Suffice it to say that neutrals like greige, white, beige, and cream are popular colors for interiors thanks to the flexibility they offer — pairing easily with a myriad of other hues and working seamlessly with a range of aesthetics. Although tan is a member of this neutral-hued family, it is often overlooked, taking a backseat to some of the more familiar shades.
A variation of light brown, tan is created by mixing white with brown. It's a subtle hue that will introduce warmth, security, and a pleasing earthiness to any space due to its relationship with nature. Similar to lighter neutrals like beige and cream, tan also makes decorating easy but has the benefit of a bit more weight. And although the color has more of a conservative reputation, it's still quite easy to use with a variety of styles and colors.
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You might be wondering how tan differs from tones like beige and cream. Beige is a combination of pale gray, brown, and yellow and has a cooler tint, while cream is often referred to as off-white and has a stronger yellow undertone. Tan works beautifully on walls, adding depth and contrast — apply it with paint or as textured wallpaper. Include statement-making tan furniture in leather, which injects richness and a luxurious note, or test out tan with lower-commitment accessories such as pillows, blankets, or even lighting. "In an effort to go back to natural interiors and steer away from gray, tan is making a comeback. Tan is the perfect neutral to bring warmth to a space, but it can still be extremely modern," says Larisa Barton, founder of Soeur Interiors. "A tan leather piece of furniture, even as small as a pouf, can make such an impact. I tend to pair it with muted colors like sage green to emote effortlessness."
Curious about what colors go with tan? Think of it as a basic neutral that'll pair with almost any other color, but looks particularly beautiful with saturated shades that offer contrast — such as blue, purple, pink, and black, as well as with tone-on-tone shades. "I love using tan as a neutral in interiors because it adds warmth and dimension to a space and makes a room feel cozy," Emma Kemper, founder and principal of Emma Beryl. "You can really pair it with any shade and should think of it as a neutral, but my favorite shades to pair it with are burnt oranges, deep burgundies, and other autumnal colors that really emphasize the comfortable element the color lends."
Read on to uncover 14 of our color ideas that will work in just about any room of the house.
14 Tan Color Combinations
1. Tan and Purple
Add texture and weight to walls with a tan grasscloth wallpaper à la this living room by Angie Hranowsky. The simple addition will add definition and contrast to white details without obscuring natural light. Purple accents — such as flowers, throw pillows, and an area rug — bring an elevated note to the sitting area.
2. Tan and White
For a tonal look with depth, marry tan with white. This monochromatic bedroom makes the most of a neutral color palette and loads of natural light, keeping most of the walls white except for a tan border at the top. A dash of greenery and a few black and wood accents add just enough contrast to keep the subdued scheme interesting.
3. Tan and Teal
It's hard to resist the versatility and ease of wall paint. For example, in this gender-neutral nursery by Sarah Sherman Samuel, the striped pattern (which was a DIY project!) adds warmth and balances the cool undertones of the greenish-blue velvet armchair. The crib design echoes the linear wall pattern, while the layered rugs add loads of texture, not to mention a soft, cozy spot for tummy time.
4. Tan and Blush
Flirty and feminine, blush gets a dash of masculinity when paired with accent colors such as tan and brown. This sweet yet sophisticated guest bedroom by Jessica Bradley deftly combines pale pink walls and accents with upholstered tan headboards and matching pleated bed skirts. Traditional details keep the look classic and timeless.
5. Tan and Brown
Earth tones are those colors found in nature, like sage, grayish-blue, rust, and chocolate. So it's no surprise that tan looks right at home with a mixture of dark brown accents, beige walls, and cream accessories — a grouping that looks equally at home in bohemian interiors or more refined spaces like this bedroom suite by Studio Life/Style. Suede tan club chairs add texture and are a welcome touch.
6. Tan and Black
Add visual weight and edge to a predominantly neutral space with the addition of black. The ebony hue also maximizes contrast, which draws the eye to wherever it's applied. For example, in this living room designed by Studio McGee, black details — the window frames and coffee table — pop against a mostly neutral backdrop. And despite its modern bent and simplicity, there's plenty of warmth in this space thanks to the tan club chairs, light wood flooring, and soft, cozy pieces of home decor displayed throughout.
7. Tan and Blue
Go for classic nautical vibes by combining tan with a cool color such as blue. It's a timeless scheme that's embraced for the casual and relaxing vibe it gives off. This coastal-inspired living room by Chango & Co. includes the requisite beachy components — such as soft, sinkable furniture, a pleasing tan, white, and blue color palette, plenty of pale wood finishes, and of course ample natural light.
8. Tan and Coral
If it's an elegant, original, and sophisticated look you're after, consider pairing tan with a warm color. The result is surprisingly versatile. Angie Hranowsky used the unexpected yet classic hue coral in conjunction with tan walls and a patterned white and tan chair as the base of this traditional living room. She layered on a selection of accessories and artwork for a high-impact use of color and pattern.
9. Tan and Gray
If you like the coolness of gray, but still want a room that's welcoming and cozy, include the color tan. In this pared-down dining nook by McGrath II, gray upholstery beautifully balances the warmth of the tan wallpaper and rich wood furniture. The tailored Roman shade and simple, yet elegant light fixtures ensure the setup remains interesting and sophisticated.
10. Tan and Rust
The old saying opposites attract is never more true than when you pair the colors rust and tan. The neutral shade tempers the reddish hue yet still allows it to make an eye-catching statement. Amber Interiors incorporated two cozy tan lounge chairs with a pair of rust-colored ottomans in this living room, and we wholeheartedly approve. The dark hardwood flooring and furniture complement the contrasting duo and make the perfect backdrop. Complete the idyllic scene with dried foliage flaunting an autumnal rust hue.
11. Tan and Hunter Green
Keep it cozy by blanketing the walls of a small space in a darker shade like hunter green and accenting it with a dose of tan. Interior designer Kate Marker nailed the look in this sitting room, where a tan ceiling is an unexpected touch that not only gives the illusion of more height, but also adds warmth. A woven tan rug adds texture and dimension.
12. Tan and Olive Green
The options for successful tan color pairings are vast: Go for a muted look, as shown in this bedroom spotted on Lulu and Georgia, with olive green. Here, the tan abstract wallpaper pattern designed by Sarah Sherman Samuel is the star of the show, yet it doesn't overwhelm the verdant shade paired with a healthy dose of cream. Black accents further enhance the modern aesthetic.
13. Tan and Orange
For children's spaces consider a playful and happy shade such as orange. Take notes from Ashley Goforth and pair it with tan to keep the overall look age-appropriate, yet refined, as she did in this welcoming boy's bedroom. Wall-mounted animal figures are a youthful nod that inject a dose of whimsy.
14. Tan and Red
In small spaces, like this landing by Tim Clarke, pair tan with a punchy color like red to direct the eye toward a particular object. In this case, a vintage rug wears many hats — functioning as a focal point, adding warmth underfoot, and making a transition space feel purposeful. White trim adds contrast and brightens up the tiny area.
Colors That Go With Tan
Tan is an often overlooked neutral shade that adds warmth and subtle contrast to interiors. It offers more depth than white and cream, and pairs beautifully with a variety of different shades, from low-intensity colors (such as gray, beige, and brown) to bolder jewel tones. Here are a handful of our favorites to get you started on the right foot.
- Hunter Green
- Olive Green