The gray bandwagon has been rolling along for a few years now, and many interiors have succumbed to the cool elegance and versatility of the gray spectrum. Beige as our pet neutral got left behind sometime after its ’90s heyday, but some designers are giving beige-based neutrals a fresh look. If you have stayed staunchly on the beige team but feel your decor could do with an update, take a look at how to give beige 21st-century charisma.
Give beige a chance. Why is beige a five-letter word to so many people? Cries of “Boring!” and “Drab!” are heard from the anti-beige brigade. Beige is often disowned as so last century, even though we loved it to bits back then. A beige-based scheme can lack spark, just as gray can if mismanaged. If your knee-jerk reaction to beige is “Ugh!” or something similar, you may be missing out on what this quiet achiever can accomplish.
It can be soothing, sophisticated, flattering, rich and mellow, formal or casual, and a perfect launching pad for bolder decor choices. It is also never clinical or cold, an accusation often leveled at gray.
Champion a chameleon. Beige is basically light brown. With such wide parameters, it’s open to interpretation: To some, it’s as light as off-white; to others, it goes all the way up to an earthy midtone. It covers the spectrum of creamy-warm to sandy-earthy, depending on the undertones. The color commonly has a yellow or pink base, adjusted with other pigments in an infinite variety of combinations. Beige has many aliases — think ecru, buttermilk, biscuit, oatmeal, vanilla, almond, cafe au lait, camel, flax, sand, string, straw, dune, ivory, eggshell or chamois.
Once upon a beige. While gray has been a strong performer for quite a while, and has knocked a lot of other neutrals out of the ring, some have never strayed from the beige path. Many people are still in the beige phase that was fashionable before gray.
Invite today’s colors in. Invite energy and character into a beige palette with modern colors trending towards bold and saturated. Also, keep in mind that neutrals have complex undertones. The way to get beige wrong is to choose paint colors and furnishings in shades of beige that have clashing undertones.
Pair beige with browns. Beige worked well when we had a lot of browns in our decor. Creating a successful scheme is tricky as you need a variety of tonal differences and deep [wood] tones to carry it off.
Add black and white. A sure-fire way to pick up a dated beige palette is to add contrast with black and touches of warm white. Bold, contemporary fabrics and wall treatments give it an elegant, modern edge. If black and white is too stark for you, try an alternative dark that still delivers a distinctive contrast.
Blend beige with blues. With the warmth of brown and the coolness of white, beige is quite a docile neutral that borrows cool or warm tones from surrounding colors, so you don’t have to stick to warmer colors to tease out its subtleties. Inky blues, rich amethyst and peacock turquoises are up-to-the-minute colors that add instant luxury.
Unite beige with other neutrals. Color blocking is a stylish way to combine beige with other neutrals: Elegant combinations are charcoal and buttermilk, a pearly beige with graphite, or creamy beige with gray and taupe. It’s a confident and very contemporary look that taps into the trend for organic, natural shades that look fantastic with wood.
Pep up beige with brights.
Team beige with warm whites. They provide a beautiful envelope or backdrop for interior furnishings or landscaping to the exterior.
Tap into texture. Dig deep for textural contrasts with an earthy edge when beige is your background envelope. Pair it with tactile creamy caramel, chestnut or chocolate leather, bronze and golden metallics, velvets, natural linen and a combination of hard and soft, glossy and matte accessories and fabrics.
What’s with “greige”? A neutral that’s winning votes is “greige,” basically a warm gray or a cool beige. Beige loses some of its warmth and cools towards gray, but not all the way. It has a foot in each camp and so is a very easy neutral to live with. At the lighter end, it’s placid and organic; in darker tones it packs a stylish punch.