Are interior colors getting warmer? Is brown coming back? And what does this mean for you?
I’m often asked if brown is “coming back”. This photo is my answer to that question. Yes, brown is being incorporated back into interiors, bringing some friendly warmth into a space. But notice these walls: they’re white.
Ten years ago, during the height of the “brown phase”, this same room would’ve been painted a tan color. I think white and light, cool colors like gray are here to stay, as the ground on which to anchor a room, but brown will show up as a “guest”, on a camel leather sofa or light wood kitchen island or earthy woven rug. (Notice the deep green of the plant. It’s important, as it helps to balance out the brown.)
What does this mean if you’re trying to update your tan “Tuscan” home? Or you’ve updated already, and now your home is all gray?
If you have a tan or brown home that was built or decorated in the 90’s, you can’t just leave it “as is” and celebrate that interior design trends finally came back around! (Sorry to disappoint, and all that…). Those tan walls, orange granite counters, brown furnishings and bronze drapes will still look outdated.
With most trends that cycle back around, each new iteration will be slightly reinvented. We saw this with brass plumbing fixtures, door knobs, and cabinet hardware. Brass has “come back”, but it’s not the glossy, yellowy brass of the 80’s, it’s a rosier, non-glossy brass, with straighter lines and simpler shapes.
And if you updated your home to a fresh white or gray, don’t panic!
Walls are not going towards browns or tans, but are staying white, off-white, or anything in a light, fresh neutral, like pale gray. Even beige is okay – but not browns or tans.
Case in point: I did a Pinterest search for “brown interior living room”, and here’s a screen shot of the results:
And please don’t go back to the limited color palettes of the 90’s!
We’re seeing jewel tones again (dark red, rich green, even saffron gold), but they’re being paired with whites, light neutrals, or other saturated cool tones – not browns.
We love jewel tones enveloping an entire room (ceiling, walls, furnishings), but that takes serious skill and vision to pull off. If you want some educated input on your color choices for your living room walls or kitchen cabinetry, we offer complimentary color consulting on our paint projects.
Here’s a summary of what I’m seeing out there:
White (or light neutral) walls, rich cool colors in rugs and furnishings (green, red, blue)
White (or light neutral) walls, warm but light colors in furnishings (beige, greige, pale pinks or wood tones)
Rich saturated (green, blue…) walls, rich saturated furnishings
What I’m NOT seeing:
Tan or brown walls, period.
If you want to use more warm tones now that brown is coming back again, start small and keep it balanced.
One brown piece of furniture is enough... not the sofa, chairs, rug, and drapes. Organic materials like in a wood coffee table are great – but even stained wood is now lighter and cooler in tone than the heavy, reddish stained furniture or cabinetry of old. Study the projects of high-end designers on Houzz or Pinterest. Read classic “shelter magazines” like Veranda, Elle Decor or House Beautiful. Notice how, when brown is used, it’s very rarely the dominant player.
The take-away here?
If you truly love your Tuscan brown living room that you took great care to design twenty years ago, then I for one will not make you change it.
However, if you’re on the fence about updating and you’re just hoping that in another year or two the brown tones will come back in force, I will probably be the bearer of bad news.
Design constantly cycles, but never truly repeats itself. Even with the increase of more saturated, cozier interiors, a 1990’s Tuscan-brown living room will still seem outdated.
The good news? If you really don’t like white, then updating brown rooms to more cool-toned, cozy colors will feel much friendlier to you, rather than just painting everything a stark white.
You can keep the brown leather sofa, just paint the tan walls in a beige or (if you’re bold) rich blue. Keep the gold armchair – but please get rid of the burgundy-and-tan drapes! (I list a few other offenders here.) Replace any deep red or bronze accessories with . . . well, almost anything else. 😉
You can do this!