Ask Maria: How do I Work with Taupe & Blue Gray?



I’ve been following your blog very closely and I recall your very informative post about how white will never come to life in a dark room.  So although I LOVE white, I decided to choose a wall colour (BM Ranchwood) to blend in my fireplace and sofa instead of going white which is my instinct.  But, now I’m having a hard time “lightening up”  the room.  It seems very dull and dark. I recently spent $$$$ on a custom Ripplefold window treatment hoping to bring life, movement, and texture into the room, but because it has a blackout liner, the room seems even darker!  I even have 2 skylights in the cathedral ceiling.
I really hope you pick my question for your blog since I think it answers a common question of “If I love white, dislike bright colours, but I can’t use white, then what?” Jane W.
Ask Maria
Hi Jane,
First, to answer your question about light colours in dark rooms, it’s true that white in a dark room will most likely appear gray and dingy but this doesn’t mean you need to go directly to a much darker shade.
Having said that, it looks like choosing the Taupe shade was still a good choice because it relates to your fireplace brick which isn’t changing and also you chose drapery fabric to coordinate.
Since you clearly have two bright accent colours in this room, the yellow coffee table and the green toss cushion, it’s not clear to me that you dislike bright colours, however the bigger issue now is that your walls are taupe and your sofa has a blue gray undertone.
Since your room is now taupe, this is one situation where even two undertones is too many. My first recommendation would be to eliminate your sofa but I’m going to assume it’s staying.
Ask Maria
So here’s the issue. We have taupe walls and a blue gray sofa. While you can find a rug that is taupe or blue, it’s much harder to find something with both undertones present.
area rug
Here’s the taupe colour with a taupe and yellow area rug. However, if we bought this rug, it would not look good with the blue gray sofa.
Ask Maria
Here’s a rug with blue gray and green, great with the sofa, but it would again look wrong with the walls.
The only way to marry them both is to find a rug with just a small amount of gray without a strong distinguishable undertone so it works with both the sofa and the walls.
Ask Maria
Here’s one way to pull the room together using bright yellow and orange accents with a hit of black. I like where you’re going with the black and white print above your fireplace, I’d create a wall with similar artwork above the sofa (below). This will also bring more white into the room to freshen it up.
Ask Maria
And you could switch out the yellow and orange with green and turquoise or if you really don’t like bright colours, find a black, white and gray rug using the same guidelines as I mentioned above, however then I would find a way to repeat the blue gray of your sofa in your prints above the sofa for example.
Hope this helps bring your living room to life!
If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, email me here.
Related posts:
6 Ways to Choose the Perfect Neutral Paint Colour
How I Created my System of Understanding Undertones

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leave aREPLY

  1. Maria, I love the PowerPoint presentation! It’s what I would love to have. I remember the one you did for your sister and I liked the idea of it. I think Jane should follow your suggestions one step-at-a-time until she feels comfortable in the room, she’ll know when it feels right for her. Maybe first the white matted artwork, then a lamp, next some pillows, etc.. Doing changes as she can afford. Is the coffee table paintable? Jane, I like your room and with the suggestions Maria’s gave you, I’m sure you’ll be happy.

  2. That is not a coffee table. It is an Ikea Mammut children’s table. Probably not worth decorating around. Love the advice Maria, keep it coming! I am learning so much from you.

    • You’re right! I have two small kids so I plopped that table there when we moved in as a place holder. I’ll be getting a grown up table once I recover from the expense of the drapes! Since this post, I’ve substituted the table with two black leather ottomans I had in the house to make a square coffee table. I’ll live with it for a bit to see how it goes.

  3. Hi Jane,
    I think that if you just move the painting from above the fireplace to the wall it will actually balance the colors and brightened that taupe wall and hang some different above the fireplace. And just a rug that carries some of those undertones and a hint of white will be nice. The room is nice already just some brightness would be good. Maybe a plant near the fireplace so it make sense with the green pillow, I would’n paint the tile since it’s almost like the sofa so it looks good to me, but I am not a professional I just love decorating.

  4. Throw in the towel. You will tweak to death but you are never going to fall in love with your room till you paint it all white as your heart dictates…. fireplace, brick surround, walls. Even Maria, after her very good mood board suggestions (which BTW looks great because it is all against a white background…) shows a mostly white room! Paint is not that expensive…roll up your sleeves. Cut your losses and start anew. Good luck.

  5. Maria, your thoughts on wood look porcelain tile? Building a new home in florida, I really love hardwood but it will not be practical here by the ocean. Do you think it will be out of favor quickly? The tile that is, I have ruled out laminate as I had it installed in my kitchen in my last house was ruined by a water leak only 2 months after installation. Thanks for your help.

  6. Maria,

    You talk about muted colors looking dirty/dingy next to bright colors, can gray (like taupey/beigey grays) also look dirty/dingy?

    • Taupes look dirty with clean colours, grays are crisp which is why they work with bright colours. Stick to lighter shades of green or blue grays and they will look great. Even the darker grays start looking dirty with some colours.

  7. Oh thank you! I’ve just discovered this site and it is the most helpful on the internet! FINALLY, I am understanding why I am happy with some rooms in my home and struggling blindly to get it right in others to no avail! Thank you. Going to buy kitchen paint again for the 5th time in 3 years and this time I know I’ll get it right!