Non-Nasty Neutrals: Beiges That Won't Drain Your Soul

Beige paint might as well be a toxic poison, because around here, it elicits just as many negative reactions as a typo. I get it. Who wants their walls to look like a giant bandaid? But, like most things in life, the right beige, in the right place with the right friends, has a chance at happiness. Before we get down to paint colors, let's start with basics. First of all, beige furniture— particularly beige microfiber— on beige wall-to-wall carpet against beige walls, will do nothing for you or your mood. "Depressingly drab" is a nice term for that look. However, if you like working solely in neutrals, think about where you can add a variety of textures to bring out the soothing qualities of the beige. For example, find a fuzzy cable knit throw, a slubby linen toss pillow, a chunky rug, a sparkly chandelier, grasscloth matted pictures, a reclaimed wood coffee table with some authentic patina — suddenly the beige-on-beige won't seem so soul-sucking.

Also, think about adding pattern, whether it be tone on tone in neutrals or a riot of color. Beige can be the perfect backdrop for combining patterns without overwhelming a room. Look to the room above, designed by Marya Karlton, of Karlton Kelly Design and house tour fame.

If you prefer a sleeker look, then sub out the heavy textures for shots of color. In this case, I'd go for high contrast, and personally, I prefer to bring in at least one cooler tone like a turquoise or an emerald green. A soft yellow against a beige will look sad. However, a deep yellow can look stunning, or a rich gold can look sophisticated.

So whether it be color, texture, pattern, or all three, the key to keeping beige from ruining your day is providing a bit of contrast.

Okay, now on to specifics. Like any paint, you will have to test these in your own room, since they vary greatly depending on the lighting. However, these three beiges are my personal favorites. I rarely suggest beige to clients, but when I do, it's normally one of these because they seem to work in most spaces, even with little to no natural light.

Farrow & Ball's Oxford Stone: a darker beige that looks neutral without looking wimpy. Although it's warm, it has a little bit of gray that keeps it from looking like a bandaid.
Benjamin Moore's Tapestry Beige: a light beige with a fair amount of gray. It skews green in some lights. I used this in my own very neutral bathroom, and still find it refreshing and peaceful years later.
Benjamin Moore's Grant Beige: a medium beige with some gray in it. You can check it out in Georgia's nursery.

Now, I know there are more than three good beiges in the world. Chime in with your favorites. Where have you used them, and why do they work?

(Images: Leah Moss for Karlton Kelly Design)

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