Behind the Color Brown

Learn why this earthy color evokes a sense of security and how you can use it to your advantage.
Neutral Contemporary Living Room With Graphic Wallpaper and Cowhide Throw Rug

Neutral Contemporary Living Room With Graphic Wallpaper and Cowhide Throw Rug

Photo courtesy of West Elm

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If you want a color that encourages your family and friends to slow down and relax, brown can be the solution to your problem. A weighty and robust color, brown represents nature and natural materials.

Use brown to highlight stronger colors like lime green or orange, or to tone down a room. Brown gives you an earthy richness that makes a room feel warm and inviting.

"Brown is less harsh than black, so I'll use a creamy vanilla white for the walls with a deep-brown bronze color for the crown molding," says interior designer Shannon Kaye. "The look is modern and elegant and the combination shows off artwork and sunny spaces beautifully."

Neutral Contemporary Living Room Filled with Wood

Neutral Contemporary Living Room Filled with Wood

Photo courtesy of SPG Architects

Photo by: Daniel Levin

Daniel Levin

Photo courtesy of SPG Architects

"Brown is the color of wood, which is a stable color that we inevitability have in our homes," says Elaine Ryan. "What we need to do is counterbalance all that brown with another shade on the wall."

Brown comes in many different tones and shades, and offers the kind of variety you need for both the interior and exterior of your home. Medium-toned brown molding looks inviting when combined with muted sage-green walls.

Mix things up by painting your walls a rich chocolate brown to create a sophisticated backdrop for neutral accessories. Brown can be paired with burgundy for a swank dining or living room, or used with pale aqua to create a lighter and airy feel.

"Contrasting light and dark and mixing textures is how you want to use brown," explains Kaye.

Bye-Bye Boring Brown Kitchens

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Cafe Kitchen Design

When we think of brown in the context of drinks, javas, espressos, and cappuccinos come to mind. Using coffee cabinets and milky-white subway tiles creates an inviting combination for a modern, industrial design. Designed by Randy Weinstein

Repurposed Style

Repurpose old stools, chairs and architectural salvage – all in warm, neutral browns – to create the feeling of a custom, casual farmhouse kitchen. Photographed by Lisa Warninger; Styling by Chelsea Fuss; Designed by Orange Design and Construction

Eat-In Kitchen

Combine a shiny, sophisticated countertop with casual captain's chairs for a one-of-a-kind gathering space. Top it with a candle tray-lamp and you've got the perfect conversation starter.

Old World Charm

Rich textures of brick and wood present a sense of intimacy in this grand, Iitalian-style kitchen. Designed by Thom Oppelt

The St. John's Wort of Color

Brown calms us, which is why it's a great choice for high-traffic areas. Using different shades of wood adds architectural dimension and a contemporary flair to this kitchen. Designed by SPG Architects

Photo By: Daniel Levin

Classic Color Combination

White acts as a blank canvas for rich textures without making this kitchen feel cramped and dark. Photo courtesy of IKEA

On the Open Range

In this contemporary kitchen design, earthy tones and materials flow seamlessly into the great outdoors. Designed by Ron Radziner

Oak Cabinets Withstand Trends

Custom woodwork pops against glass subway tiles, giving this narrow bungalow kitchen a vintage look. Designed by Rebekah Zaveloff

Modern Design

Design diva Candice Olson combines stainless steel and wood for an informal-yet-modern kitchen. Design tip: use cool gray and warm brown to suggest a down-to-earth sophistication.

Rustic Kitchen

Gray-browns are more casual than chocolate. Layer lighting – ambient, task and accent -- to create a family-friendly vibe. Photo courtesy of Hinkley Lighting.

Warm and Inviting

Casual and relaxed, this family gathering space is designed for a gourmet chef, yet approachable for the novice cook. Copper elements add a touch of elegance. Designed by Lori Dennis

Ways to Create a Down-to-Earth Space With Brown

  • Soft browns like beige, flax or linen can add warmth to the walls of a kitchen.
  • Mixing cool blue with dark brown evokes the feel of the earth and sky.
  • Combine a masculine brown with a feminine color, like a light purple, to add softness in a space.
  • Brown and pink is a natural color combination (think cherry blossoms) that's well-suited for a young girl's bedroom.

Next Up

Outfitting a Home Office in Brown

Inspired by vintage wallpaper, a TV executive created a masculine home office using smart storage solutions and shades of brown.

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