My Beige Decor Is Making Me Sick



Dear Laurel,

It should really be “Oh, Laurel,”

Ten years ago, we moved into our dream home. We built it. I did everything “right.” I didn’t want to muck this one up.

I mucked it up.

It’s not that I hate my home, I hate the beige decor.

Beige, beige, beige

and more beige!

My decorator INSISTED that my penchant for white would look “dated.”

Ha! If anything white, from what I can see is more wildly popular than ever; love it and I love gray too.

Some will say that gray is going to look dated too, but one of my favorite posts on your blog is the one you wrote about the fact that gray is an ages old classic color.

I also love the post about the cool gray paint colors and the warm gray paint colors.

Hmmmm… haven’t seen anything about beige colors on your blog. Now, why is that Laurel?

Oh wait. You don’t have to answer that one. I have the answer.


It’s because beige decor SUCKS!


I’m a sucker for listening to that lame decorator. Totally kicking myself. And I can’t even go and kill her, because she passed away two years ago. Geeezzz, I feel like a cruel, insensitive cow for even saying that!

You don’t suppose that it was the beige that killed her do you? If it was that, then I’m sure to be next.

That is how much I hate it. In fact, it’s made me feel a little ill since day one.

And yes, there’s a husband. There’s always a husband, isn’t there? A husband who is as content as a bee in May– until I start opening up my yap about the beige decor!


Fortunately, I’ve been embezzling money from our bank account for our entire 15-year marriage and stashed it in a private money market.


You know… 100 dollars here, 50 dollars there. Believe me, he doesn’t miss it. I look at it like saving for an emergency on top of our retirement savings.

Oh, stop looking at me like that! Yes, I know… I’m an awful person, but my mother did it and her mother…I come from a long line of wives-who-pilfer. In fact, we’ve started a facebook group! 🙂

Mom told me that it would come in handy one day. Well, she’s right!

Painting, floor refinishing and a few pieces of furniture we’ve got covered; thanks to my youngest who blessedly stuffed an entire roll of toilet paper down the commode and caused a massive flood. We had the insurance adjuster over here like the next day. I read somewhere to do this because over time, the damage doesn’t look as bad as when it’s fresh. It worked. We got a good settlement.

The worst offenders are the kitchen. Beige on beige on beige and the three bathrooms. More of the same.

We picked up the ” beige scheme” in the upholstery, rugs, pillows.

“Monochromatic is the way to go,” she said.

Just writing that makes me throw up a little in my mouth. I want more gray and white.


Can you mix beige and gray? I doubt it.


Please. I’ve learned my lesson. Always follow one’s instincts.

I will tell my husband that my mom gifted us $10,000. That’s how much I have available. That doesn’t include the insurance money. If I were to do this up the way I really want to do it, it would be at least an additional 30k, but that ain’t happening.


Paige Onbayje


Hi Paige,

Well, I think that you need to give your youngest a big box full of sharpies for his birthday and let him go to town!

As for the “stealing.” Well, it’s not a bad idea, to have a rainy day fund, but why not tell him that you’re doing it? No judgment. (or at least not one that I’m publishing) ;] But you know your husband. And I do know that some couples have disparate ideas about money.

The good news and there’s a lot of it, is that you’re way ahead of the game with the catastrophe. We had a couple of insurance floods too. Thank God for faulty plumbing!


Okay, enough story telling. Let’s get down to business with this beige decor debacle.


It sounds like the biggest problems are the kitchen and bathrooms.

Cabinets can be painted.

That was easy. Well, not easy, but doable.

But if the backsplash is beige and the counters are a beige stone, then it might look funny to have white cabinets.

Don’t go TOO white. You’ll still need to stay with a creamier tone for kitchen cabinets.

If there’s room in the budget, I find that changing the vertical in-your-face elements is far more beneficial than the horizontal counters.

If there’s an island, perhaps just change the island or the perimeter countertops, not both.

But over-all with a lot of beige decor, the problem isn’t so much the beige. There are lots of beautiful beiges. The problem is the sameness– the lack of a beautiful, rich, complex color scheme. And usually the lack of both white and black and other dark colors.

I have harped on this numerous times and I am sure to keep on. As long as I see banal rooms that aren’t quite coming together, because this rule wasn’t heeded, I will continue my quest.

But it’s more than that.


Let’s not think just beige and gray, but other colors as well.

I also find that some gold is helpful to spice up a room.

And even in a monochromatic beige room, a shot of chartreuse or coral, dark blue– even brown can make it have more depth and beauty.

This is actually an extremely extensive subject because there are hundreds of ways we can go.


Here is a post from a year ago with a similar idea.


When it comes to beige decor, who says that beige and gray don’t look good together?


Ever go the beach on a cloudy day?

Gray and Beige. Right?

Hey. If it’s good enough for Mom Nature, it’s good enough for me.

But we need to throw in a bit of drift wood, some seaweed, some pretty beach glass and a dead fish or two.

Francisco Miralles via Sothebys- Spanish Painting On The Beach

This turn of the century beauty is estimated to be worth between $20,000-$30,000.

Guess that’s not in the budget. ;]

An ephemeral excerpt from a painting at Ruby Lane Antiques– $7,250.00 (not in the budget either)

A Sargent– priceless

Speaking of Sargents. This is actually my photo of his magnificent Spanish Dancer taken with my I-phone 7 two weekends ago! I was with my son, Cale at the Isabelle Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston where this beauty Lives. It is HUGE. This is not the entire painting. And the museum is wonderful too!


Alas, if you are looking for some soft decorative art that’s far more affordable, here are a few things I’m loving these days.

And yes, we’ve been through this before. There’s MORE affordable and local. I’m assuming that you live on a deserted island in a shack on the beach with high-speed internet.

This Soicher Marin Cloud print is so pretty!


Here it is again in this wonderful art wall, sold as a set and it’s on sale too.

It’s like they coordinate without looking all matchy.

The dimensions of these don’t show on the page, but I have a geeky way of getting them.

Here they are, clockwise from top left

41.5″ x 23.5″          6.5″ x 23.5″ 6.5″ x 23.5″

13.5″ x 31.5″         21.5″ x 17.5″

Fabulous vignette from Studio McGee. They say that they have the art piece above in their studio.

Did you know that they have a fabulous shop on their website?

Well, they do and it’s one of the nicest collections out there, I think.

And here’s one of my favorite fabrics in gray and beige.

Schumacher’s Hothouse Flowers in Mineral

Here it is done up in a pillow from Spark Modern


And now for some more roomspiration (and some furniture too)

Another beautiful vignette from Studio McGee.

When you think about it, we’re almost always working with beige or brown if we have a hardwood floor and any other wood for that matter.

Gorgeous Miramar rug that they sell on their website

Here are a few of the dozens of rugs that from McGee & Co.

And they have a lot of gorgeous classic contemporary and new trad furniture.

It’s a little like hiring them, but not really. :]

Fabulous pillows to light up a blah beige room. (they have a lot more than this)

Incredibly stylish home of Sara Ruffin Costello. You can see the rest of it here.

William McLure does tone on tone beige (and everything else) to perfection.

BTW, his beautiful doggie, Baylor passed away recently.


Lovely den in shades of gray, beige and brown  – all furniture from Williams Sonoma Home

Lovely ottoman from Williams Sonoma Home

And the faux bois occasional table is so chic.


I always love finding these small tables to use when there’s not enough space for something larger or next to a slipper chair.

In fact, Williams Sonoma Home seems to specialize in gray and beige furnishings!

Love Williams Sonoma Home and they are having a 20% off sale at this time.

No pressure, but today’s the last day!


And now for a little treat to spice up your beige decor


In honor or the one year Anniversary of the Laurel Home Essential Paint Collection and the six month Anniversary of the coordinating Palette and Home Furnishings Collection, I’ve created three coordinating palettes using colors from the collection. I think it’s a total of 23 out of the 144 colors.


For paint collection owners, yes, I know. I owe you a monthly bonus board!

I promise to get it to you tomorrow.


Palette number one has lots of whites, pale and dark grays, a little beige and a hit of chartreuse; plus that wonderful, warm bronze-y color Cleveland Green.


For those of you who don’t own the Paint Palette Collection. (yet) :]


The idea behind these palettes is not that you go and paint each room in your home one of these colors. No way! You might use two or three, OR you can also combine these palettes with other palettes in the same palette family. It’s all spelled out in the two-part guide which is nearly 500 pages filled with tons of info and inspo.

The palette indicates the colors that work together. They might be in a piece or art or a fabric. And of course, you don’t have to use all of them. Paint collection owners have 40 boards along with the furnishings and sources!


Palette #2 incorporates more color.


I added in another row including some deep blues and a wonderful coral.

But you could also add in more greens or even green and blue. Like I said, there are a myriad of different ways to go.


And because I love squares, here’s a square palette with just the neutrals and blues


The upshot to all of this is that beige is not a dirty word. Even if you only had a few hundred to spend, there’s so much one can do with accents and art to wake up a room.

McCarthy Bronxville living room with pale colors -a seagrass rug - hydrangeas waken up beige decor- blue transferware plates - Roman shadesRoom we did a couple of years ago.

And a bunch of yellow-green hydrangeas always works!


PS: If you’re still looking for ideas for Father’s Day please check out a curated collection I put together. You’re still in good time for the 18th.


  • gloria - June 1, 2017 - 11:38 AM

    Laurel…Enjoy your chock-full posts! Appreciate all your time and effort in sharing your expertise/experience.

    Re: 7’x7′ kitchen with (new) white cabinets w/nickel hardware, (existing) beige ceramic tile floor, and (new)primarily beige with brown and black “mottled” granite countertop.

    Cabinets should be painted in a creamy color. Will this work with existing white appliances?

    Prior research for answer unsuccessful so I’m turning to you… What’ll I do? PLEEZE and Thank You!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 1, 2017 - 3:08 PM

      Hi Gloria,

      This is a good question. My kitchen came as is. I just did a post about it a couple of weeks ago. The cabinets are a cream from Ikea. It’s similar to Benjamin Moore linen white or Ivory White. The appliances are white. The trim is also white. Plain old white. But there isn’t a lot of it.

      Would I have done this? No, I would’ve gone a little whiter for both the cabinets and trim. Is it terrible? It doesn’t bother me at all.

      The other thing is that sometimes you can either spray or get new fronts for the dishwasher, for example for appliances. We sprayed our old fridge and it looked great.

      The other thing is… are you planning on keeping the appliances? If so, then I would probably use one of the whites like white dove or cotton balls, simply white, etc that seems to blend in the best. ReplyCancel

  • Sharon AJJ - June 1, 2017 - 7:51 AM

    I have some beautiful natural wool yarns that range in colour from almost-white to cream to soft taupe to gray. I haven’t yet knit them up, but they sit piled in an oversized basket, where they are the inspiration for the colours we are putting throughout our house, along with natural wood, black and shades of blue. Our bedroom is layered in cool to warm whites that hit beige, taupe and gray at their deepest (small servings of the saturated colours with decorative accents of driftwood and bits of family silver). Thank you for challenging the silly notion, which I see on more and more sites, that we have to have an all-cool or all-warm colour scheme. When the elements are balanced and pulled together with art or other finishes, I think the combination can be stunning.ReplyCancel

  • Abby becker - June 1, 2017 - 7:03 AM

    Another great post! The setup was a hoot.ReplyCancel

  • Mary M - June 1, 2017 - 12:27 AM

    Another great post, Laurel. (You’re my favorite blogger.) I’m not interested in redoing anything right now but after looking at all the color samples you put up, I have a question. When you’re combining the colors in your samples, how do you choose the intensity of the colors? Do you use grey and beige in the same intensity, for instance? Or would one be darker than the other?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 1, 2017 - 12:58 AM

      Hi Mary,

      That’s a good question. I think that the intensities should vary as well as the tones of the color. It really should be as it is in nature or a great painting.ReplyCancel

  • Eleanor - May 31, 2017 - 11:03 PM

    Another lovely Laurel post! So glad to see more combos from your wonderful paint collection. One of these days soon, I am planning to snap some shots of my room makeovers and email them to you. Most of my house is now painted in colors from the palette (including my golden oak kitchen makeover). White dove, Sleepy Hollow, Desert Twilight, Ivory White, and Henderson Buff have all been used and loved. Right now I’m picking colors from the collection to paint furniture. Once the sink and new faucet are installed, I’ll scrub the kid-grime off my counters and take some fun “after” shots:)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 1, 2017 - 12:03 AM

      Hi Eleanor,

      Oh… thank you for brightening up my evening as I’ve been pretty depressed about my site. Technical crap that no one seems to be able to figure out.

      I love this though! And please, send me some photos if you like when it’s finished. ReplyCancel

  • Cwelb63 - May 31, 2017 - 10:50 PM

    Beige, cream and grey..the color scheme for the Underwood’s White House on “House of Cards.” The touches of gold in paintings, lighting, just as you described. check it out. 😊ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 1, 2017 - 12:01 AM

      Hi Cwelb63 ;]

      I’ll have to do that. It’s a classic color scheme, actually.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah D. - May 31, 2017 - 10:25 PM

    Solid marriage advice, suggesting it’s possible the Mahogony Silestone installed by the original owners of my 1980s McMansion can be forgiven, and my current color crush, Cleveland Green, all in one post. This, Laurel, is why I read. I can’t yet fix that hot mess of a kitchen, but my bedroom will be Cleveland Green by Monday.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 10:34 PM

      Hi Sarah,

      Oh please let me know how it turns out! I’d love to see it when it’s all put back. But of course, you don’t have to.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - May 31, 2017 - 10:23 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Again, love your blog! It’s the first and only that I read voraciously.
    Regarding beige, your inspiration photos are just wonderful. I think however, that homeowners need to see not just the colors in the rooms, but the wonderful architecture that is the backdrop for everything to come. The beautifully proportioned rooms with appropriately sized trim are the foundations of great design. Arranging furniture, then adding color, pattern, texture, lighting and accessories is the icing on the cake!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 10:32 PM

      Hi Diana,

      Thanks so much and I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve also harped about that topic too. It’s not the wall color at all. It’s the bones. Beginning. Middle. End.

      Every time someone asks me, “what is that wall color?” Most of the time, it’s not the color that’s appealing to them. It’s everything else.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Standil - May 31, 2017 - 9:49 PM

    Great post, Laurel! I love that you use art to illustrate your points about colour palettes.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that the problem with most beige rooms is their numbing sameness. We see the same thing happening now in gray rooms -so monochromatic that photos of the rooms look like they were taken in black and white.

    I love all the illustrations you used to show how beige could mix with white and colour to create an interesting, beautiful space. Here’s to adding some pattern, colour and personality to bring beige to life. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 10:17 PM

      Thanks so much Carol. Just reeling because my site crashed. Although some are getting on. Growing pains, I guess.ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Lambert - May 31, 2017 - 9:23 PM

    She’s absolutely right about beige. I’ve been screaming this for years. It’s boring. And she’s right about putting money aside from her husband. Every mother should teach every daughter to do this. No woman should be without money that her husband doesn’t know about. It makes them vulnerable. So if you are a mom, tell your daughter before she marries, or if she is married, it’s not too late to start. Ladies – if you are married – do it. You’ll never regret it. The day nearly always comes when you will need that money.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 10:07 PM

      The story is fiction, but I was hoping to make the point that beige, if done right does not have to be boring. About the other; what you say has merit, but of course, it’s a sad situation.ReplyCancel

  • Judith Graham - May 31, 2017 - 8:47 PM

    Just a few moments ago I told a client that paint is a back drop. It is only what you do with it.

    Beige? Love it with grays, red lacquer, chunky rugs.

    Laurel, you can make anything work and then inspire.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 10:04 PM

      Thanks Judith,

      My site crashed, so I’m a little upset now. It shouldn’t crash because I have the world’s heaviest duty server.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Bass - May 31, 2017 - 8:41 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    I am an avid reader of your blog posts and always learn something and laugh. Hope you can keep up as you become more famous.

    I need a nice looking pair of desk chairs for our Florida condo. There is a built in wall unit in the living room with two desks.

    Can you recommend good looking but yet supportive chairs for this shared space.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 31, 2017 - 8:45 PM

      Hi Nancy,

      I wish that I could help, but it’s not possible without seeing what else is going on and that means a consultation which I’m not doing at this time. Perhaps try doing a search. That’s what I do when I’m trying to find out something I don’t know. Glad that you’re enjoying the blog!ReplyCancel