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Brown is common color when it comes to furniture. Take into account your leather couch, the wooden dresser in your bedroom, and the legs on your dining room table. But while brown furniture might technically be the same color, we all know that different shades of brown, materials used, and design principles can create a variety of aesthetics in your space. This is especially true when you consider the rest of the room– what color (or colors) are your walls painted? What color and style of area rug is beneath your sofa?
If you’re trying to curate a specific vibe in your living room, for instance, the first step is to choose a color palette that both pairs well with your brown leather sofa and creates the feeling that you’re looking for. Luckily, since brown is a neutral earth tone, “It’s easy to mix with almost any color palette,” says designer Tracee Murphy.
We talked with design experts to assess which colors pair well with brown furniture, as well as advice on when to use each color.
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:
Grace Hoffend, Senior Interior Design Specialist at Maiden Home
Another neutral color, white and brown work together to create a welcoming color combination, as evidenced by the seating area above. The above dark wood coffee table draws the eye in, while the taupe couch and light brown window shades create an airy, comforting atmosphere. Tracee Murphy says that “Brown is a fabulous neutral with lots of warmth. White is an easy compliment to brown, which will give you a crisp, classic look.”
“Any shade of brown combined with warmer whites will give you a clean contrast that’s perfect for bringing a more tranquil vibe to any room.”
Karen Rohr agrees, adding that “Any shade of brown combined with warmer whites will give you a clean contrast that’s perfect for bringing a more tranquil vibe to any room.” Rohr also suggests adding black accents through metals or wallpaper, transforming the room into a sleek and sophisticated space.
Shades of Brown
Combining different shades of brown is a technique used by designers to create layering in a room. Allison Wright recommends incorporating shades of browns to create a more neutral, natural space. However, for a bold, strong look, Wright suggests bringing in a deep blue color or utilizing bright greens.
In the room above, the dark brown furniture combined with light walls, a medium brown sofa, and accented throw pillows creates depth and drama. There’s such color variability that you don’t even notice the varied brown tones! Nonetheless, the room feels deeply comforting and homey, accentuated by the variety of available seating, lighting options, and plush pillows.
Cool tones work with brown furniture as well. “One popular option is to pair brown furniture with cool tones like blue or green, to create a calming effect that is perfect for a living room or bedroom,” says Karen Rohr. “You can bring in these colors through small accents such as pillows or any other accessory.” In the room above, plants are used to create green accents throughout the room— a fun and interesting way to add a bit of color!
Tracee Murphy advises being cautious of the particular undertones of the brown you’re working with, and suggests pairing brown furniture with lighter shades of rose, peach, greens, and blues. The addition of lighter colors can bring out the highlights in your brown furniture pieces.
No matter the shade, brown creates a feeling of dependability and warmth. For those looking to add excitement, Tracee Murphy suggests adding bright pink, blue, or orange, if it suits your personality.
Jenna Gross agrees, advising folks to “Go bold with a deep brown, especially if you want to update an antique furniture piece.” For example, Gross says that the wood frame of an antique loveseat pops when covered with fuchsia velvet.
While the use of color in the above room may not be for everyone, it does use color to create energy and make a statement. The bright pink walls and floral wallpaper ensure that anyone who enters takes notice. However, for those looking to use vibrant color, make sure that the room gets plenty of light, as a dimly lit room filled with vibrant colors will not have the same effect.
Caramels and Creams
When pairing colors with your brown furniture, “Pay attention to how warm or cool the browns are in your room and use that to guide your color palette,” says Kristin Kong. Kong says that she likes to pair brighter colors with cool browns, and caramels and creams with warm browns. However, she likes to add a little pop of color here and there too, “To keep things interesting.”
“Pay attention to how warm or cool the browns are in your room and use that to guide your color palette.”
In the room above, the greenery in the corner serves as a “pop of color” while the lighter brown couch and cream armchairs blend harmoniously to create a soothing atmosphere. The chocolate brown coffee table, located in the center of the seating area, makes sense surrounded by lighter tones.
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A dark blue, like the shade of the bookcase featured above, can create a bold statement when paired with a dark shade of brown. While the neutral tones in the rug, walls, and drapes in the room above work to create a relaxing vibe, the strong blue of the bookcase draws the eye in and adds some energy to the space. While this particular blue creates a strong statement, a softer blue can do the opposite: create a calm and relaxing space.
In the room above, the light wall paint makes the room look bigger, while the orange light fixture creates contrast when paired with the dark blue wall.
To create a sense of energy in your space, pair brown furniture with warm tones. Grace Hoffend suggests utilizing terracotta and forest green, as they’re some of her favorite tones. “But if you like a neutral style, start with vibrant brown tones and pair with a really warm light gray or white.”
Additionally, Hoffend suggests combining brown with a golden yellow, a great way to achieve a youthful room look. Golden yellow can be added to the space with an accent chair, wall paint, or small home decor accessories like throw pillows.
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The Color Schemes that Work Best with Brown Walls
As brown is a color that exudes comfort, stability, and reliability, it plays well with many color palettes. Tracee Murphy says that, “Warm colors are an easy match with white, pink, and pastel wall colors. It even works with different shades of brown.” Additionally, Murphy says that providing high contrast will give you drama, while using colors in the same tone will provide a softer, quieter, interior.
Karen Rohr takes a different approach to color palettes, and advises thinking about color depending on what feel you’re trying to create in your space. “If you wish to make the room feel open, try combining brown walls with shades of neutral, primarily white, to create a contrast where the white will balance the intensity of the brown.” Rohr suggests considering a light blue, teal, or green to introduce a refreshing vibe that will still create a calm energy.
Sasha Weilbaker is a freelance writer with bylines in Thrillist, Business Insider, and The Vegetarian Times. She's particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and materials. In the wild, she can be found cycling around New England, scouting coffee shops, or obsessing over new podcasts.
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