Updating a Tuscan Brown Home? Here are 6 Tips

Updating a Tuscan brown home, 6 tips, blog post, interior design, Paper Moon Painting

Updating a Tuscan Brown Home? Here are 6 Tips

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If you’re ready to start updating your Tuscan brown home, where do you begin?  What will have the most impact immediately?


Do you start with painting the walls?  (Not a bad plan!)  New rugs?  Furniture??  Moving out of the Dark Ages (the “Brown Phase”) actually starts with decluttering!  Because most homes designed during the Tuscan/brown phase (in the 1990’s and early 2000’s) have a lot of “stuff”, the first place to start is the accessories.

 I don’t mean household clutter here (although it’s always a good idea to keep stray cereal bowls, mail, and kids’ toys in check).   Rather, I’m referring to decorative items that are inextricably tied to the Tuscan phase and which can’t be transitioned to a new style.  Getting rid of these items will allow your home to “breathe”, and let you evaluate with a fresh eye.  After that, you can move on to bigger-picture changes.

I’ll begin with six easy decluttering steps to take.  Well, I say they’re easy… the hardest part may be convincing yourself or your spouse that it’s okay to get rid of something that cost a pretty penny once upon a time.  But if it has outlived its usefulness and no longer brings you joy, it has to go.  And if you see yourself (or something you own) in these photos, please don’t be offended!  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do . . .   but if you update, I promise you’ll be glad you did.


Let’s start with the proverbial low-hanging fruit:


Updating a Tuscan brown home, STEP 1:   No more fake plants!!

  • Take down ALL fake ivy throughout your home – over your kitchen cabinets, in the corners around your tub, tucked into your bookshelves.  Donate or trash these offenders:


updating a tuscan brown home, step 1, no fake plants


Step 2:  No more gold (or bronze, or burgundy) decor!



  • Eliminate any accessories that feature the old-school accent colors used in the Brown Phase, like burgundy or deep gold.  This means getting rid of that expensive silk flower arrangement with the dark red flowers, and the bronze embroidered runner than it sits on.  You do want to update, don’t you?  (cheeky grin)

updating a tuscan brown home, step 2, no gold accessories



Step 3:  Take down the scrollwork!

  • Get rid of those wrought iron scrollwork “accent pieces”!  Like these…  They were “in” once, but not any more.  (Sometimes you can make them work in the back yard or patio area . . .)


updating a tuscan brown home, step 3, no wrought iron scrollwork     eliminate wrought iron scrollwork

outdated brown bath with scrollwork



Step 4:  The heavy drapes have got to go.

  • I know they seemed like the epitome of lushness and elegance at one time, but heavy drapes are out of style, and no one does valances any more, period.  This is bad news for the drapery workrooms of the world, but good news for the rest of us, who no longer have to spend an arm and a leg for custom window treatments.  I know you paid quite a bit for yours, but now they’re just holding you back.  Either make a gown to impress Rhett Butler, or donate the fabric and trimmings to charity.  Bonus:  your home will seem much lighter and more open without them!  If you need privacy, go with simple panels in lighter tones, or shutters or shades.


updating a tuscan brown home, step 4, no heavy drapes     eliminate heavy draperies



Step 5:  Get new lampshades.

  • This next one is emotionally easier:  replace all your tan lamp shades with new ones in white or cream!  But don’t get the old bell-shaped or flared style.  Lamp shades now are straight-sided, like simple drum shapes or rectangles.  In this picture below, I’d remove the ivy, replace the lampshade with a cream one, and put in cream or off-white candles.  The table is pretty enough.  Paint out the brown walls, and you’re practically updated already!


outdated brown lampshade table vignette



Step 6:  Tackle the artwork!

  • Review your artwork with a critical eye, especially any prints.  Do they look like they belong in a hotel hallway?  Out they go!  If you’re keeping any favorites, update the mats to a fresh off-white or cream.  No tan or burgundy mats, please!


By the way, don’t be in a hurry to replace your artwork, even if it’s in a key “focal point” area like above the fireplace.  Give yourself some time to realign your senses with a less busy space.  You can always fill the gaps in later, but live with it as-is for several weeks first.

Here’s what I mean by prints that have got to go:

outdated brown phase artwork

more old artwork     outdated artwork


(Have you seen enough brown walls, fake ivy, iron scrollwork and cheesy artwork to last you a lifetime now?)



At this point, most of the Tuscan “brown phase” clutter should be gone.

The decluttering was probably painful and exhausting, but your space should be looking noticeably lighter and brighter now.  Give yourself a pat on the back – this was the hardest part, emotionally!


Again, live with the openness for a while.  Yes, it’ll feel like there’s a lot more empty space on your walls.  That’s okay – interiors are much more streamlined and “breathable” now.   You know how you see the word “curated” everywhere?  It just means that you only display the most meaningful, beautiful, carefully selected items.  Don’t fill space just to fill it.   Too little is better than too much… and probably won’t seem like “too little” to anyone else.



The next step in updating a Tuscan brown home is removing the “brown”   –   replacing some of the larger pieces and doing some bigger-impact changes.


Here’s where you’ll start spending a bit more, moving from simple decluttering to a more thoughtful, planned update.  I know I have a “vested interest”, owning a painting company and all, but I think painting  comes next.  The simple reason is that your walls and ceilings (and in a kitchen, your cabinets) are the biggest surface area in your home, and painting provides the greatest bang for your decorating buck.  That’s why all of us at Paper Moon love doing this . . .  we live for seeing the before-and-after impact that a fresh paint job will bring.  (And if you’re not sure which colors to use?  We offer professional color consulting on all our painting projects.)


By the way, Maria Killam has written a nice post about how to update your home from the Tuscan brown phase.  It’s a few years old now but the advice is still solid.   We link to it on our Design Advice page, or you can click here.


Once you’ve decluttered and painted, you may find that’s enough to give you the update you wanted.  Updating a Tuscan brown home really comes down to 1) getting rid of the old decor, 2) painting your walls and ceilings, and 3) updating your large-scale pieces like the sofa or area rug  –  feel free to call us if you’re ready for “Phase 2”!

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