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Decorating with Brown

July 03, 2016 3 min read

Brown is a natural, down-to-earth neutral colour that has friendly, casual and welcoming vibes. It symbolises a plethora of wholesome and earthy qualities, of steadfastness, simplicity, balance and dependability. 

Being a neutral and earthy colour, it also exudes a kind of casualness, even to the most sophisticated spaces. While it is a confident colour in itself, it is rarely the center of the attention, even if in a featured artwork, and prefers to stay in the background. Consider using brown therefore as a background colour and pairing with other colours to imbue the space with added emotion (even white or black). 

In colour psychology, the colour brown is referred to as honest, genuine and sincere. Quality loves the colour brown, yet brown conveys a sense of imperfection and authenticity as well. 

In decorating, ask yourself what you want to convey in your space? How do you want to feel in your space?

You might use brown in your environment to convey a feeling of warmth and wholesomeness, or to bring in a natural element. Or use it to anchor your space, or make it more warm and inviting. 

Comfort and protection

Is a sense of duty and responsibility important to you? Do you want to feel a sense of protection and supporting the family when at home or in this space? Is security and belonging to a family and having lots of good friends a priority here? If yes to these, brown is for you. Try using rich browns in heavy accents such as oversized pieces of furniture or artwork, paired with soft furnishings.

 Decorating with brown art

Going Rustic

If a sense of casualness is important to you but you fancy quality, a rustic look might be for you. For this look, keep the neutral space limited to textured wooden browns such as reclaimed wood headboards or worn timber feature walls, with black, metal or white accents. These could be by way of decorator accents, artwork, sofa legs, lamps, get the idea. 

Bold, or simple black and white pieces of artwork suit this look best, and an eclectic mix of textured accents. 

Aboriginal art decorating


Similarly an Industrial-chic look suits a brown lover. If you want to bring a natural element to a sophisticated space, Industrial-chic might be for you. It emphasises the hard-working qualities, the rawness and imperfections of sophistication. It is especially good for combining the earth element with the metal element. Use brown in furniture through leather, faux fur or wood, and in decorator items such as book shelves or frames. Grey accents suit this environment keeping this space neutral, and play with silver, bronze, dirty gold or metal accents. For colour, try adding pastels or deep rich aubergine and gold hues.

Decorating with Brown Art

Pure sophistication

For a sophisticated look, try pairing brown with a soft white or ivory, which can be elegant and classic, or with black for less casual vibes.

Decorating with brown aboriginal paintings

Adding colour

Scientifically speaking, we know many colour combinations can be used to create the colour brown (such as red + green or orange + blue) and the range of possible combinations to create varying shades is just about endless. As a result, brown represents balance and harmony and can be paired with just about any colour or texture. 

Try picking one to three colours in each space however and stick with shades of those. Different shades of brown also work together and can add dimension to the space (think tan, taupe, beige, or cream).  

For example, if a water or winter vibe suits you, pair burnt umber and bark browns with deep midnight or stone blues. Add a touch of aubergine, lilac and/or a lighter sky blue to bring in a sense of the forest or the mountains. Or use brighter aqua's or turquoise with creamier shades of brown for a lighter beachy or worn turquoise look.

Additional tips

If you're new to incorporating brown into your environment, you might try the following suggestions:

  • Shades of brown coupled with green are an especially earthy pair, often used to convey the concept of recycling or earth-friendly products.
  • Very dark brown can replace black, adding a slightly warmer tone to some palettes.
  • Brighten brown with a mellow yellow or rusty orange.
  • Go smart but conservative with a mix of brown and deep purple, green, gray, or orange-red.

Visit our pinterest board for more inspiration.   

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