Soon after Emma Ganzarain moved into her boyfriend’s apartment in Oslo, the couple got to work on a redesign. They added light-colored herringbone floors, with radiant heating to combat the Norwegian chill, and taupe kitchen cabinets. In the living room, the pair swapped out a purple light fixture for a white one and replaced a maroon armchair with a chair of a similar size in off-white.
When the work was just about done, Ms. Ganzarain, 26, posted some before and after photos on TikTok. “All men need a woman in their life,” she wrote in the caption.
The reaction was not what she expected.
Her post has been viewed nearly 8 million times since it appeared earlier this month. It has also generated more than 55,000 comments, most of which are negative. Many people have accused Ms. Ganzarain, who had about 3,000 TikTok followers at the time of the post, of ruining her boyfriend’s space, replacing its warmth and character with a more sterile look.
“The before is better,” one commenter wrote. “After is very clinical and cold.” The person went on to note the renovated apartment’s “Patrick Bateman vibes,” a reference to the serial-killer protagonist of “American Psycho.”
In an interview, Ms. Ganzarain, who works in resource management, explained her aesthetic: “I love the basic neutral palette. Beige, white, brown. Earth colors.” She said her boyfriend had been living alone before she moved in, adding that the apartment was old and in need of some upgrades.
Some commenters went beyond critiques of the redesign to accuse Ms. Ganzarain of controlling her partner (who was very much involved in the process, she noted). Others sent her death and rape threats, she said.
Several of Ms. Ganzarain’s detractors hit on the phrase “sad beige,” an internet term used to describe a minimalist style with an emphasis on neutral tones. Hayley DeRoche, a librarian in Petersburg, Va., who goes by @sadbeige on TikTok, helped popularize the term through numerous posts satirizing the trend.
“It’s a very specific aesthetic that incorporates neutrals to an almost absurd, monochromatic degree,” Ms. DeRoche, 37, said. A typical “sad beige” room, she added, has “a lot of eggshell, a lot of cream, a lot of oatmeal, cardboard, biscotti, sand.” Referencing the Kardashians, who are known fans, Ms. DeRoche added that the clean-lined, almost colorless look can be an effective signifier of wealth.
Ms. DeRoche added that she doesn’t approve of those who weaponize the term “sad beige” to attack an individual poster. She also theorized that the strong reaction to Ms. Ganzarain’s post might signal a larger shift in home décor, from uncluttered minimalism to something cozier and less polished.
Emily Rayna, an interior designer in New Hampshire, agreed that the era of neutrals might be on the way out. “People are leaning into the maximalism, which makes my heart happy,” she said, “but we’ll probably also get a pushback from that, too, at some point in the future.”
Ms. Ganzarain said she believed the TikTok reaction came partly because she posted the before and after shots before the redesign was complete. “We didn’t even have lights in the kitchen!” she said. “The sink wasn’t installed.” Still, she said, she has enjoyed some of the conversations she has had with people online, touching on everything from lighting temperature to throw pillows.
As for her boyfriend, who declined to be named for this article, he weighed in a little more than a week after his apartment had become TikTok famous.
“Did you really like how we changed the apartment?” Ms. Ganzarain asks in a video that shows her pointing a toy gun at his head.
“Mhmm,” he replies, nodding at the camera with a blank expression.
“Blink twice if you need to be rescued,” reads a top comment.