Color Guide: How to Use Brown

Color Guide: How to Use Brown

Browns are an extremely popular decorating option. They’re rich and neutral and warm. They can add play to smaller distances or help add coziness to bigger ones.

Brown is a mix of crimson, red, rose or yellow with black or gray. In value it begins near beige and finishes near walnut or espresso, and its own hues can range from almost grey (I love to call it “grawn”) to nearly orange. It is all over the place in nature; think animal fur, bark, dirt, dry leaves. A great way to add brownish to a room is using natural wood.

Darker browns always look great with bright white. Brown also looks great with aqua, teal, light blues, oranges and pinks. It generally doesn’t generally work well with royal blues or purples (but every rule has exceptions).

Here are 14 examples of brownish done right.

A soft mushroom brown with bright white. This shade of brownish adds to the fluffy, light feeling of this room. It keeps it comfy and light.

Tara Seawright Interior Design

Between the walls, the furniture and the drapes, this room has a lot of different browns going on. It works because they are all in the exact same family and they are brought together by impartial creams.

CWB Architects

Deciding upon a satin rather than a flat finish may make brown walls seem to glow. Flat brown runs a risk of looking somewhat ashy.

Kayron Brewer, CKD, CBD / Studio K B

A dark brown is perfectly fine for a small space. A white ceiling along with white finishes and trim keeps everything bright and crisp. Does not this look cheery?

This is the more modern version of darkish brown and crisp white in the restroom. The ceiling here is brown and there’s absolutely no crown molding, but the contrast between the brown and the white walls helps bring out the architecture.

Tracy Murdock Allied ASID

As long as there is lots of light and a few nice, crisp whites, a very dark brown can look fresh, instead of closed in. This is a lovely, traditional room, but it isn’t a bit stuffy.


The very definition of “grawn.”

Tobi Fairley Interior Design

A dark, hot brown with light blue, a classic combo.

Max Crosby Construction

More brown and blue. The wonderful bright pops of coral orange would be the perfect complement to the two colours.

Urrutia Design

Dark brown cabinetry looks awfully dated these days, unless it is achieved with clean lines and paired with a pleasant, crisp white. This is hot and contemporary at the exact same moment.

Burnham Design

Browns, beige, cream, gray and orange. Proof positive that it may work.

Jagoda Architecture

Wood panelling was the provenance of ’70s rec rooms, but it’s come back in all kinds of contemporary and fresh ways. A couple of hints: Do not cover every wall in timber, or it will look as a sauna. Consider horizontal lines instead of vertical ones. Oh, and it should go without saying that you use real wood.

Pure Design by Jerry Bussanmas

Even very dark paneling may look fresh and contemporary as long as it is balanced with light.

Cornerstone Architects

Nice orange-brown timber panelling paired with grays and whites and a lot of light. It is rich and warm, but not oppressive.

Benjamin Moore

Whitall Brown HC-69 Paint

A wonderful fawn-colored grawn.

Benjamin Moore Cowboy Boots 1015 Paint

A warmer, redder version of fawn or mushroom.

Benjamin Moore Ben Paint, Davenport Tan HC-76 – $35.95

A wonderful light grawn. It looks beige, however it reads as light brown on a wall.

Benjamin Moore

Espresso Bark CSP-390 Paint

A classic, rich brown with a lot of grey.

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