Throwback design elements that recall bygone eras are one of the hottest home trends right now. Art Deco motifs, Victorian-inspired wallpaper murals, and ’70s-style accents like macramé are all making a comeback in modern interiors. The latest nostalgic trend might remind you of your grandmother’s floral wallpaper or retro bathroom tiles. Yep, we’re talking about mauve.
This pinky-purple hue hit it big in the ’80s, but its place in color history was cemented many years earlier. When the synthetic dye for mauve was created in the mid-19th century, it revolutionized design, making a color once reserved for royalty suddenly affordable to all. Previously, fabric dyes were created from natural sources, including plants and minerals, which made them expensive to produce and cost-prohibitive for most people. The advent of cheap, artificial dye—starting with mauve—brought color to the masses.
When it rose to popularity again more than a century later, mauve was splashed across wallpaper, drapery, bedding, carpets, and more. Today, the dusty shade is back in bold fashion.
While blush tones, including the ever-present millennial pink, have been flooding social media feeds in recent years, mauve has been quietly waiting for its turn in the spotlight. “In the design world, when you start to notice you haven’t seen something for a long time, it becomes cool again,” says Brian Patrick Flynn, an Atlanta designer and TV producer who recently used mauve in a kitchen he designed for HGTV’s Urban Oasis 2021.
Flynn now thinks of mauve as a sophisticated, complex iteration of overdone pink tones, a mashup of plum, blush, and washed-out gray that requires careful attention to pull off. “It’s not like a white or beige that goes with everything,” he says. Use these mauve decorating ideas to incorporate this throwback color trend in a fresh way.
1. Paint with saturated shades of mauve.
Far from channeling yesteryear, mauve looks current when you choose tones that are deeply saturated and lean more taupe than its pastel predecessor. Applying multiple variations in a room yields the most modern result. Try color-blocking large swaths by painting walls a dusky mauve and the ceiling a rich pink tone, for example. A shade like Behr’s Full Glass S120-6 provides deep, moody color, while Romantic Rose 1008-5C by Valspar has a warming effect.
2. Pair mauve with crisp neutrals.
In its heyday, mauve was often used alongside warm beiges and other “fleshy” tones, Flynn says. To avoid a dated look, he suggests steering clear of these tepid hues in favor of crisp, clean neutrals. Think bright white over cream and true gray over greige. They’ll make mauve pop and help you avoid a washed-out look.
3. Balance mauve with blues.
Another approach is to play up mauve’s cool undertones by pairing it with a range of blue furnishings. “This color pairs well with cooler hues like blues and grays for a soothing space,” says Jessica Thomas, Better Homes & Gardens style director. Opt for muted, watery shades of blue over bright aqua or turquoise for a color scheme that nods to the past without looking kitschy.
4. Lean into a vintage look.
Reference mauve’s historical roots with a design that incorporates other vintage elements. In this entryway, an antique dresser and gilded mirror establish classic appeal, while an acrylic table lamp and abstract artwork help keep the look current. Mauve covers the walls, door, and trim to envelop the entire space in warmth.
5. Use mauve in a bedroom.
Mauve’s cozy warmth and sentimental vibe are perfect for a bedroom. Dress your bed in layers of mauve textiles for an instant comfort boost, or paint the entire room mauve for a cocoon-like feel. Flynn suggests incorporating charcoal gray or black for an element of sophistication that balances mauve’s softness.