No matter what your style, you probably have at least one room in your house with neutral colors and we bet it features some ecru, even if you've never heard of the word "ecru." Described as the color of unbleached linen, this neutral shade is what we would consider a classic base color.
What Is Ecru?
Traditionally described as the "color of unbleached linen," ecru is often considered to be a light shade of beige that sometimes has yellow or green undertones.
And even if decorating with neutrals doesn't completely inspire you, ecru is one of those colors that can either set the entire color palette or simply act as a subtle canvas for the rest of the room. Though ecru is often overshadowed by its more modern gray and white siblings, this shade is actually incredibly versatile and flexible.
We chatted with some of our favorite designers to get their advice for incorporating ecru into your home and we found that from Scandi-inspired neutral to bold and bright accents, ecru can work across many color palettes.
Read on for a deep dive from our designers into this simple yet beautiful hue.
It's no secret that decorating with a neutral color palette can sometimes leave you wanting more. But Amy Leferink of Interior Impressions says you can avoid this unfinished feeling by bringing in patterns and texture in a subtle way.
"I chose this beautiful textured gold-speckled wallpaper to add some interest to the room, but loved that the base color was ecru so that it still felt soft, inviting, and not too busy," she says.
To liven up a soft ecru room, bring in a hint of pattern or color. Stick with other neutrals for a monochrome look, but don't be afraid of metallics for a more modern, industrial feel.
Pair Ecru With Wood
Decorating around natural wood can be tricky if you want to keep your home soft and cool. Here Leferink worked to create "definition and contrast in the entryway," using a coat of ecru paint to "juxtapose beautifully up against this rich darker wood."
We love rich, dark wood, but finding the perfect color palette to highlight a rich natural material without dragging the room down can be tricky. Opt for a shade of ecru with warmer undertones to pair with the deep wood grains.
Brighten Up a Small Space
Georgia Zikas of Georgia Zikas Design loves using ecru instead of white when trying to brighten up a small space.
"Ecru is a wonderful color to use when you want something a little richer than white but still very much a neutral blank canvas for the room," explains Zikas. "Here we did ecru walls for a breakfast nook to serve as an anchor for the color we injected via artwork and upholstery"
Ecru is the perfect background color for bolder hues, but it's rich enough to not get lost behind louder colors. "I love how light and bright it is but at the same time feels cozy and inviting, exactly what you would want for a breakfast nook," says Zikas.
Bring a Calming Feel
If there's one room to use a calming, subtle color palette, it's the bedroom. Rebecca Johnston of R.Johnston Interiors explains: "There is an overall softness to ecru, one that works very well in a bedroom setting. We love the contrast it has against wood and the way it can work with a variety of colors and textures."
Ecru lends a tranquil, almost soothing feeling, but it doesn't feel tired. "It's a great color to add some complexity to a space while keeping the overall feeling clean and fresh," Johnston explains.
Add Formality to a Dining Room
Malka Helft of Think Chic Interiors went with ecru dining chairs to tone down rich wood tones and to lend a chic, classic feel to this space.
"This dining room is on the darker, more serious side as the homeowners wanted a more formal dining space," she recalls. "The ecru is perfect here because it works really well with the warmth of the dark wood but adds some overall lightness."
Pair It With Strong Colors
Ecru is a great color for pairing with stronger, louder colors. Kalah Talancy of KTII Design Group explains "I love ecru as a wall color as it adds some warmth and depth into a room as opposed to a stark white. To counteract the softness of it I like to add colorful decor items and artwork, but then add a tonal element, like this cream lamp, that balances the space."
When painting a room a shade of ecru, consider the natural light. A room without a lot of natural light may require a lighter neutral such as white, but one with south-facing windows could benefit from the depth of a rich ecru.
Create a Cozy Den
Maggie Griffin of Maggie Griffin Design picks ecru over white when she's trying to layer colors in a cozier, warmer space. " It nods to cozier, warmer surroundings, especially when balanced with a few shiny metallics," she explains.
When debating between ecru and a brighter neutral, consider how you'll use the room. A study or a den may be better suited to a rich ecru while a kitchen or bathroom may require a brighter palette.
"Ecru is the perfect counterpart to brighter whites as a neutral shade that's not quite white, lending a warmer tone to a traditionally crisp hue. It's a color that balances a space and infuses warmth without overtaking the room," she says.
Design a Monochrome Look
We love the monochrome look, but when done incorrectly it can feel one-dimensional. But ecru is a great color to help break up the monotony and add depth to a monochrome look.
"Taking inspiration from [our client's] existing lacquered millwork, we chose to design a completely monochromatic ecru space creating visual interest through changes of texture rather than changes of colors," explains Reena Sotropa of Reena Sotropa In House Design Group. "The result was a soft and inviting bedroom space to relax at the end of a long hectic day."
Here, Sotropa wanted to create a multi-faceted neutral space using the depth of ecru with the bright, airiness a white palette provides.
"Our clients in this principal suite project were young parents looking for a bright airy space where they could steal a few moments of peace and quiet at the beginning and end of each day," explains Sotropa. "We layered warm ecru tones against the crisp white elements to maintain a balance and ensure the space didn’t become too clinical."
The rich warm undertones of a classic ecru work well to tone down a crisp white painted wall.
Mix Ecru With Gray
In this project, Sotropa says deeper hues were perfect for layering with ecru. "The strategic addition of darker grays provides contrast and punctuation in this space, in the same way we might otherwise use black to add balance," she explains.
Pairing a deep gray or black with ecru is a great way to add richness to the color palette and a sense of depth to a living room or a bedroom.
Consider Ecru a Canvas Hue
Ecru is a wonderfully soft and inviting color, but it also does well to sit back and let other soft shades take the spotlight. "The light ecru shades of the walls and plantation shutters provide a visual link to the main living area of this home while the blush accent tones add personality and softness," explains Sotropa of this office space.
We love ecru because it can stand on its own in a room or sit back and let another soft of muted color take centerstage.