WESTFIELD, NJ — Painters had barely begun to work on the exteriors of 17-33 Elm Street earlier this week when the buzz began. Taking to Facebook, some called the pink, yellow and blue paint being applied to the exposed brick “horrendous” and “a shame.” Others said it was “gorgeous” and “cheerful.”

“People asked me, why did I do it,” said owner James Ward, known for building the New Orleans-style James Ward Mansion and Parisian-style Savannah downtown. “I did it because I love Westfield and I wanted to do something beautiful.”

He also wanted to make the 800 square feet of retail space he has available for rent there more attractive, he said

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The Westfield Leader printed its photo of the unfinished paint job on its front page this week with the caption, “Buildings along Elm Street were painted in bright pastels this week, causing residents old and new to take to Facebook to voice their unhappiness.”

“I did hear some of the negative comments, and people were commenting on the primer that I put up, not the finished product,” Ward said. Once it was completed, he said, “I had a couple of people literally stop me on the street and say, ‘Oh my God, it’s beautiful.’”

He said new look was inspired by his travels.

“I travel a lot and it reminds me of Charleston, Savannah, Amsterdam, Puerto Rico, New Orleans,” he said.

To critics who say the new colors are not in keeping with colonial Westfield, he answered that colonial buildings were often painted in bright colors, and that Westfield’s architecture is not all colonial, anyway.

“Westfield, like Manhattan, has many, many types of architectural styles, which really makes Westfield beautiful,” he said.

Ward said he hopes all the talk will be beneficial to local businesses, bringing people to Elm Street to see the new look for themselves and shop and eat downtown while they’re at it.