Not-Boring Beige: The Modern Way to Rock Neutrals

published Apr 3, 2017
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Beige gets a bad rap. Too often the innocent color becomes synonymous with other words in our minds: bland, boring, dated, ‘80s… I could go on. But beige has a lot going for it: it’s timeless, calming, is far less trendy than gray and less sterile than white, and it serves as a great backdrop for more exciting things. Read on for several ways to rock beige without falling asleep in the process.

Choose Your “Beige” Carefully

True beige, if we’re going to get technical with our color wheel, is any shade of light brown: a mix of two complementary colors in some proportion, plus white. Beige can therefore run the gamut from more gold and orange tones, to yellow, pink or greenish shades.

(Image credit: Lonny)

And while there are certain versions (I’m looking at you, ubiquitous ’80s pinky-beige) that I’m hoping we don’t see again for a long time, those that lean toward taupe or greige can be really lovely. And if mixed with crisp whites (such as the soothing bedroom above from Lonny), the neutral hue can look quite modern.

(Image credit: 11 East 68th St)

Mix Your Monochrome

Which is not to say that a beautiful, neutral room should only be based on one shade. The living room above, a show property from the NYC building the Marquand, contains yellow and green-based beiges, and some gray too for good measure. Neutrals can play well together, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.

(Image credit: Petra Bindel for Elle Decoration)

Use Beige as the Pop

You might think of beige as being a background for more exciting shades. But the shade actually looks great as a pop of colur in an even lighter (read: white) space. In the kitchen above, the wood table and chairs and the linen curtains are the “colorful” accents. I recommend checking out the full tour of this home from Elle Decoration Sweden: beautiful beige abounds!

(Image credit: Design Tricks)

Pair it with Blue

If you do have a beige-based room and are looking for a great accent color (that isn’t just white), here’s one quick and practical tip: beige nearly always looks great with blue. Because blue is a complement to beige’s warmer, browny tones, it’s the perfect pop color with which to set it off, as showcased in the bedroom/office above from Design Tricks.

(Image credit: Fedorova)

Always Try for Texture

As in any monochrome space, the key to rocking beige is to keep things interesting with texture. In this bedroom of a Moscow project by Russian architect Alexandra Federova, the color scheme is as neutral at they come: varying shades of brown, beige and white. But with one leather-paneled wall, one 3D-tiled one, and one fabric-draped window, the room feels dynamic, rather than flat, overall. Same goes for the previous office from Taylor Sterling on Instagram; the plush rugs, sheepskin throws, rattan magazine holder and even the woven wall hanging are layers that bring the beige to life.

Have a Focal Point

If it’s not going to be your color scheme, your room’s focus should be the architecture, view, a piece of art, accent wall, or a great lighting fixture. Here in Aerin Lauder’s Aspen home via Vogue, it’s most of the above—but especially that black chimney breast and the beautiful wood ceiling (this home tour is another one to study for a masterclass in using beige).

Bring in Color with Accessories

The floor, rug, furniture and walls in the London flat of Alex Eagle, via Domino are as neutral as they come. But thanks to the mismatched cushions, the stacks of coffee table books, and the large green plants, the space feels dynamic and surprisingly colorful. If Alex chose to do away with that and bring in some minimal black-and-gold accessories, for instance? The entire room would have a different vibe. Therein lies the beauty (and versatility) of beige.

How do you feel about beige, or neutral rooms in general? Boring or beautiful?