Bring neutral tones into your home with brown paint
The ultimate chameleon colour, there’s a shade of brown to suit every room in your home, from rich cocoa and deep russet to smoky taupe and pale mushroom.
Not traditionally considered the prettiest of colours, brown is having a comeback in modern interiors. "We are seeing a resurgence of brown in all its different shades from deep chocolate brown to soft 'greiges' (grey beiges)," says Davina Harper, colour expert at Dulux. "Brown is a lovely earthy colour that evokes a sense of reliability, security and safety."
Why we love it
Brown’s appeal lies in its versatility. Fill a space with dark cocoa, taupe and umber and you’ll feel instantly cosy. Or paint your walls a lighter hue to create a welcoming backdrop for every decorating style from rustic to retro. Brown has an earthy and soothing quality and is often referred to as nature’s neutral. It also plays nicely with almost every colour, and is the perfect foil for tactile timber, concrete, brick and terrazzo.
Choosing your hues
Think about the purpose of the space. “In the living room, you’ll want to gravitate towards warm, earthy tones to generate feelings of comfort and relaxation,” says Rachel Lacy, colour category manager for PPG. “Whereas in the kitchen, where you want higher energy levels, go for a spicy brown with undertones of red and orange.”
Next, look at how much natural light your space gets. Lighter hues reflect artificial illumination most successfully, so if your space has low natural light, go for a pale, buttery brown like amber or suede. Darker hues work best in open-plan spaces and any room where you want to create a cosy atmosphere – think shades of coffee and chocolate.
Tip: “Reddish browns and rich, chocolatey hues make wonderful accents. These add depth and warmth without completely dominating a space” Kelly Magee, British Paints expert.
Earthy tones promote relaxation in living zones, while high-energy areas like kitchens are ripe for spicy hues.
With its associations of calm and stability, brown lends itself well to sleeping spaces. “Deep, dark browns like British Paints Dark Master will create a cocooning feel, while a soft, creamy brown like Set In Stone will make your bedroom feel airy,” says British Paints expert Kelly Magee. Continue the theme with accessories that take their cues from nature: a jute rug beside the bed, timber bedside table and a chunky woollen throw over linen sheets.
To create intimacy in larger rooms with lots of natural light, opt for a deep, rich brown; walls in British Paints Timber Loft.
The great outdoors
Brown isn’t just a practical choice for exterior walls, it’s also the perfect foundation to recreate the sun-scorched feel of the Mediterranean. Choose a rich, muted tone such as ochre, sepia or terracotta and accent with pops of pinky-red, sunset orange or peach. Just remember that lighter browns will reflect the sun and keep the inside of your home cooler, while darker walls will absorb heat and keep your house warmer.
Paint a single wall for impact and add interest with varying textures and tones.
Dark browns look fantastic with bold colours like orange, or more muted hues such as pale pink. At the other end of the spectrum, lighter browns love blues, greens and jewel tones. For a soothing 70s palette, pair with cream, apricot, clay and blush. Davina points out too, that, depending on their shade, browns generally tend to go well with other colours found in nature, such as sage green.
Combinations of brown and blue can be succesful: think camel and navy, tobacco and teal. If you’re still unsure, look to colours that sit opposite brown on the colour wheel. “Try colour blocking a terracotta brown like PPG Warm Wassail against an adjoining wall in dusty blue like Shindig,” says Rachel Lacy.
For flexibility, add a stronger tone to a portable element, such as a room divider.
The right white
Vanilla and chocolate, coffee and cream – you only have to look at a dessert menu to see why brown and white work so well. Choose a white that shares a similar tone to your chosen colour. Most browns have a warm undertone, so try to avoid cool whites that have a bluish undertone. "We are seeing warmer whites like Dulux Cardrona Half and Sandfly Point becoming more popular. These pair perfectly with warmer browns," says Davina.
Your colour palette
1 PPG Ground Pepper
2 Dulux Reddy Brown
3 British Paints Sandy Gorge
4 PPG Primitive
Pick your perfect shade of brown
Head into your local Bunnings store to pick out the perfect shade for your house.
Photo credit: Lisa Cohen, British Paints; James Moffatt, PPG Mike Baker