What Everyone Should Know About Taupe

You asked for it and here it is! Drumroll….. a discussion of one of the most challenging neutral colour categories, taupe. Tricia Firmaniuk, my virtual design assistant is writing about this one!

When Sherwin Williams named Poised Taupe as their colour of the year I was not convinced.

As this year has progressed however, I’m seeing it everywhere (I wish I’d snapped a picture when I arrived at one of the many airports I’ve been in this Spring and saw brand new TAUPE tile everywhere).  We’re not getting big request for taupe for paint colours (although we do specify pale taupes when the hard finishes call for it), but certainly in other finishes as Tricia is about to explain:

Georgian Cachet with a Contemporary Twist on Interior Design Served:

Contemporary Taupe Bedroom From Behance

We are seeing A LOT of taupe these days. Between Sherwin Williams naming Poised Taupe as their colour of the year and the gray-and-weathered-wood-trend that doesn’t appear to be going away, taupe is ubiquitous in flooring, furnishings and stone products and makes up a huge proportion of standard builder offerings at the moment.

shut. up. that. ceiling.:

Weathered Wood Herringbone Ceiling via Instagram

So what’s with taupe?

Defining Taupe

First let’s define it. In Maria’s Understanding Undertones system, taupe is the neutral category between Violet Gray and Pink Beige on the neutrals colour wheel. It has violet or pink undertones and a low yellow component (when you have a pink undertone neutral with more yellow, it’s pink beige), and it’s warmer than blue and purple grays.

Understanding Undertones® – The Colour System

Outside of Maria’s system, green undertone neutrals are sometimes referred to as taupe, but green undertones are more versatile and they are found in another area of her colour wheel. This is a useful distinction because green neutrals behave differently than violet or pink ones.

I think the reason that taupes are so big right now is that with the gray trend in full swing, many people look to “warm” grays instead of beige and so wind up choosing taupe. Taupes are after all grayer than beige, but warmer than “blue” or cool grays with their pink or violet undertones.

Uses and disadvantages of Taupe

Because taupe reads a few degrees warmer than gray, it often looks like a “safe” “neutral” choice for tile and finishes, and, as I said, it looks grayer (and therefore more current) than beige.

Farmhouse Kitchen Roundup

Kitchen with Taupe Floor Tile via ReFabbed

Here is what a green gray limestone floor looks like for comparison’s sake (below)

Limestone Floors via Pinterest

When something is described as a “warm gray” it is either going to be taupe (with a violet or pink undertone) or a green gray with it’s natural stone-like green undertones (think limestone or concrete).

If you’ve followed Maria’s blog for even a short while, you will know that she teaches that pink undertone neutrals are a bit more difficult to work with than green undertones, so naturally, choosing a warm gray with a green undertone is going to be more versatile and classic in the long run.

Why?

When you have a green gray (or greige) on the walls, like BM OC 23 Classic Gray or HC 173 Edgecomb Gray for example, you can generally decorate with any combination of fresh accent colours from blues, violets, reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and greens, they all look great with a neutral green gray or greige.

When you are decorating around taupee (BM Stonehearth or Ranchwood) on the other hand, you are basically limited to blues, pinks and some greens, warmer toned accent colours just don’t look good.

Overall, taupe reads earthier and dirtier  because of its warm undertones.

If you search Pinterest for “taupe interior” the first thing you might notice about the rooms that pop up is that they are all tonal and neutral.

Neutral Taupe and Pink Beige Room via Things That Inspire

Taupe looks best in its own company, with creamy whites to freshen it up.

You will find it sometimes paired successfully with soft blues, leafy greens and muddier pinks.

So although there is no such thing as an inherently bad colour, some neutral categories are simply more versatile than others. And unfortunately for all of those with brand new taupe finishes, it is one of the more limiting ones.

Taupe and the Current Trends 

If you take a look at the current weathered wood finishes in furniture and flooring, you can see that the undertone of most of these trendy finishes is taupe.

Because they are “grayer” than more traditional wood tones, they feel current. But Maria predicts (and I fully agree) that these weathered and reclaimed finishes are eventually all destined for the “shabby chic repaint pile” and that we will all be desperate to paint them white in 5 or 10 years just like the pickled and golden oak finishes of yester-years.

So taupe seems to be doing well for itself as the warmer cousin of the gray trend. But if the trend is about fresher interiors with more colour, then taupe is a slightly stunted imposter because it dictates an earthier colour palette that is much more limited in range.

If you have taupe wood look tile installed all over your house, you will not have the options in the future for changing up your colour palette as if you had a more natural walnut, birch or even green gray concrete coloured tile.

Restoration Hardware Inspired Room via Housely

You can clearly see this in the trendy Restoration Hardware look (above). Although the brand puts out some sophisticated looking designs, you’ll rarely see any colour other than neutrals, darks and whites in any of their branding images. And taupe and weathered wood finishes abound.

I personally think this is a look with an expiry date, and that it is fast approaching.

However, colourful rooms are not for everyone, and I can completely get behind a sophisticated neutral room from time to time.

How to Work with Taupe

If you have taupe finishes installed in your house, or if you happen to really love this earthy warm range of colours, no problem, as long as you know what you are working with, of course you can create a beautiful room.

Blues make taupe look fresh via Pinterest

Since taupe is technically an earth tone, many of the same tricks I shared for working with beige apply.

You especially need a very healthy dose of creamy white to balance it’s earthy qualities and make it fresh. Contrast is key. A taupe room can be just as lifeless as a beige (or gray) one if it doesn’t have sufficient contrast.

Taupe Dining Room walls with Lots of Blue and White via South Shore Decorating Blog

The key is to know which accent colours work well with taupe (and whether you like them before you commit to taupe).

As I mentioned above, blues and pinks work beautifully with taupe.

Living room in greige neutrals and pink:

Taupe Built ins with Pink Accents via Pastel-ID

To make it fresh, use lots of creamy white and don’t be afraid to add warmer, more classic wood tones. It seems counter intuitive, but warm walnuts and golden mahogany look great with taupe. Taupe wood tones don’t need to be endlessly matched and repeated, don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Go glam with metallics, taupe works well with bronze, aged brass, nickel and pewter.

Bold Design Home Decor Trends:

Taupe bedroom with warm wood tones Via Interior Hints Instagram

To Taupe or not to Taupe

Because taupe is a trendy off shoot of the gray trend, be careful about installing hard finishes in taupe just like in any trendy neutral like gray or brown.

If you go neutral with your finishes, you can absolutely indulge in taupe walls and decor without being married to the look for years to come. All of the lovely rooms in this post have a generous amount of white. On the other hand, a floor to ceiling taupe tiled bathroom already looks drab and dated.

bathtub:

A pretty White and Cream Bathroom with Taupe Walls and Accents via Home Bunch

I especially caution against taupe flooring since this is the most expensive to change and the most limiting. So many of the wood look tiles, laminates and wood floors right now have a gray cast that is ultimately taupe and it will date so much more quickly than a classic walnut or natural maple.

So before you settle on that “warm gray tile”, consider whether you really want to install the more limiting undertone of the gray trend.

I’m curious about how you all feel about taupe, love it? Leave it?

If you’d like to choose the right taupe (or any neutral or colour) for your home, download my How to Choose Paint Colours, It’s all in the Undertones here.

If you’d like help with your interior or exterior colours check out our eDesign services here.

Related posts:

What Everyone Should Know About Beige

What Everyone Should Know About Gray

What Everyone Should Know About Blue

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  1. Great post! M new house is filled with warm wood and walls that are Edgecomb Gray-except for the master bath, which is ALL taupe! I want to do a creamy white paint eventually to quiet some of that taupiness. Can you give me a couple creamy white paint names to start with? When it comes to white my eye does not really differentiate. thanks!

    • I ended up painting my basement a medium taupe (need to check the name, it’s from the BM affinity collection) because of my sofa color (a darker taupe) and the existing décor I had. I’m not a fan of taupe, but it looks great and everything coordinates. I did the woodwork in Ballet White. I think it looks great, but I would check undertones.

  2. This is a fabulous post, so informative!! I love taupe, but I agree, it can end up looking drab and dated, and I have stayed away from it over the past few years for the reasons mentioned…it is dirtier than the trends that have been out there, especially when you compare it to some of the “warm” grays such as Edgecomb Gray, Revere Pewter, and Repose Gray (SW).

    Your advice and the pictures that back it up give me new hope in using taupe!! (Rhyme not intended:)) You’ve elevated taupe to a new level. I also think the post and pictures reveal another important lesson…for any color you choose, even if you aren’t exactly happy with it on the walls (well…it’s darker than it looked on the chip, or I didn’t realize the effect of a cooler gray bouncing off 4 walls, etc.), it’s the accents and decor that matter. Unless the color is wildly awful to your eyes, if you discipline yourself and go with it (like a bad haircut!), the overall effect will work out. I’m more of a warm gray person right now, but I could certainly live with any of these rooms!

  3. Excellent piece! I have always been drawn to TAUPE and would call it my favorite shade of beige. It’s the colour that looks best on fair haired (very dark) brunettes! I agree with every point and suggestions made in the article and am happy to see that someone has addressed the issues around decorating with this beautiful, calming, ethereal feeling colour.
    Thank you.

  4. I love taupe and have it in my great room and kitchen with lots of white and linen fabrics. I accent with greens and blues in the Spring and Summer and it has a comfortable beauty vibe…think sand, sky, trees. In the Fall I accent with dusty shades of orange and burgandy and at the holidays it looks absolutely gorgeous with muted greenery and cranberry red accents. I find it so very versatile and get loads of compliments on my home. Wish I knew how to upload a photo, I would include one.

  5. Thank you for such an informative post. One of the best I’ve read on this blog! Appreciate your thorough explanation of the color’s undertones, what works with it / what doesn’t and why, its limits and its potential (all with lovely pictures to visually convey msg). But especially how to decorate with, or around, taupe in case one isn’t in a current position to change out any fixed elements that are taupe. It made the post so relateable and inspiring! Wish I had some taupe in my house to play with now and put these tips to work! 😜

  6. Thank you got a great blog.
    I totally agree haven’t we already been through the taupe color in the 90’s?
    I think if you want taupe do it in wall color /pillow etc .
    People say to me your white will one day be dated too.
    When you say white with Taupe are you talking about a off white ?
    Thanks

  7. Maria, Thanks for another great post! Would you consider an oatmeal linen sofa on the taupe side? It feels quite earthy to me. I love the sofa, but am finding I don’t love the color. Loose cushions throughout, so have been considering recovering the cushions in a different fabric.

    • No not really, oatmeal in my mind would be a green beige, like HC-81 Manchester tan. . . but your interpretation of oatmeal could be taupe? Thanks for your comment! Maria

  8. Super post, Tricia. And your choice of photos to illustrate your points is superb. The first two photos showing the difference between the taupe floor tile and the green gray floors should be used in every class that Maria teaches and every consult. I gave up on wood-look porcelain tile for my new floors because every color I found that was lighter than a “medium” brown (which I hated) was some version of a weathered wood look with too much pink that looked so drab in my home. My color joy is in the yellow greens and where there’s grey, it needs to be a green grey. Surprisingly, however, I do have a couple of club chairs slipcovered in a SureFit taupe similar but to but “browner” than the Restoration Hardware couches that feels right at this time with my 30-year-old truly non-pink and more green grey carpet and a focal point favorite painting of aspen (they could be birch) trees in the fall with prominent tree trunks in the foreground and masses of golden yellow leaves above more greener leaves at ground level. The slipcovers may not work when I finally do get my new floors but that will be a relatively cheap fix. Otherwise, give me the warm wood floors and that glorious chest in the Interior Hints Instagram any day.

  9. I know first hand the hardship of taupe. It was my grandmothers favorite colour. I had such a hard time helping her pick things to match her couch, and her favorite suit. It always ended up being pink. So limiting, to wear and live with.
    A couple of years ago I bought a beautiful chaise lounge to fill the giant empty space in my master bedroom. In the store if Heather Lane in town to it. Unfortunately once I got home I realized it was taupe. I should have took it straight back.
    While my entire room is layers of cream this Chaise lounge now stands out like a sore thumb.
    For me taupe is a beautiful color to be found in other peoples houses, not my own; and fondly remembered as my grandmothers favorite colour.

  10. I am a vibrant color person. The only question for me is if I would do color in upholstery and accessories, or on the walls too!

    I find beige revolting. 😉 Taupe is at least better than beige for me – that room with the pink chairs is stunning.

    The only neutral colors I love, are shades of white and greige. I love greige if a neutral is needed. I was going to ask if the undertone of greige was pink, but you wrote that the undertone is green. Good to know that you can use so many vibrant colors with it. I knew I liked greige for a reason!

    Great article.

  11. Great post! I have taken Maria’s class and still find these posts/reminders/perspectives vital in getting it through my head about which undertones to use where. Seeing the photos with each concept “tip” is so helpful.

    The new flooring in the grayer tones is so tempting…I even used it myself at our beach build…I’ve already starting thinking….oh boy…

    Stay with the timeless wood floor color! Tell your clients about the “expiration date” on trends…save those colors for the pillows and paint. I use Maria’s example about a pair of jeans…like jeans you can pair classic wood floor with just about anything.

  12. Sorry, I insulted that beautiful piece of furniture in the Instagram bedroom by calling it a “chest” instead of a “chifferobe”. I don’t have anywhere in my home to put one but I sure want one.

  13. Last year we bought a house with Duraceramic floors with a pink-taupe-gray pattern in the kitchen. After wracking my brain about how to deal with the pink undertones, I read “How to Choose Paint Colors”. Voilá! I decided to extend the tile to the back hall and powder room and paint them BM Stone Hearth. I would never have considered taupe, but it looks beautiful and up-to-date!

  14. Yup, they’re sneaking taupe in everywhere at the moment. I just picked some porcelain tile that is basically off white. When I tested the sample with your magic undertone-revealing colors, I saw no taupe (or pink beige, which I had an obsessive eagle eye out for). When the tile was installed, some of them definitely have a taupe cast, and some of the veins look distinctly purple in artificial light. It’s not too bad because it’s mostly white, but pretty disconcerting that EVEN when you pick off-white tile AND EVEN when you know what you’re looking for and have the tools you need, weird undertones can sneak in. My lesson was to never buy a hard furnishing without ordering (and paying for, if necessary), a bigger sample (even though I had “the big board”).

    • That is exactly why I tell participants in my classes to stick to as close to white or cream as possible, it’s amazing how even the slightest beige or grey undertone can look entirely different WHEN IT’S INSTALLED. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  15. My daughter’s apartment is painted Edgecomb Grey. And she’s used all of he correct accent colors. I’ll have to tell her that you’d approve her choices.

  16. Oh that’s a timely post..I was recently thinking how do I know whether the paint for example is taupe or greige..I arrived to the conclusion that taupe has more red in it..:) So same surface (for example my kitchen cabs) can look green gray or greige or taupe-in different times of day depending on the light, both day and artificial
    Actually I like colors that change like that..never boring..on the condition you like all of the colors they get to be during the day..and I do:)
    I do to the extent I stole the color(it’s custom) for my master bedroom..there, it seems more taupe reads warmer..because darker space..and yes, very true, works amazing with walnut (I’m nuts about walnut so my floors are walnut..they’re soft, it’s their downside..but I like walnut too much). Yes looks great with cream and white and oatmeal and muted pink and warm blue and green:) And gold of course. And bronze. As long as it’s paint of soft furnishings-I find it a very versatile color..
    The master bath tiles(it’s an en suite) are definitely a very warm green gray..it actually plays very well with taupe that’s seen from the bathroom..they do seem warmer greige depending on the light.
    I think if you keep to the same.muted-ness if you will..adding fresh and bright as accents (or vise versa)..and watching the undertones..you can do a LOT with neutrals..as in nature, you know? Harder in a house yet still possible. And of course by repetition you can achieve a lot too.

  17. I have always loved taupe. I am looking to do my exterior a shade of taupe that will go will my brown clay tile roof.
    I was so excited after reading your post that I went driving some exclusive newer neighborhoods to see the latest.
    Boy! The white garage doors in the middle of color and so big really stood out awful! Found a great taupe and went up to take a picture of it and in the shade the color looked green-gray. The front was what I liked but depending on where the color really changed a lot. It’s still a good variation for my neighbors to not have what they already have. I think that I will do everything on my simple house(no moldings) matte taupe and then semi-gloss on the garage doors and the eaves. Any green taupe colors that come to mind? Great timing! Many thanks!

    • Taupe is not green, it has a pink/violet undertone, if you choose the right one, your house will not be pink. . . Check out BM Kingsport Grey and Fairview taupe. Hope that helps, Maria

      • Those colors seem to be taken by my neighbors. How about BM-waynesboro taupe? I picked just down from the middle of the card that starts with london fog. All the rain here this year has really done a number on the wood trim. Lots of dry rot. Yuk!

  18. Love this blog and was sooooo excited when I read the topic was Taupe. It’s been my favourite colour forever! I live in a very small studio apartment and of course, I cannot redecorate as the trends come and go, but I have found that taupe appears timeless. I like to mix the more neutrals like taupes, warm beiges, browns, chrome, greige, white, and right now I have burnt orange accents. It really looks great and when I tire of the burnt orange, I can lose it and switch it out to another bright colour without repainting, re-upholstering, and make any major change. Also looks wonderful with wood as in the photo of the bedroom with the wood dresser, wood floors, and the tan leather chair. I love that room! I know many crave bright colours, and white is on trend, and safe, but I can always,always find something that works with my decor, and right now…..it’s so easy. Thank you for featuring this wonderful colour and amazing photos!

    • It’s in the process of being printed. . . my subscribers will be the first to know when it’s available! Thanks for your comment! Maria

  19. Not a fan of taupe. Too violet-purple for my taste. I’m also sick of the weathered and distressed gray wood and will be happy to see it expire!

  20. That is a great and informative post and so helpful when you have a taupe sofa, as I do. I love all the information contained therein regarding what accessories compliment it.

  21. I don’t like taupe and I’m glad I read this
    Just rehabbing a cabin and used green grey on the fireplace
    I was going to use taupe grey vinyl tile in kitchen but will look for another option although the kitchen is all creams and whites

  22. I like taupe for the “warmer gray” reason you mention, and I’m thankful for this post to educate me on how to use it well and when to avoid it. I’ve been reading your blog for about six months and very much appreciate your encouragement to play it safe in the hard finishes as we update a late 80’s house we recently moved into. (Which, oddly enough is still rocking blush pink back splash and counter tops and floral light fixtures…which have come up in the trends posts, but I’m going to have to pass. Haha!) Thanks again!

  23. I paint furniture. I have done maybe 3 furniture pieces in it but these days I stick to green grays. I find it is easier for folks to incorporate the green grays in their space.