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Green and its many constituents, spanning from forest to kelly, have never been an easy sell for interiors. While greens are full of verdant vim, the shade can feel a bit stuffy, and at times, autocratic. (Green-spirited)? Enter: sage, a neutral-grade green that designers flip for. Where typical greens can feel matte and heavy, a sage color palette is soothing, soft, and subdued. There are near endless iterations of sage, too, ranging from silvery to hinted-with-gray to cooling and marvelously minty. If you’ve been toying with getting on the same page as sage, we’ve compiled a list of ways designers love to deploy this harmonious hue, from bedrooms to kitchens to paint colors just right for bedecking any space.

Photo by Sargent Photography / Design by Gil Walsh Interiors

Hone in on Tone

Sage may be the antithesis of come-hither hues like blush and crimson, but the doesn’t mean it can’t take on multiple personas like the best-of-the-best femme fatales. In fact, despite its demure connotations, sage metamorphosizes beautifully, effortlessly transitioning from historical to modern; from coastal to woods-y. The key to making sage work for any environment? Tone. 

Illustrating the many sides of sage, West Palm Beach designer Gil Walsh elected a chartreuse-charged shade of sage in an equatorial-inspired haven she teed up for beach-loving clients. “Adding greens to the mix creates a sophistication with a touch of tropical,” says Gil. Most associate sage with its more shadowy tones, but as modeled by Gil’s laid-back living room, when cast in the right shade, sage can heat up a space just as well as it can temper it. 

Another reason why sage is so versatile is the way it easily befriends complementary colors. Pair warmer shades of sage with a range of dusty pinks and pastel peaches, as well as high-wattage yellows, or oceanic blues. Virtually any hue of sage will partner famously with white, and more bluish or grayish tones of sage are magic alongside neutrals. 

Lee Melahn, of New York City’s Pleasant Living, personally loves to pair sage with more green, explaining that “sage works best when you layer it with a broad range of greens.” He notes that layering sage with color wheel cohorts “gives the room more depth” and “makes for a very romantic space.”

Photo by Sara Essex Bradley / Design by Graci Interiors, LLC

Pair with Natural Notes

As one might expect from a color that derives its name from a scrubby, hinterland shrub, sage is adept at bringing the outdoors in. New Orleans-based designers Chad Graci and Christina Graci Javanmardi of Graci Interiors turned to sage to lighten the mood of an uptown kitchen they designed, employing sage green cabinets to play off the room’s natural elements, including knotty, gray-washed Pecky Cypress walls and dramatic white marble countertops. A frequent selling point for sage among designers is how it can deepen a natural narrative. It panders especially well to natural elements, like wood and stone, which are, of course, mainstays of virtually any kitchen. 

“Designing with a soft, sage green can bring forth a sense of nature in one’s home, which encourages overall health and well-being,” says designer Sarah Barnard of Santa Monica, California, who swathed a poolside guest retreat in sage green bedding and sage green curtains to echo the treeline visible from the room’s French doors. The designer also punctuated a family den intended for Sunday football marathons with sage—a subtle reminder of the outside world that exists beyond the lair-like space.

Charleston designer Sidney Wagner also vouches for sage’s organic appeal. For a family home design project she undertook in Charleston’s Mount Pleasant suburb, Sidney singled out a shade of sage to use on repeat, citing its similarity to the color of the low country’s populous marsh grass. “We used this shade on the exterior window trim and weaved it throughout the home’s interior: powder room shiplap walls, barn door in the playroom, porch floor, and textiles.” Bolstered with pops of blue, sage green becomes the ultimate vehicle for bringing the outdoors in.  

Photo by Brantley Photography / Design by JMA Interior Design

Use it as a Passive Pastel  

While there seems to be no shortage of designers telling us that our bedrooms should be a soothing sanctuary, it seems there are finite colors to take on the task, especially if you’re looking for a color that is neither too melancholic or too saccharine. Sage hits the sweet spot between the two, deftly treading the territory between moody and pastel. 

A sage green comforter or sage green duvet cover are easy enough to procure, but to really engage with sage in a bedroom, nothing tops a sage green wallpaper or sage green paint. Unlike darker shades, sage can be applied to virtually every wall in a bedroom without bogging it down.

For a tranquil bedroom she designed for clients, designer Jackie Armour of JMA Interior Design in Jupiter, Florida elected to use a watery-print wallpaper with just a whispery tinge of sage. In the bedroom, sage behaves almost like a palette cleanser, while also imparting a dreamy, cocooning-like feel.

Perhaps most unexpected, however, is how sage green imparts an energizing quality, rather than a contemplative or somber one, as is typical of most bedroom-approved shades like gray or blue. “Neutral tone-on-tone schemes create harmony and evoke an earthly feeling of connectedness,” says designer Sarah Barnard, shedding light on why such a seemingly quiet color conveys such a robust spirit.

If you’re tempted to go with sage green paint in a bedroom, consider cloaking the trim in the same color well. Sage’s light and dark properties make it an ideal suitor for showcasing traditional millwork and fine details like crown molding or recessed cabinet work. 

Photo by Emily Followill / Design by Atelier Davis

A New Way to Sage: Tile 

For anyone grappling with green, they need only take a look at designer Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis’s Atlanta mid-mod kitchen to quell any misgivings. “This kitchen uses a sage green as a bright counterpoint to the black architectural cabinetry and Mid-Century ceiling,” says Jessica. “The green tile is in keeping with the style of the home, but adds a freshness that feels more modern.” In scenarios where a textbook Mid-Century finish may feel too stark for today’s tastes, going for a retro revival in a shade of soft sage can take off the hard edge and make a room feel thoroughly 21st century. 

Lead image by Sargent Photography / Design by Gil Walsh Interiors

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January 11, 2021

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