What is Taupe? 14 Ways to Use This Neutral Hue

updated Feb 2, 2024
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Credit: Justine Darragh

If you’ve ever been a renter, or if you’re still renting your place, chances are you’ve had to live with taupe color on the walls at some point. Landlords love the hue because it adds visual interest and compliments pretty much any decor —and hides smudges and scuffs better than white. While there are tons of rental hacks you can do to make a space your own, you simply can’t change the paint color. But the great thing about taupe is that it works with just about any decor, from boho to modern and anything in between. And, even better, it’s coming back in style (you heard it here first)!

Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this new hot neutral, including some of our favorite examples of how to use taupe. 

What Color is Taupe?

An earthy tone with hints of gray and brown, taupe (pronounced TOHP) is every bit as warm as it is versatile. Taupe is French for mole, which doesn’t sound like something we’d want to cover our walls in. However, color expert Annie Sloan promises the color is more fabulous than it sounds.

“Don’t think of just any old gray-brown color, but a shade rich and complex enough to suggest a velveted, mole-y texture,” she says. “People often think of taupe as being interchangeable with beige or tan, but it’s actually a much darker shade of brown-gray, an espresso gray rather than a tan gray.”

Our Favorite Ways to Use Taupe 

Here are some examples of taupe-colored interiors from our house tours and social media to illustrate.

Add an accent.

The vivid red leather rocking chair in this Barcelona home adds a warm touch to the cool feel of taupe on the bookshelves, making the whole room feel more welcoming. A few plants and a baby blue couch tie the whole thing together. To recreate this look, try Sherwin-Williams’ Palisade.

Embrace taupe’s different hues.

Taupe is usually a grayish brown, but it occasionally has a touch of pink. This soft color, dubbed French taupe, adds a calming feel to the whites of this Los Angeles kitchen, creating the perfect place to enjoy a warm cup of tea. Recreate the look in your own kitchen with Sherwin-Williams’ Studio Mauve.

Credit: Justine Darragh

Create some contrast.

In Lisa Vanin’s Canadian rental, taupe-painted walls provide a nice contrast to the bright green couch. Go ahead and pair your colorful upholstery with Perfect Greige by Sherwin-Williams.

Add a pop of color.

Here again, a colorful couch and a smooth leather ottoman add all the color that’s needed against Behr’s neutral Smokestack; a light taupe color that’s happy to sit quietly in the background. (@danielleityourself)

Go for the gold.

This photo shows how well gold accent pieces can work with the right shade of taupe. Don’t shy away from this fun trend just because you have a neutral color on the wall. Here, @danielleityourself again employs Behr Smokestack to allow her accent pieces to stand out. 

Credit: Rebecca Bond

Use it as a blank slate.

Abigail Ahern’s Wooster Olive acts as the perfect backdrop to a statement piece, like this standout chandelier we found in her London home

Keep things basic.

This stunning living room from @Traceysdesignsanddecor features Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore. She combines it with neutral furniture and cozy textiles for a perfectly livable space. 

Credit: Nicole Crowder

Dare to be bold.

Looking for a design-savvy way to experiment with a bold color in your bedroom? This Virginia rental mixes dark taupe walls that subdue vibrant colors and patterns in style. Give this look a try with Benjamin Moore’s Gettysburg Gray.

Play up proportions.

A deep taupe paint like Benjamin Moore’s Deep Taupe provides a warm backdrop for dark dining room décor, just like we saw in Jen and Rob French’s Providence, Rhode Island home

Pack a punch.

Bring a pop of color and personality to an all-white kitchen with a saturated shade of taupe wall paint, like Mouse’s Back by Farrow & Ball. Let Sarah Tunstall and Becky Kastelic’s Chicago rental show you how it’s done.

Colors That Go With Taupe

According to Sloan, what makes taupe a superior choice is that it’s equal parts elegant and versatile.

“It’s a wonderful neutral that works with just about any color,” she says, “Even pastel greens and pinks.” Read ahead for some examples from our house tours of colors that compliment taupe.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

White or light colors.

In Kirsten and Kyle’s Portland home, taupe walls create a warm but neutral backdrop that makes crisp white and beige-colored furnishings stand out. Recreate the look with Benjamin Moore’s Copley Gray.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

Black or dark colors.

Black  accent pieces—like the black mirror and sink we spotted in Sherry Joniff-Solomon and Dana Solomon’s West Hollywood home—give a classy, upscale vibe when paired with taupe. A shade like Hickory by Dunn-Edwards will get the job done.

Credit: Carolyn Purnell

Bright or rainbow colors.

 Bright colors paired with taupe? That’s right! Here, woodsy taupe walls subdue a rainbow of color-coded book spines without sacrificing an inch of style. Gabriel Fontes de Faria and Grant Gochnauer’s Chicago home offers some serious design inspiration with a shade like Benjamin Moore’s River Gorge Gray.

Credit: Natalie Grasso

Brown or earthy tones.

A taupe paint palette accentuates earth-toned bedroom furnishings, just like we saw in Kerra Michele Huerta’s Washington DC rental. Bring this look to your bedroom with Taos Taupe by Benjamin Moore.