Taupe is one of those colors for which the exact hue is often hard to pin down. Originally, the French word "taupe" referred only to the color of a mole -- which, given that animal's pigmentation, reduced it to a limited range of grays and browns. The definition expanded in modern times to include most warm grays, lavender-browns or any warm mixture of gray or brown with a soft pastel -- especially pink, yellow or occasionally, green.
The Warm Palette
As an essentially warm color, the tan-brown tones of taupe pair well with other warm colors -- particularly soft yellow, pink or olive tints. When using a warm taupe for walls or large furnishings such as sofas, add interest with a variety of yellow, pink or pastel patterned pillows, and through similar coloring for small furnishings such as lampshades, throws and rugs. Furnishings of natural wood or pieces with warm, light- to medium-toned stains work well with this color scheme.
The Cool Palette
Taupe is amazingly versatile, and pairs as well with a cool palette as with warm. For this scheme, choose a somewhat cooler, grayer-toned taupe with blue, blue-violet or green hints as the base color. Mate it with accessories and small furniture pieces featuring those same cool pastels. Mint-green, sky-blue and pale lavender are especially good choices. White-painted wood gives this scheme a cool, refreshing crispness and a cottage feel.
Neutral and Modern
When you change your furniture style from wood to metal, cool taupe palettes give your home an ultra-modern feel. Minimal styling with chrome and black leather against blue-gray tinted taupe walls and flooring looks functional and clean -- an effective scheme for a home office, where distractions are costly. Stick with black, white and similar cool taupe shades to keep the decor neutral and understated.
Though taupe more often shows up in a softer overall palette, the color police won't ticket you for using bolder color. Think extremes when choosing your base shade of taupe -- either very deep or very pale shades of brown or gray-base taupes rather than medium-depth colors. For accessories and textiles, choose bolder hues of the same basic warm or cool palettes, but instead of pale pastels, go for mustard, coral, plum, pumpkin or teal for unexpected color. Cushions, rugs and throws in spirited stripes, florals or polka-dots add a casual pop to the overall decor. To avoid a cluttered look, keep the background neutral so bolder colors stand out clean and sharp.