Beige and Taupe

Beige and Taupe

Well, that grabbed your attention didn’t it?  Try to hold the excitement down, I know this is gripping stuff.  But –  we need to talk about undertones, and if I had titled this column “Undertones” you most likely would have turned the page. I’ll get to “Beige and Taupe” in a minute.

Why undertones? Well, I was at a clients recently and she was having trouble deciding what color to paint her living room wall. The  current color wasn’t right, and she knew it but she couldn’t put her finger on what was wrong, exactly. The basic color was good, but it just didn’t work. The reason? The brick wall adjacent to it had yellow and orange undertones. The paint had a red undertone. So when we looked at the two walls, we were seeing a red wall beside yellow and orange brick.

Undertone is the basic color from the color wheel. It’s the origin of the color, the true color before it was tinted, or shaded, or grayed. Every color starts at either red, blue or yellow. So, one thing you need to remember is that mixing undertones can create an off-kilter room. Think of olive green (yellow undertones). How well does that mix with a spruce green (blue undertones)?  Not well. Or think of a tomato red sofa (blue undertones) with flame red cushions (orange undertones). Get the picture?

Technically speaking, beige has red, yellow or green undertones. Grey has blue, green or violet undertones. Taupe has pink or violet undertones. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a  yellow taupe, or violet beige, and you all know that some taupes appear quite mauve, while many beiges have a yellow cast to them.

So, how do you determine the undertone? Look at the color in natural light. Compare it to other colors of similar value; if you are comparing beiges, for example, one will suddenly appear more pinky, or yellowish or greenish than the other.  There is your undertone.

And the general rule of thumb, here, is please do not mix undertones. No red undertone paint beside the orange brick wall. No orange undertone paint on the walls next to the green beige curtain.  Trust your instincts. Chances are really good that you will know when something is off, and chances are really good that the problem is the undertone.

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