Interior Trends: How To Do Beige

Updating this post to include some new pieces and also as you have had several months to get your head round this idea. It’s not going away! There are some lovely things around and it’s all about what you mix it with. Personally I love a milk and chocolate with a dash of biscuit on the side…. you?

Now I think it’s fair to say that of all the 2019 interiors trends I wrote about the other day, the one that caused most consternation was beige. So I thought we’d have a look at that in more detail today and see if we can make anyone feel a little better about it.

layers of beige from H&M
layers of beige from H&M

Firstly, I think we should deal with the name. Beige isn’t good, I appreciate that. It also has connotations of being old fashioned, boring, dull, blah. But when you rebrand it, which, after all, is what most trends basically are – a rebranding of an old favourite to make it seem more up to date and, crucially, desirable, it sounds a little more interesting.

cane cabinet from graham and green
cane cabinet from graham and green

So how about stone, ecru, paper, old white, new white, jute, rattan, linen to name but a few? And yes I think the key thing is that, as one reader wrote despairingly the other day, keep it off the walls for now. At least in its purest form. We’re not quite ready for, what my mother called the 1970s spare room – Cafe au Lait yet.

school house white by farrow & ball
school house white by farrow & ball

But what this is about, talking of pure forms, is a return to pale warm colours replacing the cooler shades of grey that have dominated for the last few years. So by all means paint your walls in the new Farrow & Ball Schoolhouse White, or Paper by Paint and Paper Library. It’s less stark than white and gives you a warm base from which to add in everything else. Just be careful that it’s not too yellow or you’ll be running into Magnolia territory and we’re not quite back there yet either.

ecru throw from himla
ecru throw from himla

The easiest way to do it is with the accessories. Or the odd piece of furniture. And fear not – it works with grey and all the other colours so you don’t need to redecorate. As many of you know, last year I reupholstered my Great Granny’s old sofa in a natural ecru linen and it sits perfectly with my chocolate brown walls and blush pink chaise. It’s like living in a Neopolitan ice cream and who wouldn’t want that?

re-upholstered sofa
re-upholstered sofa

If you’re still at toddlers and sticky finger stage then this might not be the colour for you, although an increasing number of companies are now offering stain resistant fabrics. But consider, instead, a cushion – the more textured the better so think knitted, fringed, corduroy if you want to really get ahead.

washed linen bedset from H&M
washed linen bedset from H&M

Or a couple of jute baskets for storage and a chunky throw for the rest of the winter evenings, which always seem so much longer after Christmas. And don’t forget you can run the whole range of the colour spectrum from cream, through blush and through to caramel. When the weather improves add a paler rug. Or add one now to counterbalance the long dark days.

cream chunky knitted throw from french connection
cream chunky knitted throw from french connection

Add it to forest green and dark navy or charcoal, mix it with all the pinks and oranges and burgundies or use it to warm a pale grey. It likes brass and it loves black. Now, as with all trends, this is one to ignore if you don’t like it but you’re going to be seeing a lot of it in the shops so it doesn’t hurt to approach it with an open mind.

jute rug rippes circles black and white
jute circles rug from westelm  The pale walls and rug provide the perfect backdrop to let this blue sofa take centre stage.


Kate Watson-Smyth tells of how pale warm colours are replacing the cooler shades of grey that have dominated for the last few years. #interiortrends #livingroom #madaboutthehouse

Tags : Decorating with beigeHow to do beigeinterior trendsNeutral decorPale warm colours
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. In the rural area we live in, linen/similar colours on trend. Our bedroom for years, in earthborn (discontinued) arbouet, basically a magnolia/beige with hint of tangerine. Lovely for east facing room. But now, as of this week, restful shades of little greene French grey mid and light with vaulted ceiling Of slaked lime. How restful and peaceful it all is and allowing for pops of coral and green. No point in green walls as our windows look out on hillside of greens in all glorious colours and what could compete? Years behind or back to the future? And Kate, it is to your credit that we’ve moved to grey, thank you.

    1. Hi Janet, I said at the beginning of the month that I would do what I do every August which is to run updated and archive posts to give me time to recharge my batteries and to let people see popular posts again that they might have missed at the time. It also means that I am not creating new content for a vastly reduced audience that may be away and not reading the blog during this period. Today I also explained at the top of in italics I have updated this post to include new products that weren’t in the original post but I don’t delete the original comments so sometimes in August there may be old ones from the original posting.

  2. I’ve been too scared to admit that my newly-refurbished flat in London has a taupe/dark beige carpet nearly everywhere. Gulp: I can stop denying it now. It was driven by the most bizarre and problematic room which I’ve ever had to decorate, my sitting-dining room in a Victorian conversion.

    I spent just over £600 (not a typo) on paint samples across many and varied colours, shades and tones.

    I found one, and only one, colour which looked great all day in an East-facing room which shifts from bright to dingy, and under electric lighting too. It’s a pale green Earthborn clay paint which is now archived – soft, fresh but not at all icy. From there I struggled with flooring. In a first floor flat, I couldn’t inflict hard flooring on my neighbours and I succumbed to a lovely colour called Goosewing, by Cavalier Carpets, in a very bourgeois velvet finish. Which I love.

    (As an aside, I also finally found out what the trick is with John Lewis branded carpets: identical but (a) with a different name; and (b) with a different stated weight (mine was 48oz on Cavalier’s website, but 50 oz on the JL site – but both made by Cavalier). I assumed that the weight was the difference (to allow JL to avoid having identical products which would be caught by the “Never Knowingly Undersold” comparison), but actually there are two legally-acceptable ways of weighing carpets, which give marginally different outcomes. I discovered this because my “Goosewing” order was rejected as Cavalier had received a defective batch of yarn, so there was going to be a two-month delay. I asked about paying extra to buy the heavier (and much more expensive) John Lewis version in the same colour (called “Dove” by JL). I was told: that won’t make a difference, because it’s the identical carpet, just has its weight calculated using a different method.)

    The carpet had to be carried on into a dark, miserable hallway, landing and two flights of stairs, which drove white walls, plus a feature wall (I know: sooo 2016) in Fired Earth’s deepest green called “Malachite”. Gorgeous colour, crap quality paint: four coats to stabilise the colour and it is very fragile.

    Two rooms were dictated by the colours of furniture, rugs and lamps which I owned. The first is my study, which is F&B’s “Blackened” on the walls and Little Greene’s Juniper Ash on the windowframes, skirting boards, doorframe and door (thanks to Kate – in person and on this website). After all the paint samples, I chose Juniper Ash in a panic after seeing an online picture of a garden shed in that colour, never having seen it in the flesh. Thankfully it looks ace (although the door has to stay shut because the contrast of the silvers, greys and blues in the study is not a good one.

    The other one has an Ivory metal bed frame with natural beech uprights. Again, in a panic (decorator was on his way and I hadn’t even given thought to that room), I looked online for “cream or beige bedrooms” and came up with pictures of a house painted entirely in various shades of the Dulux “Chalky Downs” paint chart – search for “Leopoldina Haynes’ house” and you’ll find it. The decor is very different in style to most of Mad About The House, but her guest bedroom colouring was perfect for what I wanted, so Chalky Downs it was (the mid-toned biscuity colour on the woodwork and window and door frames, pale one on the walls).

    And it looks great.

    Anyway, I can’t wear these colours at all – I have blue undertoned skin – but I’ve been delighted by how calming and fresh and warm and lovely these have all worked out. So far.

    But: take a look at Chalky Downs if you’re tempted by the ivories and deeper tones…

  3. Based on your photos I’ve had a beige sitting room and hall for years – but I’ve been calling it stone/ warm white etc ( anything to avoid the dreaded B word). I agree with Velvet – living in the Southern Hemisphere I’ve had to be really careful when picking colours as any yellow is intensified under our sun. Paints designed for the northern light can look terrible so I’ve ended up using pure white dulux in the new part of the house and a local brand’s ‘milk’ paint in the old part. It’s called ‘milk’ because it’s the colour of milk – although it’s definitely got a bit beige going on truth be told.

  4. I think that in order to come to a design scheme that works for a really long time means to find the best of the potential of each trend. That translates in a process of evolving rather than changing things around with the emergence of a new fad/trend. Beige just like grey is a neutral, but it won’t work for everyone. If you live anywhere near a place exposed to northern light then be extra careful with it because it can look a lot differently than you anticipate. Thus, it’s best to invest in a palette that reflects your personality rather put money in copying and pasting color trends that will bring about even more changes that you never bargained for.

  5. And what about greige, Kate? I remember that being a thing back in the day!
    Personally, I am going to resist the return of beige for as long as possible but I know I’ll probably succumb once it becomes ubiquitous.
    After all, I detested grey when it first came about and all the woodwork in my living room has been painted grey for 8 years now.
    I blame my sister actually, she convinced my parents to paint the holiday house they built in varying shades of grey in 2008 and spending some of my summers there contaminated me!
    Incidentally, my sister has moved on since then to … beige! She did her own holiday home in that colour nearly 3 years ago. She has always been good at spotting trends ahead of the curve both in fashion and interiors. I am not sure how she does it since it has nothing to do with her day job.

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