BEIGE IS UGLY. Practical tips about paint colors!

Cheryl Kees Clendenon Color 7 Comments

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Choosing the right color of paint for your walls, or for that matter your cabinetry, bed linens, accessories…can be daunting to many people. This is one area I constantly find clients throwing up their hands in frustration. Like any designer, I have my tried and true favorites and  a few “go to” colors for various situations but I approach each project with no preconceived colors that are my “signature” colors like many designers I know. Every job has different furnishing parameters, every home has different lighting (natural and interior) and every client has a different “color personality”.

There is no “one size” (color) that fits all in my book.

Definitely there is a science to color and how colors interact with one another as well as how the eye sees color but in my opinion, choosing the right color for each situation is more art than science.   I could ramble on about the color wheel shown here and go into a debate on warm colors ( reds, oranges,yellows) vs cool colors ( blues, greens, purples) ..but I will save this for another day.

I am usually the one asked to choose the colors for most of our projects. The only reason this ends up happening is because of three things:

1. I am not afraid to make a mistake. I BUY SAMPLES SIZES FIRST.

2. I have  experience in choosing colors and work with the paint decks and swatches every day. IMMERSE YOURSELF IN A PAINT DECK DAILY AND YOU TOO, WILL LEARN MUCH ABOUT WHICH COLORS WILL WORK!

3. I have a good eye for color (usually!) and can read undertones very well. THIS IS BECAUSE OF DOING IT A LOT. NOTHING MORE THAN THAT! EXPERIENCE.

Here are Cheryl’s words of wisdom about choosing paint colors:

**ALWAYS look at the color swatch against pure white. The white will help you “see” the undertones much easier.

**BUY samples. Simple as that. You must. Because what is good at Susie’s house may look like crap at your house. You will most likely have different utilization of windows, different siting of your home which means different natural light at different times of day. Samples are far cheaper than having the painter redo a mistake!

**Paint samples on SHEETROCK if possible. Lowes sells 24×24 samples. Then you can place these around the room ( or rooms) and at different times of day to get the real effect. 

**IF you have your painter put them on the wall, DO NOT put them side by side. Novice mistake. Your eye will “see” the other color next to each other and it will influence the way it looks. At the very least, put them on opposite walls. 

**Do NOT think that you can match a Ben Moore color or Pratt and Lambert color or any manufacturer color to another paint company. You may get lucky and it will be ok but more often, it does not look the same and high probability that the undertones could be seriously different and you will not know until it is on the wall. Just do not do it. 

**PAINT YOUR TRIM (moldings, door casing, crown etc) WHITE or off white. 90 percent of the time this is the best call to make. If you are doing cool colors, use a cool white with hint of gray. If you are using warm colors then use a white that has a hint of yellow. It was  faddish for a time to paint the trim same as the walls. Thankfully, we do not see this much any more. The eye needs the trim to be the framework for the walls. There are times that this same/same can produce a certain effect that you may want…but it is not the norm. I am sure there are many designers who will lambast me for this comment but I stick by it. 

**Paint your CEILING A COLOR when appropriate. If you have crown to separate it, consider it appropriate! It can be a softer tint of the wall color or a contrasting color. It is a tricky thing but the results can be magical!

**Do NOT paint your walls beige. I repeat, do not paint your walls beige. Beige is ugly. There is no way to soften the blow. And beige with fleshy undertones is a SIN against nature, man, and I think religious dieties everywhere because FLESHY COLORS do not belong on walls. Enough said. 

If you really are ready to kill me because you just love….beige walls….then I suggest Manchester Tan from Ben Moore. It has just enough gray in it to make it work.

Photo courtesy of Decorpad

You may also be saying to yourself…well if she does this all the time, what is her favorite colors? THIS WEEK, because it changes every week, it is Grayhorse and Pilgrim Haze because I just did these at a house and loved how they look. Check back next week for new ones:)

Thanks to Decorpad for this shot of Grayhorse!

Could not find any interior shots of pilgrim haze so will have to take my own when we are done with the bedroom we just did this in! It is a fab blue gray with hints of lavender!

For you folks who clamor for a warm is Hathaway well agains the contrasting white in this photo!

Do you have a favorite? Share it with us!


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Comments 7

  1. Thank you for approving Manchester Tan because it is what I used for my bedroom in an attempt to not paint every room in my house a shade of blue or green. I’m not sure I love it but it’s definitely better than the peachy-fleshy color w/ poo brown accent wall that was there when I moved in.

  2. My whole house is painted in Manchester tan. I was covering over the ugly pink beige walls. I chose manchester tan because of the splotchy gray/tan tiles that are all over this house… Gaaack. Eventually, (read someday in the far future) I will be taking out the ugly floors and putting wood down..   I love white, but in this house it’s just makes my floors look DIRTY.That said  Manchester Tan  is a beautiful color if there is a lot of light in the room.

  3. I am planning on using Manchester Tan walls with White Dove trim but need some advice on what countertop to use in the kitchen and floor tile to make the colors work…any advice? 

  4. I’ve got beige floors and need help finding the right neutral color for the walls. I’m working with white trim and ceiling. I thought about Shaker Beige – Ben Moore. Furniture is dark woods, brown leather couch, linen tan chairs, lots of light in the room… Would love your advice on a wall color. Thanks!

  5. I could not disagree with you more about white trim. Believe me, there is a whole world of hues and tones for trim and white is not one of them unless the walls are white or light. Those outlines everyone loves because they look so clean and fresh are like putting piping around the lapel of every jacket or shirt in the closet! Once you get into toned trim or painted out trim or trim a shade deeper than the wall or taupe trim on dark colours, you will wonder why you ever thought white was the be all and end all. Let clean and fresh give way to elegant, sophisticated, quiet, and gorgeous as descriptors. [ I do live in Toronto so maybe the cooler, greyer climate means less trim punch or contrast works better here.] Apart from that, good on you for encouraging more bravery. Beige is the colour of fear in decor. Cheers. Janice

    1. Post

      Thanks for the comments! But I respectfully disagree. In general I prefer white or a shade of off white. I agree that for more drama, painting trim a subtle shade of wall color can be striking. But I feel trim should be a lighter and neutral shade such as some form of white. It unifies the home.

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