Vancouver Colour Expert reveals What Everyone should know about Beige!

When can you decorate with pink and yellow?? In nature, with flowers. Inside of interior design, this means, clean fresh palettes only if you are combining pink and yellow:

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It’s pink beige and yellow beige that DO NOT WORK in the same room. I have had many women say to me “Please come and help me pick a beige, I ALWAYS end up with pink on the walls”. Perfect example of this was the decor at Spa Utopia in North Vancouver where I snapped some photos to show you:

 

 

 

See the tile in this change room? It’s yellowy, creamy beige, not a spec of the wall colour in it. The wall colour looks mostly brown and warm to everyone. How you know you’re about to choose a shade similar to this for your tile or wall-to-wall carpeting is it looks warmer than the rest of the beige tones. And it is, but this shade of beige is also very limiting, here is a closer view:

BM HC-77 Alexandria Beige

BM HC-77 Alexandria Beige (wall colour)

In the photo the floor tile looks cream and innocuous but it actually is quite yellow. As I’ve said in a previous post, beige is either yellow, green or pink. See the yellow in the ottoman above? That’s how you can tell the wall colour has a red undertone, because it’s not green is it? Nor is it yellow. My guess is this wall colour is close to Benjamin Moore’s HC-77 Alexandria Beige as shown above.

BM HC-48 Bradstreet Beige

BM HC-48 Bradstreet Beige

If it was any lighter, such as HC-48 Bradstreet Beige, it would have really looked bad with the yellow tile. Why? Yellow beige, next to pinky beige looks dirty. If you have ever painted the walls in your house a colour you KNEW looked wrong but couldn’t figure out why? Your new furniture arrived and it looked old? This is one of the reasons why.

BM HC-95 Sag Harbour Gray

BM HC-95 Sag Harbour Gray

By the way the grout had a green undertone (not so obvious in the photo) but it was something close to HC-95 Sag Harbour Gray:

The colour that would have been closer to the tile is HC-26 Monroe Bisque which would have been a better choice to coordinate with the undertones in the tile:

BM HC-26 Monroe Bisque

BM HC-26 Monroe Bisque

You can see it now right? If you look at all three of them at once it’s easy. And I’ve given you the most obvious comparison.

By the way, I don’t think the whole spa should have matched the tile, (that would have been way too monochromatic) I think the tile could have been a better match to the wall colour.
I have a student in my current colour theory class this semester who was worried I spent too much time talking about beige and the undertones of beige in our first class. However, as a designer or  DIY homeowner, you must be able to see the difference while the samples are small otherwise it’s too late once your flooring or drapery has been installed.

If you would like to learn the difference so that you can walk into any space and know what is not working and how to fix it, become a True Colour Expert by taking one of my workshops!

 

Trick question? What’s the undertone of the sofa in this interior by Jamie Drake? Now you’ll know!

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn to how choose the right colours for your home or for your clients, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

What everyone should know about Gray

Clean vs. Dirty Colours
Three ways to describe Colour
Being-on-Being-on-Beige

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  1. hi

    So delighted to have found this site.

    i guess I have made every mistake there is in choosing a beige wall color. Taking a cue from my kitchen counters which are similar to BM's Lenox Tan, what would be a good beige wall color.

    if I don't want to showcase the orange in my cabinets, am I correct in assuming that I should avoid a beige with a green undertone.

    Appliances are white.

    Thanks
    Linda

  2. Hi Linda,
    Well if you painted them GREEN then perhaps the cabinets would look more orange but I don't think there's anything wrong with a green undertone in the beige, if your countertops are Lenox Tan, then I might consider Hazy Skies, OC-48.
    Maria

  3. Hi

    Thanks so much for your suggestion. I painted the wall Quincy tan but it was just too dark and too green, Then I tried Powell Buff ( too yellow) then Monroe Bisque ( too green ) then Putnam Ivory ( too peachy ) then Shaker Beige and evn that does not look right. Too pinky.

    it's not the paint. it must be the undertone in the cabinets ( orange oak) the backsplash tile ( which now looks pink ) the counter which is a laminate called travertine or the porcelain tile floors.

    I'd like to rip it all out and start again.

    I wish that I lived closer to you. I'm about as far away as possible and still be in Canada. I'm located in NL.

    Thanks for your suggestion of Hazy Skies

    Linda

  4. Maria, I just LOVE your blog. I am usually terrible with colors, but I am learning with the help of your blog! I never realized why the color of beige in our kitchen was different from the rest of the house when we purchased it. Now, I know why! The floors are a pinky terra cotta and the beige has pink undertones! The rest of our house has wood floors that have an orange undertone and the beige has a different undertone, I think it's a green undertone…. I still need to learn more though! I can really see the value of hiring a color professional! Thanks again!

  5. I had this exact "pink beige" sofa with a "yellow beige" wall situation with a client today!! I was so happy to have the exact words to explain to her why the room was not working. Thanks for making my job easier!!!

  6. Please help! Your post was extremely helpful. I painted my DR in Valspar Tawny (not Tawny Bluff just Tawny). I continue to see pink or peach undertones on the wall that husband doesn't. Can you verify this. Not sure if I like the color with the burnt orange drapes that have dark brown curved lined throughout. The carpet definitely has yellow undertones. Pls help on letting me know if my current color works or what suggestion would you give. Thanks, Tamara

  7. Hi Tamara,
    I don't have the Valspar deck but Tawny sounds pink to me. If you see pink it's there (80% of men are colourblind to some degree).

    If your carpet has yellow undertones then I would go with a yellow beige or yellow that would look way better with the orange drapes as well (love that combo), I would consider something like HC-35 Powell Buff or Vellum if you want more yellow.
    Maria

  8. Thank You! This totally explains why the beige paint I selected for a bathroom briefly turned into a disgusting 1950s pinkish beige (that make-up colored color). The color was picked using the two tiles shaded teal/taupe and shades of chocolate/milk chicolate to be "not greenish" which probably guaranteed a pinkish undertone beige.

    The minty-green toothpaste-coloured paint that was already on the walls forced my eyes and brain to see pink because all the green receptors I had were used up and exhausted by the mint.

    LESSON: Don't look back when you are painting, and don't judge a color until you have at least one really good coat of the it on all the walls.

    I could easily have second-guessed myself into gallons of futile attempts to find something that wasn't 'too pink". Now that the minty-fresh walls are all repainted, it looks like the color I thought I would get, and plays nicely with the teals of the floor and the chocolate of the cabinets. Yes, I'm chasing a trend here but the affordable fix for sound, but ugly, walnut cabinets involved gel stain in deep coffee.

  9. The-Countrypolitan

    Great post! It always amuses me when my clients look at me like I'm crazy when I try to explain that the beige we are looking at is too pink or too yellow, or green… when I put other beige colors next to them, they can begin to understand the differences and subtleties.

  10. Hi Maria, I come back to this post over and over again. Thanks so much for providing us this resource. I've been comparing my beiges to your examples. Shenandoah Taupe, greenish, and Weimaraner, pinkish? So much to learn!

  11. The couch is pink…..

    It's like, bam, in your face! I don't like pink or yellow for walls so that pic is a double whammy…

  12. I just discovered your blog and love it. But now I have spent so much time on it that it is very late at night and I think I not understanding everything. When deciding on colors do not mix muddy with clean colors and do not mix pink, yellow or green undertones. Are these separate rules or are they related somehow. I am choosing a sofa, chairs, curtains for a room with HC 101 hampshire grey and I am getting nervous. It is essentially a muddy green I think. SO I should make sure not have a pink beige for the sofa right? But a yellow beige works and so does a green beige? I want to use blue and orange in this room as accents. Is that too many color choices? I could go on with questions but I will stop here and hope that you can give me a quick answer.

  13. Hi Hariklia,
    That's a good question. The short answer is that you should just pick one 'beige' to decorate with instead of mixing them up. And yes keep pinky beige out of the picture entirely. Orange would work, it depends on which blue, but I would stick overall to 3 colours (neutrals not included in that count).
    Hope this helps,
    Maria

  14. Hi – great article! I always knew there was a reason all the 'beige' I chose looked like skin on the wall (ick).

    I have orangeish / red mahogany trim and floors along with a navy ish blue sofa. I want to neutralize the walls – but not go WHITE. Should I go with a green beige or a yellow beige? I'm even willing to go slightly darker. I think that a clean beige would work better than a dirty beige because I have white curtains.

  15. I am a huge fan of your post and now my friends and family is too.

    My floor is littered with paint chips and weeks later I STILL am stuck. I have the soon-to-be-in-style gray carpet with purple undertone (I am fairly sure) I tried greens (no) taupes (nice, but does fit the feel of the furniture) so am now to beige. I have a pile of beige paint samples. It's a bedroom (maybe a baby room someday) and I really don't want it to be dirty looking, but full-on yellow is too much. Any suggestions on what would be a pretty beige to go with a purple gray carpet? (or any other ideas?)

  16. Wow, I feel so amazing – I guessed pink. There's some hope for my beige ability yet. Ha! The color gods are mocking me – I still feel the need for intensive color therapy. I've always used BM HC-27 and now I'm looking around thinking these walls look a bit buttery. Maybe not a good mix with the sage rug (tv rm) or the merlot in the dining room. Just repainted walls 4 mnths ago – whoops.

  17. hi there! stumbled upon your blog and really enjoy it so far. maybe you can help me on my quest! i am painting my and fiance's condo. so far, i have "leafy rise" in Valspar in some of the walls in kitchen and "fioli ballroom" in Valspar on bottom parts of dining room (some in kitchen as well). i really like these two colors. i need a color (was thinking light beige) for top part of dining room (against Fioli ballroom, separated by a chair rail) and throughout rest of living room.
    it is an open floor plan, with tall ceilings in living room and skylights. i need something beautiful and i'm sure you can help!! open to your suggestions! right now i have a pink beige and not really sure about this ….
    hope to hear from you soon!
    thanks so much, elizabeth

  18. Hi, Maria,

    Love your post. Thank you for sharing.

    We are moving in a house with 80's oak cabinets, floor and trims. After reading your posts, we decided to paint the cabinets and trims white, but are not sure what undertones the floor has. Can you share more on floor undertones?

    Thank you!!

  19. To be really picky and accurate I think it is a red undertone in the sofa. Not only do yellowy beiges and pinky beiges conflict but I think you have to be careful with yellows and reds to avoid the ketchup and mustard syndrome. The sofa and wall here has a mustard and hotdog effect. Ick.

  20. I am relieved to have found your blog right before setting out to paint the whole interior of our newly constructed home. Your writing about beige has been especially helpful! We want to keep our paint neutral because we are likely to need to resell the house in a few years. I think we need a yellow beige in our living room to go with our caramel-gold with sage green and red paisley sofa and red chair. Floors are cherry laminate. The living room is part of a great room with kitchen (espresso cabinets) and a small dining area, with tall ceilings and light from the north. Am I right that a yellow-beige or green-beige would work here and is there one on the lighter side that you like? I am struggling with this one. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

  21. I have a beach home that needs to be painted from top to bottom. Colors chosen so far seem to have a gray or maybe have some brown in the undertone (??) NOT SURE? – Sherwin Williams “Cay, Sherwin Williams “Eider White”, SWilliams “Accessible Beige” and SWilliams “Lemongrass. I love Benjamin Moore but when with SWilliams because of the costal cool color palette cheat sheet booklet they provided in their store. I felt like it was an easy cheat sheet, ha! My dilemma? Choosing a first level paint color to match my Kraftmaid “Canvas color cabinets” which seem to have a gray undertone as well, along with my Typhoon Bordeaux granite countertop. The main color will travel from the kitchen, through the family room up the steps into the upstairs hallway so I have to pick a neutral that will work with the SW colors already painted.. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have to decide by this Friday 🙁

  22. I am currently redoing several rooms after a car drove into my house (really). On the advice of a friend who’s house always looks good, I chose a gold color for my living room. The painters put one coat on and I nearly had a heart attack. Terrible. I chased the painters away until I can come up with something else. After a month trying various yellowishish hues, and getting a headache every time I walk into the room, I finally realized that I need something with a green undertone. Am currently looking at BM’s Danville Tan or Crown Point Sand. The thing is, I have white wood blinds on the windows, and don’t plan on changing them. I live on a busy corner (hence car driving into house) and usually keep blinds closed. Will the Danville Tan be too dark with the white blinds? What colors of trim would work? Thanks.

    • Hi Helen, your neutral paint colour should relate to your furniture or fixed elements. YOu could do anything from Simply White, to Cloud White to Ivory White with Danville Tan, however your trim colour should relate to the fixed white in your house if you have one. Maria

  23. I love your book and all your color information. I just graduated from a university with a BFA in interior design and they really lacked teaching us about color, which is so important. So thank you for continuing my education. The only thing I’m missing is how to know what colors go with others. I understand all the undertones and what that means, but how do I put it all together now. For example if I walk into a room and the floor is pink beige and the countertop is a taupe. How do I know what colors will compliment these or which to steer away from?

    In the color bonus book you explain a little for a few colors, for example “Pure White works well with Carrara marble as the blue undertone of Pure White is the right match for the grayish blue tones”. But is there something that can help me with everything else? Thanks!

  24. Needing help today. I have Sherwin Wms Renwick Beige walls in kitchen, with a tile floor in same color family just deeper tone, maybe slightly more brown in it, and yet had hoped to pull off a gray olive in kitchen cabinets. But the beige looks to have a very pink undertone. I have brick chimney focal point in kitchen (with some chalky/pink tones but alongside copper and SW Toile red accents too. The counter top is 1990’s black speckled formica (has grays/blacks/coffee/and shell-ish pink speckles)…. which stays for now. I need 1 -2 cabinet colors to choose from [plus should I do uppers one color and lowers another??]. This is a traditional 1990 farmhouse feel with short cabinets and a closed soffit so the upper cabinets will be truly adjacent to the Renwick Beige. The kitchen opens to a family room with a wall of same brick (which also has gray and brown tones and a greeb-gray mortar) plus a wood paneling that’s walnut/green undertone. Is there ANY way to choose a kitchen cabinet color here?? My trim is SW Natural Tan. NOT very much contrast to the Renwick Beige:( Help!

  25. I’m starting to see the world in undertones. Nothing will be the same ever again! Thank you for sharing your well-put-together insights.