All About That Beige

A quick lesson on understanding color and undertone in beige paint colors by interior designer Lesley Myrick

It’s true – I may have gone on record stating that my mission is “to banish beige from Waco.” I’ve been pretty verbal about my distaste for ubiquitous neutrals that have taken over this town, along with fake farmhouse style and faux shiplap.

I see soooo much beige used as a fallback color. Beige is safe. Beige is agreeable. Beige is boring, baby.

But that doesn’t mean beige is bad. In fact, the right beige with the right undertones can create such a fab backdrop for color, pattern, and texture. Sometimes – shhhh – beige can actually be an awesome color choice.

Here’s where beige is a problem…

It’s because beige is not just beige. Beige has so much color in it – and if you’re not trained to see the undertones in a color, it’s easy to make a mistake choosing the wrong beige:

Here’s a quick color lesson for you on Mass Tone and Undertone.

Color is never just one color. Gray is not gray, beige is not beige. Color has two components. One is the mass tone. So that is the main color, like beige or gray (and I’m using neutrals in this example just because they are the clearest to see undertones in, at least for me). So basically, you’ve got mass tone. You’ve got your beige paint, you’ve got your gray paint.

Here’s where it gets crazy tricky. Colors also have an undertone. That’s like a sneaky little color hanging out underneath that can rear its ugly head in the right light. This is why understanding color is so important when you’re choosing paint colors, because if you look for a gray, and it just looks like gray, but it has a purple or violet undertone, it is not going to look gray on your walls. It’s going to look purple – and I have made this mistake before.

A quick lesson on understanding color and undertone in beige paint colors by interior designer Lesley Myrick

Beige can have one of four undertones: pink, orange, yellow, or green.

That’s really the basics. You’ve got your mass color, beige, and then it has an undertone; either pink, orange, yellow, or green.

Here’s something I see all over Waco, and it makes me crazy. It’s when builders build new homes, and they think all beiges are the same. So they pick a beige granite, and a beige backsplash and a brown paint color for the cabinets, and a beige travertine floor.

But me? Ohhhh girl. I walk in and I see yellow-beige countertops, a pink-beige backsplash, orange-beige walls, yellow-beige floors. So. Much. Color!

When you’ve got the wrong undertones together, they only emphasize each other.

Even some “experts” like home builders are picking colors and materials just assuming beige is beige and all neutrals go with all neutrals – not understanding that all the colors have undertones to them.

So, take a look around this week when you’re looking at neutrals, see if you can spot the undertone happening in it. You’ve got your main color (the mass tone), and it’s always going to have a sneaky color underneath it (the undertone), and that’s the key for successful color pairings: is making sure your undertones are consistent and all make sense together.


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