Living in Fear of Beige

I generally don’t have a lot of fears, but I must confess that I live in absolute fear of the color beige. Including all its relatives such as off-white, cream, tan, greige, bone, putty, and all of their other sad and depressing ilk. My fear of beige is deep rooted in early childhood when, like most children, I was drawn to bright bold primary colors. The difference being that I never really outgrew it. Growing up, I was fortunate that there was no shortage of color in our house thanks to my mother, who is also afraid of beige. We had all sorts of colors on our walls from red, to blue, to green, to orange, and being the 1970s, chocolate brown (which admittedly is a cousin to beige).

 

[Image: On a recent visit to my local big-box store, I was forced to pass by this sea of beige to get to the isle I needed. You don’t have to suffer from all this beige folks!]

As a young adult, my fear of beige was only reinforced after many years of living in rental apartments painted all various shades of awful off-off-white and carpeted wall-to-wall with cheap tan low pile landlord carpet (and always tan tile in either the bathroom or kitchen). These apartments felt like a prison to me except on the occasion I was able to paint my walls some bold color (I was never able to ditch the crappy carpet). Which I definitely did.

Setting aside my personal feelings that beige is supremely boring and depressing, I have a few thoughts on why it is so common.

 

[Image: In searching for an example of a perfectly banal beige themed room, I came across this furniture collection from Furniture Depot. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.]

  • Beige is a cop-out for those who are risk averse. They are unable or unwilling to commit to anything. They have no idea what they like. Going with beige is a safe and simple way to remain oblivious to their own internal desires and avoid exploring what they like and don’t like.

 

[Image: The personal computer revolution was built on the color beige. Fortunately, Steve jobs had the vision to shift hardware makers away from beige. Source: Free Images]

[Image: This is the most dreary and depressing office interior I have ever seen. Just think of how much productivity would increase if only they were to introduce color! Source: Free Images]

  • Beige is for people who don’t care about their personal environment or the environment of others. They just have no interest in their surroundings and no idea how it impacts them. Remember that horrid but standard beige color of the plastic used for nearly all computers, monitors, keyboards, and mice all the way up until the mid-aughts? Remember how it got even more beige with time as the plastic was exposed to UV light. Even Apple was guilty of using that beige until Steve Jobs returned in the late 90s. Some of the most bleak work environments I have ever worked in were done in various shades of beige.

 

[Image: This is my idea of the fourth level of beige suburban hell. I simply cannot fathom how this is something a homebuyer would choose. Source: Free Images]

  • And finally, beige is for people who are just too afraid to offend. Unlike the fear of commitment, this is the fear that they my be judged for taking sides and standing up for a color they would prefer. This to me is the worst of all because worrying about what others may think is a really sad way of living life.

 

[Image: COLOR!!! This is a beautiful example of allowing color into your space without overwhelming it. There is nothing to fear here…. The neutrals are simply white with black. Source: Jonathan Adler for House Beautiful.]

So, what is my alternative to beige? Simple…. Color! It doesn’t have to be bright bold primary colors, but there is no reason to fear color at all… If you are afraid that it will feel cold, just choose a warm color. Perhaps it could bring happiness into your life in a way you have never experienced before. Another alternative is bright white! It’s fail proof and timeless. However, if you must dive into neutrals, there are at least fifty shades of gray to satisfy and keep things interesting. Just be carful to avoid slipping into the “greige” zone.

Disclaimer: This post was written as my tongue-in-cheek personal opinion and is in no way intended to offend, but if you find yourself offended, you may want to read it again and evaluate why you feel this way.

Next post…. Going to the dark side (of color).

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Till next time. . .

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8 Comments

  • Faith says:

    My walls are deep purple. My realtor wanted me to paint everything white before putting the house on the market. I did not paint anything. I had three offers in three days. Ha ha ha

    • Devyn says:

      Faith, You were quite fortunate!
      I failed to paint my walls white on my Sheridan Road condo back in 2003 and it ended up taking six months to sell during which I carried two mortgages. From then on, I painted before listing to dumb it down as much as possible. Of course, I never painted off-white or beige. For our New York apartment, we painted the dark raspberry entry gallery white, but kept the dark raspberry on the ceiling. It was risky, but our realtor told us to not bother painting the ceiling. Of course we did paint the black ceiling a very pale gray.

      I wish you the very best in your move! Perhaps one day our paths will cross again.

  • Wendy says:

    Even a little “Pop” of color is a relief!

  • Southern Gal (@sogalitno) says:

    my previous apartment of 12 years… was a railroad of four rooms in a row. they wanted me to wait so they could ‘open it up’ but i persuaded them not to. and then since they were going to renovate after i moved out they let me do anything. so i had a music room deep red walls and white mouldings (i installed on the ceiling) and then hall and bedroom and study were pale green and then the den was deep deep blue (not navy … a gorgeous deep blue), the kitchen was sunny yellow (golden) and the bathroom deep pink.

    i loved that apartment but after 12 years the landlady decided she wanted it for their retirement pied a terre as they will move to michigan and keep this in their four unit building.

    i was devastated… and looked for a house for a year but ended up in a great ‘bones’ apartment but with a lot of neglect. new landladies will not let me paint any color – they had it painted – i begged for linen white or pure white but the painters did something else that is cream … i hated it and had the living room, den , kitchen and bathroom repainted at my own expense to a pure white (have to look up the color). i miss my beautiful colored walls. ….. but will have to do a lot of color in my furniture and decor … already i am planning deep red curtains for the living room (where the piano is) and a deep red couch … and lots of color in paintings.

    this new apartment is almost twice the size of the railroad flat and so i have close to no furniture… there are other challenges … like no kitchen cabinets. and no shelves in the pantry room… no storage in the bathroom… closets the size of 2×1 so its been a long process of figuring out storage and purchasing things as i am not doing builtins (i did at the other place)… finally have this sorted (or almost) and will be able to unpack the rest of the kitchen and pantry and the bedroom… sigh moving sucks … then i get to scour garage sales and thrift shops for furniture. onward

    • Devyn says:

      (So sorry, just seeing your comment 🤪🤪)
      Red sofa for the WIN! I have certainly had a few apartments where I had zero options to change the color of any of the walls. It’s a challenge, but doable. You are totally right to bring in color from alternate sources. Apartment Therapy is a great resource for renter friendly options to bring color into your home (which you likely already know about this).

      BTW… We will need to buy a new sofa because our Ikea sofa is literally crumbling each day. Red is currently at the top of the list.

  • Beige doesn’t frighten me; it disgusts me. I totally agree with your psychological analysis of those who embrace beige. Beige is a default setting; its weak and utterly forgettable. It is a color which remains popular with both real estate agents and Midwesterners.

    In the 1980’s I painted my first (beige) apartment unconventionally, but had very few negative reactions from visitors. The hallway and bath were deep forest green with dark woodwork, the living/dining room was a deep, warm, gray with white woodwork, the bedroom was ALL black with black woodwork – enhanced with tortoise shell blinds over the south-facing windows (NOT depressing at all),and the kitchen was black with white woodwork and ceiling.

    Not surprisingly, I was asked to paint everything BEIGE when I left. It was like asking an artist to slash his own paintings. I could not have lived there for four years if everything had been beige; it would have been torture.

  • […] and the journey of how I got here. If you remember in my last post, I expressed my deep felt fear of the color beige, and shared my strong opinions about why beige is so pervasive. Now I get to express my strong […]

  • Miss-Apple37 says:

    Dear Devyn (and Eric/Architectural Observer), I couldn’ help but think of you yesterday because I painted some studs in our barn with a kind of off-white-beigeish-greyish paint (Moonbeam Pantone 13-0000 by Tollens), but I must confess I feel good about it, because it’s not a horrid beige like all the ones you listed above and it still looks better than the ugly yellow treated pine studs they sell us here (in France). But I agree 100% with you, there’s too much beige and grey lately in the décor fashion and furniture painting.

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