues or taupe, tended to sell for more than those that featured whites or off-whites.

According to the study, homes that included bathrooms done in hues of powder blue or light periwinkle sold for almost $5,500 more than those with bathroom done in another color, especially if that color was white. Yellow and marigold were least favored for kitchens, as were rose or light pink for bedrooms.

All this anxiety about color is good news for designers.

The Sherwin-Williams study found, for instance, that more than half (52 percent) of the millennials who participated agreed that they would rather get professional help to choose paint colors than professional help when choosing clothing. The study also found color preferences varied regionally, suggesting knowledge of local trends can be a plus for designers.

While selecting colors is only a small part of the services designers can provide, it could well be an excellent opportunity to begin a conversation that can lead to more work in the future.