What you need to know about the color beige is the first of a new series of post to help you be more confident when decorating with color in your home! Color is complex! So let’s break it down to help you be a better decorator!
If you understand even the basics when it comes to color and color theory decorating your home will be so much easier! And your home will show the fruits of your knowledge and labor!
So today I’m starting a series called BEGINNING COLOR THEORY FOR THE HOME DECORATOR. I’ve already done several posts having to do with color and how they affect our lives, home and decor.
They have been so popular I decided to do an entire series on this very important subject!
The first color we are going to talk about is the color beige! I can just hear some of you, “Oh, beige… boring”!
Well, friend, I’m so glad you continued reading this post because beige is anything but boring. And it is a very good place to begin!
Actually, beige is a very complicated color! It really is not only one color!
There are a myriad of colors that can be classified as beige.
JUST WHAT IS BEIGE?
Beige was first coined by the French (of course) and it means the color of natural wool. Not washed or bleached or dyed, but natural.
This makes me think of a sheep in a field. And if you have seen a sheep in a field its wool is nothing like white!
Look at all the different variations of beige in this fluffy sheep’s wool!
Beige has also taken on the meaning of the color of a bleached bone.
Let’s just say for time’s sake and to have a working definition beige is a neutral color that in its purest form is a light creamy off-white!
But beige has probably thousands of variations from the slightest and warmest white to the toastiest almost brown!
Beige is created by adding brown to white.
And brown is created by mixing the primary colors blue, yellow and red. See where I am going with this? It’s just not that easy!
So let’s make it easy and say basic beige is a mix of white and a touch brown.
It’s also important to know that beige in its most elemental form is a warm color.
If you are not sure what a warm or cool color is it might be a great idea to pause and head over to CAN YOU MIX WARM AND COOL COLORS for a quick review of warm and cool colors. And then pick up this post from here.
There is one catch about describing neutral colors. And beige is a neutral color…
No neutral color can be described without describing its undertone!
It’s just the nature of neutral colors like beige!
WHAT IS AN UNDERTONE AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH BEIGE?
Neutrals are the most complicated and complex of all colors for being almost devoid of overt color! Sounds a bit like an oxymoron!
Actually, that is what makes colors like beige so complicated! And so beautiful!
Remember I said that basically (and very very basically) beige is white with a taddy bit of brown? Well, that is true, but when we talk about beige we are probably talking about more colors mixed in too!
These colors, used even in smallest amounts have a big effect on the basic beige.
The infographic I made shows you just what a small amount of another color can create when added to a basic beige.
Let’s call the top color basic beige.
Adding just a hint of pink, yellow, green, or orange made a huge difference in the undertone of our beige color! The new colors made by adding these colors are all variations of beige but the colors we slipped under them have such a big effect on our basic beige that they actually make a new beige color!
An undertone is a color that is under, or mixed into a color like beige, that changes that color.
So what do the undertones in a beige color have to do with anything?
It has everything to do with beige! You see there is never just one beige color. There are thousands!
And knowing the undertone of a color like beige will help you know what to use when decorating with your favorite beige!
NOT ALL UNDERTONES PLAY WELL TOGETHER
We painted the walls of our StoneGable home in my favorite beige- Benjamin Moore Sonnett.
In our home it read about as beige or bone as you could get in daylight.
But here’s how it looked on the paint chip…
Woa! No wonder it’s so important to paint several walls with a color you are thinking about using, right?
But here’s what the paint chip told me that I could not tell from my Sonnet painted walls…
This beige has yellow undertones that were the closest yellow in the yellow spectrum. So close you could say it had the most tiny and slight bit of peach or pink in it. Even less than a drop can change beige!
We picked out Sonnet after years of having white, then yellow then, taupe walls. But we always had Atrium White trim from the beginning.
I loved Sonnet with Atrium White and no wonder! Atrium White has the tiniest undertone of pink in it too! The undertones in the Sonnet loved playing with the undertones in the Atrium White! They were happy together!
And that made our rooms look so beautiful!
For me, this was undertone perfection!
Undertones are important! They must get along in your home or things will look “off”!
And I’m not just talking walls. I’m talking about any decor you bring into your home!
Some undertones fight like cats and dogs!
Colors like orange and magenta fight for attention! So beiges that might have orange and violet undertones will probably fight too! Refer to the infographic above!
Again, nothing is easy when we talk about color.
But if you want an easy and safe rule of thumb look for the undertones in a beige you are decorating with then you will know what colors will look best with.
It can be a bit like being a detective. I still struggle to see many undertones! Experimenting by putting the beige in question next to a white piece of paper can help. Compare the two and the undertones will show up!
And it it is beige paint, you are in luck! There are resources on line, if you google your paint color, that will tell you what the undertones are!
When you know the undertones in your favorite beige you will have a good idea about the colors that will work with the beige you have in your home!
WARM OR COOL
Is beige a warm or cool color? This is such a great question!
Beige is primarily a warm color. However, it’s those pesky but nuanced undertones that make the difference.
For our purposes we will say all beiges are usually warm. Because the are! Well, sorta… most of the time… in theory! LOL!
Does that mean you can’t use cool colors with them? Oh, not at all!
What it does mean is that you need to read the undertones in a beige so it will work with a cool color.
Just think about a color combination we love from nature. Sand and sea!
Beautiful colors, right? There are both warm and cool colors in this image. Lots of warm darker beige!
Why does the warm sand and the cool ocean look so pretty together other then nature is beautiful?
First, there are a lot more warm tones in this image than cool! And that is your first tip…
WARM COLORS LOVE THE COMPANY OF OTHER WARM COLORS.
Warm colors bring out the best in beige!
And here’s your second big tips…
All warm or all cool colors in a room are boring! A big picture of sand is way more boring than one that has a beautiful moody ocean along with the sand, right?
CREATE A BIT OF TENSION IN A NEUTRAL (BEIGE) ROOM BY USING A LITTLE BIT COOL COLORS.
A little bit of warmed up cool hues in a neutral room can look pretty!
The chair above illustrates this perfectly. This chair has been in so many rooms in both StoneGable and Tanglewood! Because I have a neutral warm palette with lots of variations of beige in my home this chair works almost everywhere.
And I love this chair because it is a mix of both warm beige and gray! The tension of the cool gray brings a bit of life and excitement or tension to the beige (warm) room I put it in.
It’s just enough of a mix of warm and cool undertones to works!
BEAUTY AND VERSATILITY
When it comes to beauty and versatility you can’t beat beautiful beige in all of its shades and tones! It’s calm and sophisticated and such a hard working color that will add a timeless look to your home.
Beige is easy to live with and plays well with so many other colors and neutrals!
There is probably no other color that has gotten such a bad rap and deserves it less! I say, Vive le beige!
So now you know and I hope this has helped you to understand the elegance and understated color called beige!
It is my passion and pleasure to help you learn interior design concepts in an easy and understandable way so you can incorporate these tricks of the trade as you decorate your home!
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