Sometime last year, they renovated the faculty lounge at my college. The lounge is much more pleasant than it used to be, with sturdy and surprisingly comfortable new furniture. There's just one problem: the furniture is all ugly as sin. Burnt oranges and olive greens fused in hideous herringbone patterns. Really, truly awful.
Does the person who made the purchases have really lousy taste? Maybe. But thinking back, I realize that I've hardly ever seen attractive furniture in faculty lounges, dormitories, and other institutional settings. This is a general phenomenon. And I don't think it's just cost-cutting, because as I said, the furniture in question is sturdy and comfortable.
So why is institutional furniture ugly? Here's my hypothesis: Theft deterrence. Furniture in these semi-public areas can be easily stolen. But the offensive color patterns assure that the furniture will match hardly anyone's home decor. This is much cheaper than chaining the furniture to the ground, posting guards, or ordering new furniture any time something gets stolen.