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Beige Three Ways

Updated: Feb 11

(Originally published in the Napa Valley Register)


Fill in the blank: Beige is (a) safe and boring (b) classic and sophisticated (c) casual and charming (d) dramatic? The answer is “all of the above”. Assuming you won't object to me skipping “safe and boring”, here are three ways to design beige rooms:


1) Monochromatic beige: More than any other color scheme, a monochromatic palette needs texture, especially if the palette has only one level of intensity, and doubly so if that palette is beige. Texture brings depth to such a room and prevents it from looking flat. For instance, a kitchen with all beige materials – cabinets, countertop, floor, and tile can appear one-dimensional without a pop of something. Since that something is not coming from an accent color, it can come from texture. A perfect spot in this case would be the backsplash. Beige tones of tumbled slate or split rock tile would bring a tactile element. And, while glossy beige glass tile does not have a great deal of tactile texture, its reflective quality would add visual texture. Both of these backsplashes add pizzazz to the space without wandering outside the color scheme.

2) Layered beige: Another type of monochromatic scheme is one using the same family of colors but with multiple levels of intensities – beige intensities could range from cream to tan. Such variety creates layers of contrast and interest. Picture a bedroom with an antique brass or iron bed. Picture ivory bed linens and wavering shades of creams and beige throughout the room. An aged dresser and nightstand with their natural wood peeking through worn spots of off-white paint. The popular “Shabby Chic” style may come to mind. This room is brought to life through the layered range of beige hues.


3) Accented beige: Good news for fans of red, blue, green, purple, and every other color under the sun. Your favorite color can become the focal point of an otherwise all-beige room. Imagine a living room with beige upholstery, carpet, and draperies. Now choose a wall to paint in your preferred color. Next choose a companion shade of beige for the other three walls. An alternative to a painted accent wall is one large, colorful accessory. A pillow, a vase, a painting, or an ottoman surrounded by beige will automatically stand out. Caution - if you introduce a second color, you’ll dilute the power of the first color. For a sophisticated, sleek, and contemporary design, follow this same process using black as your accent.


My self-titled design strategies may be used with any color. But since so many clients have practically apologized for defaulting to beige, I’m happy to prove that it can be executed in a beautiful and thoughtful way. You’ll notice that each example emphasizes texture. The more color and contrast used in a design, the less tactile texture is needed. The opposite is also true.

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Photo: Loggia Showroom, San Francisco

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