Wait, Is Beige Cool Again?
According to Emily Henderson, yes.
Published Apr 14, 2019 7:00 AM
Uninspiring. Boring. Bland. Dated.
Think of the color beige, and a few of these descriptors will likely come to mind. As with other cultural relics like bedazzled T-shirts and trucker hats, the blame for this can be placed squarely on the aughties: The early 2000s saw a full embrace of the neutral hue, often imagined in stuffy silhouettes and drab materials. The beige craze eventually died down, giving way to contemporary minimalism and eventually vibrant maximalism, but lately, we’ve started to notice it claw its way back into the spotlight.
Except for this time, it’s different. Some of our favorite home tours, like this New York City apartment or this LA bachelor pad, put beige at the forefront, relying on high-contrast palettes and modern silhouettes to make it interesting. In Pantone’s spring 2019 color trend report, two of the 16 shades were tints of beige, showing a newfound interest in layering the color tonally. Some of our favorite retailers, like H&M and Zara Home, started incorporating light, breezy beiges in their summer editorials for a desert-inspired look. And when we asked our favorite designers to predict the season’s biggest color trends, one response stood out among a sea of yellows and oranges: Emily Henderson vouched for beige.
“Beige has had a bad reputation for too long,” explains Henderson. “Much like the movie Sideways nearly tanked the merlot wine industry, the early ’00s put the color beige in a corner that no modern designer wanted to get near, but merlot is delicious, and the right beige can make any room feel happy and welcoming. If travertine, faux flowers, and pleated shades are back in updated, beautiful ways, why not beige?”
She has a point. Gone are the days of beige being synonymous with dumpy sofas and wall-to-wall carpeting. 2019’s beige is all about the unexpected: It’s sculptural objects, crisp materials, and abstract prints. Used properly, it anchors a space while still providing depth.
“The key is to keep the color light and airy—stay away from anything too yellow or muddy and you’ll have yourself a room that feels more dimensional and welcoming than a bright white space,” suggests Henderson. She’s also a fan of tonal design: “Add in other whites and natural hues like linen, oatmeal, and flax in a handful of different textures. It’s the easiest way to keep it chic and modern yet still cozy.”
Ahead are some of our favorite contemporary pieces that will convince you to give this once-dated trend a second chance.
For the avid museumgoer
Does this or does this not look like a sculptural piece one might find on display at a museum? With the rough finish and geometric silhouette, it has that covetable one-of-a-kind feel that instantly imbues any space with character.
Make it mod: While it’s technically a planter, try keeping the vase empty for a sleek, modern vibe. Make it the centerpiece of your mantel or console table—trust us, it’ll need no other embellishment to make a statement.
For the Scandinavian style enthusiast
Inspired by Danish designer Hans Wegner, this ash wood chair has an organic, natural feel that makes it look like it was plucked directly from the coolest Scandinavian home.
Make it mod: Modernize this classic piece by way of a bold textile; a cobalt blue blanket draped over the side would bring the perfect balance of subdued and saturated.
For the frequent entertainer
Fresh linens are the easiest way to spice up your tablescape, and the block print on these napkins makes them ideal for the modern dinner party host.
Make it mod: Play up the high contrast of the black-and-flax hues by opting for a monochromatic tablescape. Matte black accents, like dinnerware or flatware, would add an extra bit of edge against a lighter-colored table setting.
For the night owl
Sculptural simplicity is the name of the game with this sleek, unglazed stoneware table lamp.
Make it mod: Keep it on your nightstand to facilitate your late-night reading binges in style. Place it on a stack of books and eliminate other tabletop clutter for a casual yet pulled-together look.
For the aspiring art collector
Looking for a unique print to kick-start your gallery wall? Allow us to introduce to you this abstract piece, whose canvas material lends it an old-timey feel.
Make it mod: Opting for similarly toned wooden ash frames for the rest of your prints will keep your gallery wall feeling cohesive. With this piece at the center, build the rest of your vignette out with artwork in complementary tones—look for monochromatic geometric shapes and tinges of royal blue.
For the small-space dweller
Cane furniture is trending in a big way this year, and this daybed offers an easy way to get in on the trend while providing you with a functional living room piece. After all, not everyone has space for a guest room, so a sofa bed is a great tiny home solution.
Make it mod: Play off the clean lines of the daybed by layering in a variety of throw pillows. Take Henderson’s note of decorating tonally and make each pillow a slightly different beige tint in a different silhouette so that the finished effect has dimension.
For the vintage lover
A vintage finish mixed with a modern silhouette makes for a vase that’s all about carefully considered juxtaposition.
Make it mod: Eschew the fresh blooms in favor of the dried flower trend. Strands of taller blooms, like Craspedia, or even eucalyptus would complement the vase perfectly and make a great finishing touch for a bookcase.
For the open shelving devotee
Between the hand-formed terra-cotta stopper and the unglazed ceramic exterior, this beautiful carafe is the definition of form meets function.
Make it mod: Make every inch on your open shelves count and opt for vessels and dinnerware that can double as decor. When not in use as serving ware, this carafe can work overtime as a decorative accent piece.
For those whose perfect night in involves Netflix
This throw pillow goes beyond standard beige with hints of blush and graphic hand-moon designs. Hand-stitched by Peruvian artisans, the attention to detail makes it a great living room accent.
Make it mod: If your sofa errs on the contemporary, sleek side, a throw pillow like this—with soft lines and dusty neutral tones—will bring some welcomed balance. Add to the contrast by layering in accent pillows in different shades of pink.
For the strict minimalist
Chinese joinery and vegetable-tanned leather combine for the ultimate small-space seating solution.
Make it mod: The leather seat is so pale it almost blends into the wooden legs, making for one entirely beige piece. This simplicity is what makes the stool the optimum minimalist furniture item: It can be used as an impromptu side table with minimal accessories or an extra living room seat tucked away neatly in a corner.
For anyone who is super jazzed about the desert style trend
A rich terra-cotta hue offsets the beige tones in this clay lamp for a pared-back take on two-tone design. It’s definitely a splurge piece, but if you’re looking for a unique finishing touch, this made-to-order lamp has a bespoke element to it. No two lamps are exactly the same, and you can choose a different color cord for further personalization.
Make it mod: Set it on a rustic wooden table to emphasize the lamp’s organic, natural makeup. Layered in with other crisp desert tones in an office or bedroom, like a deep terra-cotta wall color or an ochre rug, this beige piece will be anything but stuffy.
See more retro trends making a comeback: This Retro Bathroom Trend Is Making a Comeback (and We’re 100% On-Board) The Retro Trend That Will Make Your Summer Decor Extra Playful Scour Your Local Garage Sales: This “Dated” Living Room Trend Is Back