Beige Living Room

In defense of beige

I had a conversation with a friend about her desire to live in an all beige home. She seemed to believe there was something wrong with not loving bright, vibrant colors. She kept repeating, as if a mantra, beige is boring. (I find that with me being an artist, people tend to say such things.) I ignored her statement and asked what appealed to her about having a beige or taupe room. She replied, “The simplicity of the color makes me feel calm and at peace.” If I were to guess, she would love a living room that looks like this:


In contrast, the room below would probably send her to the hospital for color over-stimulation.


Both are beautiful designs and well composed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either design when viewing the rooms from a design perspective. But there is something wrong with the more colorful design when I apply it to her tastes.

Her assertion that ‘beige is boring’ and then her further assertion that there is something wrong with her liking beige just didn’t sit well with me. It’s been more than a week since she shyly told me her opinion. I’ve pondered why her apology of liking beige saddened me so much and I’ve come to a conclusion that is actually a prompt:

Why is it bad and embarrassing to like beige?

I’ll state for the record as an artist, designer and color-lover that there is absolutely nothing wrong with liking beige! It’s a color too.

I know a lot of this embarrassment comes from HGTV, the DIY network and the plethora of other networks that have jumped on the quick-renovation highway. The viewers want to see what is new and different and, I’ll make an educated guess here, colors are the cheapest, simplest way to make something look different.

It’s easy for a designer to go into a home and say, “There’s builder grade beige counter tops, classic Eggshell White on the walls, white ceilings, beige carpet. Let’s totally re-do this room!”

But what if you like your Eggshell White on the walls? Or your beige carpets because they can hide kids’ wear and tear? What if you enjoy the neutral and don’t want fire engine red in your kitchen? What if you just want help with artfully arranging those family photos? What if you want tips for how to integrate your treasured family heirlooms with some modern pieces you’ve been saving up for at Ethan Allen? You like how the beige color stays in the background and allows the other treasures to be center stage. But somehow in the process of watching that show, they demean the beige and eggshell colors and, though you’ve been given tips about hanging your art, you are now looking at that eggshell wall with embarrassment.

A designer’s job is to help make your space comfortable and about you – not about them. They aren’t living there, you are. Your artistic tastes are individual and can’t be easily duplicated in every home. That’s just the simple truth. Designing isn’t a one size fits all product though I’ve been running into people who believe that it is. HGTV makes it look easy, but let me tell you as a designer, that isn’t real life. For example, they may encourage you to try out that DIY project of making your own concrete counters, but let’s be honest: They are experts in this field, which is why they have that show. They’ve had some disasters, or rather times of learning, but those times of learning came before the home you’re seeing on the television. It’s only as real as the 30 minutes will allow. There has to be footage cut out; it isn’t as easy and simple as what they are making it seem. Those counter tops will require some of your trial and error to get it right. And it may take more times to get it right than you initially think. This can lead the way for some discouragement and lost money.

In a similar way, they’ve created an illusion that beige and taupe are boring and not acceptable as choices in your home. That’s marketing, but not truth. If you like an all beige room, I want you to embrace that. You are set free and allowed to like what you like! Don’t feel bad about it because, I’ll say it now, beige is a great color. It’s a beautiful neutral that is found plentifully in nature – trees, stones, mountains, clouds and more.

I feel as though I also need to add these technical thoughts:
– Yes, beige can feel boring in a room if you use all the same value (the scale of lights and darks) of beige. One color in one value will feel flat no matter what color you use. Our eyes enjoy contrast, but that doesn’t mean you have to infuse a lot of varying colors for contrast. You can use a light beige with a dark beige and have a beautiful effect.

– I will also say this: my friend mentioned that a beige room was soothing to her and she was astute to notice that. Yes, a room that has only one or two colors is monochromatic and that is soothing to our eyes. When you have limited amounts of contrast to deal with (for example, the room only has a value contrast) versus multiple contrasts (competing colors, values, textures) there is a noticeable energy difference in the room. Artists use this concept in their paintings and sculptures. The more of these contrasts you use, the more energy emits from the art piece. Your eye is dancing, hopping and venturing from one bold focal point to another. That is an important concept to note. In our world, which is hyped-up on colors, ads, noise and distraction, I am not surprised at all that my friend wants a monochromatic, color-quiet room. The noise of our daily lives can provide too much stimulation and a color-quiet home may be the perfect respite. Given this, I wonder how many people crave a beige room for sanity. Probably more than I would believe.

To end my monologue, I will leave you with some beautiful, color-quiet rooms that I found on Houzz. If you are a lover of beige, monochromatic items or peace-inducing spaces, please enjoy this visual retreat! If you love these and want some tips for how to achieve the look, let me know and I can do a separate blog post on the photos.