Home Design and Trends: Decorating with Brown

Decorating With Brown
By Nicole Sforza

Use it to make a bold statement―or as a modest sidekick to brighter hues.

Blend red, yellow, and blue (the primary colors) and you get brown. “That’s why every color goes with it,” says New York City interior designer Elaine Griffin, a huge fan of this hardworking neutral. “With dark brown paint, the walls are the star and the objects play second fiddle. With light brown walls, the reverse is true.” At either end of the spectrum and anywhere in between, brown is known to make people feel safe and comfortable, grounded and at ease.

Light Brown Walls

As calming as a sandy beach, light brown is “the next step up from white or ivory,” says Los Angeles interior designer Kyle Schuneman. “It offers minimal risk but much more impact.” A perfect background for blues and greens (think beach again) or dramatic jewel tones, it also brings refinement to a neutral room when it’s paired with crisp white woodwork. (Photo by: William Waldron)

Dark Brown Walls

Womblike, cozy, and luscious, dark brown makes you want to curl up with a book (or drift off to sleep). It’s also woodsy, which lends it a magical, deep-forest quality. Dark browns look fantastic paired with super-saturated bold colors, such as orange (shown right), or as a counterpoint to muted colors, like pale pink. In a sunny room, they can take on very different tones at different times of the day; observe closely when testing out.

Brown With Yellow

Friendly and inviting, this sunny combination can feel both retro and―with simple, clean-lined furnishings―contemporary. Deep brown goes particularly well with buttercup yellow; you can bring in stronger acid yellows with small objects.

Brown With Lavender

Soft, feminine purple brings a masculine gray brown to life. (“These are the colors of a perfect field in Provence,” notes Griffin.) The key is to keep the lavender to a minimum―accent pieces only―so it doesn’t overpower the earthy, neutral shade with its inherent girliness.

Brown With Blue

Even in an eclectic setting, the mix of warm brown and cool blue feels natural―think earth and sky. The gamut of combinations work (navy with camel, turquoise with terra-cotta), but a rich royal blue and a dark chocolate is especially current.


2 Responses to “Home Design and Trends: Decorating with Brown”

  1. Melissa Says:

    I am thinking about painting 3 of my 4 walls in my living room a chocolate brown but doing one wall red, and then hanging up white photo frames and doing my end tables in white? Will it look right????

    • General Says:

      Hi Melissa —
      I love the whole 3 to 1 wall combo. It really makes the room something special and creative.

      Here’s my advice when picking color combinations for a room:
      Keep in mind the lightness and darkness of the color (value of a color). When you’re working within the room, you want to have some contrast within the values. If you’re doing a chocolate brown and a brick red, this is too close in value and the colors will fight for attention. I would stick with a formula that incorporates light, medium, and dark values. Pick your darkest shade, let’s say this is a dark red, your next color value should be medium (tan) and then your accents and bits of furniture can be a white and maybe some rich woods that emulate that chocolate color you like.

      So…your room would have one wall painted a beautiful, rich red. The three remaining walls would be a caramel tan. Then your photo frames and end tables will be nice accents in white. You could even look for some pillows for your sofa that incorporate this same color scheme and add those into your room as well. You can add some rich woods in and you would have a lovely and color-balanced room.

      I would also recommend checking out your local paint stores. Sometimes they have those handy little sample brochures that show how 3 or more colors can work together in a room. You can also ask for professional help from an interior decorator. There’s a fabulous one in Wisconsin Rapids — Alft Decorators: 715-424-1720.

      Good luck — send me photos of your finished work!

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