After years of minimalist decor and a nearly-blank color palette, we love the latest resurgence of rich, bold colors. But if you’re not sold on the bright, maximalist hues trending these days, we have good news. Earth tones—and, most specifically, shades of brown—are also making a huge comeback for 2022.
We turned to some of our favorite designers to find out what it is about this hue that has people so excited, and how to incorporate it into your designs plans without throwing it back to an unwanted retro vibe.
01 of 07
Brown Acts as a Grounding Earth Tone
Though popular colors have cooled off over the past decade—with taupe, gray, and white at the forefront—decorators are beginning to warm up their spaces.
“Right now, there’s a shift from cool greys and bright whites to warmer tones like brown, rust, and green,” Jenna Schumacher of Insert Design Studio notes. “Brown is an amazing and classic color, lending itself to nearly any palette.”
Kirsten Blazek of A1000XBetter agrees. “My favorite colors to incorporate into our designs are colors that are found in nature, and brown is one of my favorite colors to include,” she says. “It acts as a neutral, grounding color.”
Brown is an amazing and classic color, lending itself to nearly any palette.Continue to 2 of 7 below.
02 of 07
Brown Adds Color and Texture
Unlike other colors, brown can do a lot of the heavy lifting in a room, as it works well in almost every material.
“Interior design and fashion are close friends when it comes to what is ‘in,’" Eilyn Jimenez, founder and creative director of Sire Design, points out. "Recently, we see the rise in brown in both. For interior design, this came to fruition in wood choices. People are no longer afraid to use rich, warm woods.”
Blazek likes to include browns in textiles but notes that pops of brown can come in the form of flooring, wood furniture, and leathers as well. "It can really add lots of texture and layering to a space," she says.
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03 of 07
Brown Enhances the Naturalistic
Bea Copeland, a design consultant at Hudson Design, makes another point about brown: it works so well across textures because brown is so naturalistic.
"Brown is abundant in nature, so finding ways to incorporate the color in its natural form is always going to look special—think exposed beams, a leather statement chair, or a live-edge coffee table," Copeland notes.Continue to 4 of 7 below.
04 of 07
Brown Encompasses Many Hues
As with all colors, ‘brown’ is really an umbrella term for a wide array of hues. This is why it’s important to consider what you mean when you think brown.
“We are using a lot of taupe for wall colors now, which feels warm yet neutral,” Alice Arterberry and Barrett Cooke of Arterberry Cooke share with us—and many designers agree with this sentiment.
“Brown in a deep, neutral form is a staple color in the design world,” Amy Youngblood of Amy Youngblood Interiors says. “Not the reddish-brown we saw in '90s hardwood floors, but a grayer-tone that goes with a myriad of popular colors.”
Blazek agrees that the tone of brown can affect the entire space, so it's important to get it right. “There are so many shades of brown, so choose wisely if you're painting a whole room in a brown tone,” she says.
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05 of 07
Brown Pairs Well With Any Palette
If you’re worried about pairing your brown with the right accent colors, most designers agree that nearly any color will do—it just depends on what look you’re trying to achieve.
“Brown is a classic, timeless, and neutral color, and it works so well with other colors,” Catherine Staples of Aspen & Ivy says. “Chocolate brown sofas, especially dark ones, are practical and neutral. Brown sofas warm up an all-white room, and we know how popular white walls are.”
“I love incorporating brown into casual rooms such as a family room as brown lends a more cozy feel,” Youngblood suggests. “Dark brown pairs well with softer colors, such as light blue and blush—both very on-trend.”
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06 of 07
Mixing Browns Is Tricky, But It Can (and Should!) Be Done
Just like mixing materials like metals or wood can be tricky, so can mixing your shades of brown. But, mixing shades is key to a fresh look.
“When I think of ‘too retro’, I picture matching furniture sets,” Copeland says. “Using a variety of brown tones and textures can keep a room from feeling flat and matchy-matchy.”
As a rule of thumb, Arterberry and Cooke suggest assessing your whole space. “When pairing wood flooring with cabinetry, go a few shades lighter or darker, keeping in mind horizontal surfaces and vertical surfaces will cause colors to read differently,” they say.
This is especially true in rooms like the kitchen. “We are always playing with shades of brown, especially with wood cabinetry and flooring materials,” Arterberry and Cooke note. “We generally start with a medium-toned brown floor and then play lighter or darker with other finishes."Continue to 7 of 7 below.
07 of 07
Brown Works as a Perfect Accent Color
If you’re not ready to go all-in on brown, Jimenez tells us that brown is a stunning accent color.
“Rugs, side tables, or wallpaper with brown as a base are great ways to use a darker color without making spaces feel compact or old,” she says. “Additionally, blending brown-toned accents with more modern materials like marble can create beautiful juxtapositions of color and texture.”
“Brown walls can infuse warmth and drama into a room, for instance, or create a luxurious feeling on upholstery,” Schumacher agrees. “If you love brown right now, use it on items that can be updated in the future, like paint and fabric.”