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Working with colour: Decorating with beige

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
Montford Place Classic style bedroom by Etre Classic
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When it comes to tints and tones, the beige colour is seen as a trusty friend; that dependable tint one can always add to any surface of any room (from the beige bedroom and hallway to the cream living room and kitchen). And while it’s true that neutral beige goes with any colour and design imaginable, one can’t simply slop it into any space and expect the end result to be visually pleasing. 

If that was the case, there’d be no real use for professional Interior Decorators and Designers!

Failing to dress up beige with the other colours in a room can make the entire space seem dull and unimpressive. On the other hand, if you’re not allowed to paint those beige walls (because you’re living in a rental, for instance), that beige can be dressed up beautifully with additional tints to take your colour scheme from boring to brilliant. 

But before we explain how to properly decorate with beige (and find out what colours go with beige), let’s first examine this exquisite neutral/earthy tone via colour psychology…


1. The characteristics of the beige colour

Colour psychology tells us that beige is dependable, conservative, and flexible. It is known for having neutral, calming and relaxing qualities – just think about how many spas use beige in their colour schemes. 

But here’s the catch: the attributes and meanings associated with beige change based on the colours it accompanies, meaning you’d better do your homework before splashing ice blue, hot pink or other tones next to those beiges in your home. This also rings true for other neutrals, so you’d better ensure you know what you need to know when choosing colours that go with grey, or off-white, etc. 

Beige also successfully offers a touch of the colour brown’s warmth, as well as some of the crisp and coolness of the colour white. And while it is a relaxing hue, it’s also very easy to turn beige into a dull colour.

2. Check before decorating with beige

Montford Place Classic style bedroom by Etre Classic
Etre

Montford Place

Etre

Before you splurge on new furnishings and décor for your cream living room (or whatever space you feel needs some spicing up), first check that your colour combinations work. Obtain colour swatches of the tints you plan on using with the beige, and set these in the room to see how they change in the light during different times of the day. 

Beige with a touch of grey works well with Khaki tan, Dove grey, white and light brown. However, these colours wouldn't look as good next to red-tinted beige. For pink beige, choose complementary colours in salmon, mango and soft mint for a relaxing effect.

homify hint: Using beige for your walls allows this colour to become a discreet backdrop for furnishings, art, and additional colours of forest green, bright red and even gold. The beige fades into the background as the gorgeous accessories pop into the foreground.

3. The warm and cool undertones of beige

Contemporary Living Modern style bedroom by Aubury Design Modern
Aubury Design

Contemporary Living

Aubury Design

Remember that beige is available in a multitude of tints, with names such as tan, cream, buff, etc. To find out which tint matches with which colour, it’s important to examine the underlying hints in the beige.

Put a white piece of paper in a sunlight area next to the beige wall. Compare and examine the undertones to figure out if they would work better with a warm or cool palette. Warm beige complements warm or cool colour schemes, depending on the underlying colour. For example, a warm beige with hints of red is offset by rusty reds, earthy browns and touches of black, while certain blues complete a yellow beige. 

A cool beige can also be paired with pastels that include lavender, pale silver and muted grey-blues for a soothing effect.

homify hint: What happens when beige pairs up with other ‘almost beiges’ like mocha or warm ivory? When part of such a creamy palette, the beige takes on a dreamy characteristic as it becomes one of the many gradients in a scale of gorgeous soft browns.

4. What colours go with beige: A nautical mix

Curious to know what colours go with beige? Nowhere in nature does beige mix better than at the beach. Imagine a sun-kissed stretch of sand (complete with dark brown rocks and driftwood) paired with the contrasting cools of the ocean. 

Similarly, a warm yellow beige offset by Aquatic blue, Teal or Turquoise will create a relaxed, calming effect in any room.

homify hint: For colour that go with grey, imagine an overcast beach with the grey hues replacing your sunnier beiges. The bonus is that your cool blues and turquoises will similarly take on the same vibe as your grey (i.e. cooler for Cloud grey, warmer for Fossil grey). 

5. What colours go with beige: Black, white and grey

Rear View with covers on speakers Classic style living room by Custom Controls Classic
Custom Controls

Rear View with covers on speakers

Custom Controls

The three major neutral colours (black, white and grey) are ideal for not only pairing up with other hues, but also becoming backdrops. 

Paint your wainscot panelling white to offset with the top part of the wall’s beige, ensuring a crisp-meets-warm combination. Add dark-hued furniture (we love charcoal sofas and stone-grey ottomans) to become most prominent among that white-and-beige backdrop. 

Complete the look with warm lighting fixtures (the changing light and shadows will influence those whites to become more or less grey during different parts of the day). 

For additional colours, you can opt for scatter cushions in warm reds/oranges, or hang a painting or two that introduces extra tones. 

homify hint: Let your beige come alive by using the designer trick of contrasts. If that beige is a bit dull, frame it with bright whites to take on a deeper, livelier feel.

6. What colours go with beige: A contemporary scheme

For an elegant and sophisticated vibe in a room, combine neutrals. But make sure the objects these colours adorn add to your room’s look. 

Metallics and glass mixed with beige creates a contemporary colour scheme. For extra character, add hand-carved African ebony figurines to provide a contrasting punch on a wall shelf, bookcase or end table. How about adding chairs and/or a single sofa covered in a subtle striped fabric of beige and silver? Silver and glass coffee- and end tables can ensure a modern twist.

And for colour? Let’s leave that up to Mother Nature herself with fresh potted plants. 

In terms of texture, drape a rough-woven throw across the sofa, sporting metallic threads running through it to make the room a little less grave. Complete the contemporary look with a copper-based lamp or two (the ideal material to go with beige). 

It may seem as if beige walls are a decorating obstacle, but when studying interior design imagery and seeing how designers purposefully incorporate beige walls into their designs, a beige wall can become one of the best interior elements to use.

7. Add detail to your beige paint

Richmond Full House Refurbishment Minimalist living room by A1 Lofts and Extensions Minimalist
A1 Lofts and Extensions

Richmond Full House Refurbishment

A1 Lofts and Extensions

Whether your walls have been splashed with hazel wood or biscotti (or any of the other countless beige colours out there), it’s up to you to add some detail/drama. Remember that beige colours (and browns and greys… ) are known as neutral colours. Thus, while they are adept at adding a clean-and-calm backdrop to a space, they need some assistance to look more ‘alive’. 

That’s how we get into the groove of playing with patterns and textures. For instance, see how these coffee-brown wood floors flaunt some extra pizzazz thanks to the herringbone pattern.

And since we already know what colours go with beige paint, we have more freedom to experiment with different hues that pop with personality—like that contemporary hanging chair with its bright-red cushion that stands out quite impressively. 

8. The right light for your beige

Victorian Chandelier 5 Arms VICA In Black With Fabric Shades by Luxury Chandelier Modern Wood Wood effect
Luxury Chandelier

Victorian Chandelier 5 Arms VICA In Black With Fabric Shades

Luxury Chandelier

Since beige colours can seem a bit dingy, especially when the day’s shadows get longer, it’s up to you to ensure your room’s light (both natural and artificial) is as bright (not blindingly, though) as possible. Check that your artificial lights’ colours complement your beige paints and –tones in terms of ‘cool’ and ‘hot’ lighting. 

Speaking of getting your colour palettes perfectly, let's move on to Interior inspiration: What colours go with navy?  

How do you feel about beige walls in your home?
Whitton Drive by GK Architects Ltd Modern

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