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The 9 Neutral Undertones in the World

By 11/18/2015July 24th, 202231 Comments

There are 9 neutral undertones in the world. Do you know what they are? I’ll help you visualize them here in this post with an example of how they can be helpful when trying to find the right coordinating shower curtain colour to match (or hide) your bathroom tile.

Neutral Undertone Paint Colours

I’ve been thinking about my bathrooms lately and how un-renovated and dated they become. (You can see all my renovated bathrooms here)

Except for this: I have always loved taking baths but the tub in our master is too big and takes more than one hot water tank to fill and the one in my main bathroom is an ugly pink beige tub/shower insert and it hurts my eyes to look at it so I am uninspired and rarely bathe in this house.

The equivalent to bathing for a Fin is a sauna, but my favourite Mother in the world has been in Finland for months to be with her older sister who recently had to move to assisted living (I miss her soooo much).

We’ve only had one sauna bath since she’s been gone because usually she’s the one who builds the fire and calls us over (it’s a wood heated sauna–totally divine). We sit there naked and solve the world’s problems, so amazing!

My course in Houston this week was the best ever! None of my courses are ever the same because I’m constantly tweaking the course material to help make it clearer and easier to understand. See my upcoming dates here.

The 9 neutral undertones in the world.

So, let’s talk about neutral undertones and how they can help you solve a common bathroom dilemma.

In my system for Understanding Undertones©, there are basically 9 primary undertones in the world. And no matter where you go, they are the same. If you don’t believe me, I can teach you how it works in my 2 day live virtual workshop here.

All you need to choose the right neutral for anything after you’ve determined which one it is, find my curated list of 50 colours listed by undertone in either of my ebooks available here.

how to use neutral colour wheel

I received a question about shopping for shower curtains a while ago so I thought I’d take this opportunity to show all 9 undertones in a row here.

The right shower curtain can magically hide a bad surround, or simply make your fabulous bathroom even more fabulous. So, here’s how to get the right shower curtain to coordinate with the undertone of your tile or hide it if necessary, or at the very least distract attention from it.

How to find the right shower curtain colour to go with your tile surround.

There are many bad shower surrounds that can be put out of sight and out of mind with a shower curtain.

Blue Grey Undertone

This shower curtain has blue grey as well as a light grey and a mustard colour for a bit of warmth. It works nicely with the blue grey tile.

Blue Grey Undertone Bathroom Tile

Image | Shower Curtain

Green Beige Undertone

It’s a little hard to see the floor tile below, but I’ve seen this earthier style/colour so many times in bathrooms. This shower curtain is a plaid made of green beige, violet grey and charcoal stripes. This shower curtain would also work with biscuit or a creamier coloured tile.

Green Beige Floor Tile Shower Curtain Idea

Image | Shower Curtain

Yellow Beige Undertone

The simple pattern of white on this maize-like shower curtain colour would look fantastic with the yellow beige bathroom countertops. Even though the bathroom below is more recent and lovely with white, there are many yellow beige countertops still hanging around, that need to be coordinated with until they can be updated.

Yellow Beige Countertop

Image | Shower Curtain

Pink Beige Undertone

Lots of bathrooms in pink beige. That shade comes out quick in tile when it’s installed in a room without natural lighting. It makes sense to check your tile in a bathroom without natural lighting BEFORE you install it.

And it’s the reason why I think all bathrooms should be white or cream anyway. This way, there will be no unhappy surprises when the beige tile you were convinced was perfect suddenly turns out pink when it’s installed.

But if this happened to you, how great is this orange, pink beige and aqua shower curtain?

Don’t despair if you don’t like the tile you inherited. Look for a shower curtain with colours you like as well as the neutral undertone it’ll work with.

Pink Beige Bathroom

Image | Shower Curtain

Orange/Butterscotch Beige Undertone

In the Tuscan brown trend and the sage green trend (right before brown came along) this slate tile was installed in bathrooms everywhere (see below).

Lately, every hotel I stay in has orange undertones from their last renovation.

So, if your bathroom has tile that looks like this and also has bright white plumbing, this shower curtain will relate to the white AND pick up the orange/butterscotch tones in the tile.

Orange Beige Slate Tile Bathroom

Image | Shower Curtain

Gold Beige Undertone

If the hard finishes in your bathroom have a gold beige undertone, try this shower curtain.

Gold Beige Undertone Bathroom

Image | Shower Curtain

Taupe Undertone

Taupe is a combination of beige and grey. With the gray trend, many people wanted “warm” grays instead of beige or grey and so they wind up choosing a bathroom tile that is taupe. Taupes are typically more grey than beige, but warmer than “blue” or cool grays with their pink or violet undertones. If your tile is taupe, this shower curtain is a lovely combination of taupe and pale blues.

Read what everyone should know about taupe here.

Taupe Undertone Bathroom Tile

Image | Shower Curtain

Green Grey Undertone

There are lots of bathrooms with green grey undertone tiles and floors and there are many shower curtains that will coordinate.

Green Grey Arabesque Tile

Image | Shower Curtain

Violet Grey Undertone

Perhaps your marble or stone tile leans a bit violet, or your have some leftover retro or vintage violet wall tile you need to work with for a while? This lovely shower curtain with a violet grey stripe will absolutely tie your bathroom together (or hide unsightly retro tile if you need).

Violet Grey Undertone Bathroom

Image | Shower Curtain

So, if you have anything but a white or cream bathroom, figure out which neutral undertone(s) are in your tile. Use my How to Choose Paint Colours or White is Complicated  ebooks to to learn how to start seeing these undertones. Better yet, get my neutral colour wheel for free when you purchase my 50 curated colour samples. My goal is to make colour easy with all the tools available on my website!

Can you identify which neutral undertones are in your bathroom/s?

Related posts:

The Best White Bathrooms

The Best Cream Bathrooms

Do you Understand Neutrals? Take the Bathroom Test

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness when you walk in the door, go here to learn about my NEW quick colour solutions or to schedule a personal consultation.

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  • I can confidently say that I know the nine undertones now that I’ve taken your course. Thanks so much for all that you and your team did to make the True Color Expert training so impactful. Truly a life-changing experience that I would recommend to everyone who wants to learn how to harness the power of color!

  • KA says:

    Well done, Maria. I did a beautiful blue and white color scheme with a yellow butterscotch travertine tile installed for a client to tie in the bright white tub sink and toilet. Started with the shower curtain and got the towels, hamper and window treatment to coordinate with the blue and changed the knobs on the linen closet and vanity to coordinate with the chrome faucets. The guy’s general contractor left it a train wreck of mismatched metal, wrong trapeze of paint, etc. it was like malpractice.

  • KA says:

    Trapeze. TYPE! iPad autocorrect lol.

  • Kat says:

    *sigh* I think I might have all 9 undertones in my horrible bathroom that I inherited: a biscuit tub and white toilet, yellow walls, yellow-green ceramic “stone” floor tile and pink beige tub surround, taupe-ish plastic faux marble sink top, orange wood stained vanity cabinet, and green-pewter mirror frame over the sink. I just avert my eyes. Not sure where to even start!

  • Jessa says:

    Another wonderful visual article, Maria! This really helped me see the undertone in my new bath tile, which has been elusive. That’s part of why I chose it – it’s my forever home and I like that the colour changes with the light (I bore easily). Sometimes it’s pale pinky grey, all the way to warm rosy orange gold or brown. Exciting! But it means I have a plain white shower curtain right now lol 🙂
    Here’s my feature tile, with a mainly white/cream bathroom.

    Looking at these photos, it’s the violet grey that looks best with all the tones in the tile. But it also made me question – is it just me, or is “violet grey” a lot like brown? What’s the difference?

    • Maria Killam says:

      No it’s not brown, that is just the shower curtain, the bathroom beside it is a purple gray, that was just the best shower curtain I could find to go with it.

  • sandra berube says:

    Maria – do consider installing a separate tankless
    hot water heater for your master bath.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I was thinking of eventually installing continuous hot water heat (can’t remember what it’s called). Good tip thanks!

  • Lorraina says:

    I’ve always thought shower curtains looked cheap. Why not install a nice glass surround?

    • Maria Killam says:

      This article is for the millions of people who have a tub with a shower curtain. The biggest problem with installing glass where it’s not designed for glass, is that you can’t turn on the shower without getting wet. And glass would make most dated bathrooms look like “New glass insert, old bathroom”. Maria

  • Carol says:

    Great article to show us examples of undertones. I have been wanting to ask this question for a while about color and light. Do Muted colors look best in a room with little
    natural light and clear colors look best in a room with lots
    of natural light or does it make any difference???
    I hope you liked Texas well enough to come back!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      No it doesn’t make a difference, just keep muted colours together and clean colours together for harmony.

  • Meger Anski says:

    Another terrific post!!

    I will flag this, read and re-read over and over.

  • My rental with pink beige vinyl flooring looks wonderful with this shower curtain! No one even looks at the floor now! In real life it has several beige undertones as well as creams AND whites all in the same fabric!

  • Betsy OShea says:

    Maria, really great job finding photos of each undertone and shower curtains for sale to coordinate!! While I do love the orange & pink beige shower curtain which matches the pink beige tile beautifully I recall that you have said in the past that blue can be used w pink beige too. My bathroom wall and floor tile is pure white but my vanity top has pink UT. I painted walls BM Palladian blue. Made a ” Phoebe Howard” shower curtain in same blue green color w white linen bands. To the above writer, shower curtains don’t hv to look cheap if you make them. This way they can be longer than the usual 72″ and wider too! Lol

    • Dolores says:

      You are so right, Betsy! When we redid our bathroom, I decided against glass doors because of the upkeep..I bougth a remnant of the most beautiful Brunschwig & Fils linen toile fabric, and made a extra long shower curtain and curtains. It looks gorgeous..

  • Judy H. says:

    I have mid-century modern home. The main bathroom in the hallway is in mint condition with all of the original tile (floor and wall), tub, toilet, sink and vanity. It is sky blue and white. It looks as though it was never used. I cannot bring myself to touch this perfect piece of history. The master bath is exactly the same, except is is pink and grey. Perfect! The other 2 baths are strictly white top to bottom. We have paid homage to mid-century modern in some rooms of the house and gone a bit eclectic in the others.
    Maria, would you leave the baths alone?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I probably would 🙂 And your bathroom, probably has a timeless look and feel to it, small scale tile, etc. It’s sad that there are so many perfectly good bathrooms that people just want to rip out ASAP because there’s nothing timeless and classic about it.

      It’s also the one big reason I can live with my bathrooms. They are cream. They are definitely dated but not the cliched version of a horrible 80’s bathroom.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    This is a great article. I love the solutions you found for each undertone.
    Thankfully, my tile is Carrera Marble. Much easier to live with. I went with a white & blue shower curtain that I made myself so I can get the extra length that the store bought curtains don’t provide.

  • Joyce B in Atlanta says:

    Thanks Maria
    A very interesting post, since we will soon redo the 3rd bathroom in our house. It is the type of room that will need a shower curtain. The third bath is tricky because the builder made the bathtub and toilet area separate from the sink area, but made it too small. I’m still puzzling what to do – other than rip out walls.
    Undertones in our master bath – the first one we did – didn’t quite work as planned. Fortunately, the room is large and bright, and the tile and wallpaper are perfect together. The cabinets I chose turned out a bit pinky white, but like you have said many times, cabinets can be painted. We may choose to do that some day. Right now, I just squint a bit when I am in the bathroom.
    Many people think of wallpaper as a big no-no, but this is a beautiful tone on tone design that is airy and nearly invisible. We lowered the ceiling a foot – so now it is ONLY 11 feet. What was the builder thinking??!
    Our second bathroom redo was a huge success and is truly wonderful in colors and layout.
    I keep reading your blog and learning – look at tile on the floor, and paint color on the walls, not butted up to each other on the same plane, etc., etc. Thank you for this wonderful blog. It is very helpful to people like me who aren’t professionals, but really love design.
    How wonderful that your mother is able to be with her sister at such a trying time of life. I’m sure she’ll be torn about returning home, but for your sake, I hope she comes home soon to build the fire and enjoy your company.

  • M says:

    Another great post Maria. 9 undertones? Yikes I had no idea. The potential for color mistakes just multiplied! 🙂

    My favorite posts are always about your own home renovations and I look forward to seeing what you do with your bathrooms. How about some teaser posts to give us a hint about what you have in mind for those areas?

  • Mae says:

    Very informative, great with the visuals, one to bookmark. As for shower curtains vs glass: I think glass looks better with more modern decor, less so in, say, a farm house or a Victorian. Had glass at my last place and never again. Such a pain to keep clean and clear looking, constant scrub and polish.

  • I love all these pictures and examples! They all look great. Love how you categorized the undertones, too- it’s always a good refresher to see your examples. 🙂 I don’t know where I would be without my undertone knowledge! -Jill

  • Cathy Z. (TCE) says:

    Maria, did you see this clean vs dirty room that a certain designer we all know did?
    Pink beige vs green beige mixed in with clean vs dirty all over the place. Just sayin…

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