Beige is back: The ultimate neutral is returning to our interiors
PUBLISHED: 11:43 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:34 07 October 2020
Grey has been the go-to neutral for many of us in recent times, but Dulux have confirmed that beige is back. Richard Burton found out why the colour experts think we’ve gone to ground.
It was always going to happen after the year we’ve had and many were surprised it hadn’t happened sooner. But Dulux have announced their colour of 2021. And it’s brown.
Well, beige, at any rate; a reassuring hue designed to capture the spirit of an age in which we all thought at least once about how nice it would be to seek the comforting sanctuary of the countryside.
So, it’s all about soil, earthiness, hot chocolate, even. An elemental shade that reflects “the strength we can draw from nature, our growing desire to align more with the planet and looking towards the future,” according to Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux UK.
“As a result of the global pandemic, many people’s priorities are shifting significantly to focus much more on their well-being. Colour can play a significant role,” she explained, going on to speak of how the “calming, restorative and natural tones” of their new palettes can “empower professionals to create spaces where occupants can reflect, recharge and recalibrate”.
Even the name is defiant: Brave Ground, a result of months of workshops involving the posh paint company, AkzoNobel, trend forecasters, design specialists, editors and architects worldwide.
A few days later, Farrow & Ball followed suit. Reasoning that, since we are all spending more time at home, we’ll be veering towards shades that are warm, welcoming and easy to live with.
Their colour curator Joa Studholme spoke of how, “in challenging times, we crave warm tones that will enrich our homes and create cosy sanctuaries away from the outside world” and how we’re moving “away from dark charcoals and blues and towards the warmer tones of nature, like deep reddish browns, which are strong and subdued”.
Very philosophical, although initial reaction to the Dulux announcement was mixed. There was a lot of chatter on social media about it coming too late and how it was really a colour for 2020. Some suggested it would have been better to have come up with something more uplifting, but they were in the minority.
Many who email me with opinions on just about anything trendy have pointed to its versatility; a colour that can be applied to many different settings and one whose tone will shift throughout the day.
It comes after months of not having anyone to put anything on our walls, given the way the pandemic devastated the working lives of decorators, although there are encouraging signs of that changing.
Dulux Decorator Centre, the nationwide chain with branches in Welwyn Garden City, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, surveyed more than 2,000 UK households to find out when they’ll start decorating again, and what projects have made their hit list.
Four in 10 said they planned on decorating as lockdown lifted with a quarter of those saying that painting the living room was their first priority.
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There were a few other findings, too. One in five said they wanted new carpets, while a mere 13 per cent said they planned on painting the exterior and 18 per cent said they were willing to spend up to £1,000 to get a professional to do it.
In what appears at odds with a thriving market, a quarter of those questioned ditched a planned house move in favour of staying and renovating.
But as for colour, not for the first time, the interiors industry has been ahead of the game as the pictures on this page show, blending the sort of shades we’ll all, presumably, be lying on sitting on and putting on our walls next year.
Such as this Flaneur Corner Sofa by Gubi, currently being marketed by Chaplins. Gubi worked with the internationally renowned design studio, GamFratesi, to recreate an iconic 19th-century shape, and came up with something classic and contemporary as well as warm.
Or this neutral bedroom design from PullCast, part of a muted range where greys and whites prevail. Or even this Chapter Warm Carpet from Lifestyle Floors.
John Lewis does several similar ranges that fit the bill here; their Swoon and Hemingway sideboards, consoles TV stands and drinks cabinets, for example. Debenhams has a lighter Tweedy range of sofas. Closer to home, Sofa Workshop – there’s one in London Road, St Albans – has decent ranges in brown and tan and you’ll see examples of what Raft founders Mick Quinn and Heinz Frye do with Indonesian teak at their Chequer Street outlet.
Martha Roberts, creator of the influential website, The Colour File, sums up the lure of beige: “Whether we call it cappuccino, biscuit or buff, Brits still love good old beige. What is it about this neutral shade that is so enduring?”
Posing the question in Psychologies magazine, she said: “The word comes from the French word for ‘natural wool’. Over the years, it has also become shorthand for dull and unadventurous, and symbolic of corporate conformity (think of early computers).
“In 2011, a John Lewis boss said the store had been accused of being ‘too beige’ – an insult! In colour psychology, this hue has more positive connotations of serenity, simplicity and safety.”
Wellbeing coach and feng shui consultant Alex Lees said at the same time: “Beige is perfect for a turbulent period in one’s life, to introduce calmness and certainty.”
She suggested using it in an area where you’d like to introduce a “stable and nourishing” energy. In those home offices we now all have, it can represent job and financial security. In the Living room, it can mean relaxation; stability and tranquillity, peace and rest in the bedroom.
It’s all to do with the yin-yang balance your acupuncturist is always talking about. If the room is white, she says, use beige as the show-stopper. “Let beige be the canvas for bold ‘yang’ colours or heavier ‘yin’ colours,” says Lees. I’m told yang colours are reds, pinks, oranges and yellows and recessive yin shades are deep purples, dark greens and blues and black.”
As for the reasoning behind Brave Ground, AkzoNobel summed up their choice. Heleen van Gent, head of their Global Aesthetic Center in the Netherlands, said: “The past year has seen how we live and work utterly transformed. We have gone through the most uncertain of times, so it’s understandable that we see reassuring, natural tones returning, which can be used to create the calm and sanctuary people require.”
Next up is Pantone, arguably the biggest-hitter when it comes this sort of thing and whose Color Institute usually sets the trend for all things marketing. They usually announce theirs in December. The last one was Classic Blue. And blues are probably something we’ve all had enough of this year.
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