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Color Psychology in Decorating: Brown

Color brown

Brown is a rugged color, created by mixing all three primary colors, red, yellow and blue. It is solid, earthy and connotes strength and reliability. Also warmth, security and comfort: think of all the wonderful foods that are brown: chocolate, hot cocoa, the crust on a roast, whole-grain bread. It can also be rich; think of the sheen of polished saddle leather or riding boots, or a leather briefcase or handbag, or the luxe of leather furniture or car seats.

The very reliability of brown, however, means that it can appear boring. Too much of it, in any shade, can seem institutional or indicate a lack of creativity; in its shade of beige, it can simply be dull. Brown can also evoke sadness and isolation. The phrase “a brown study,” which today means a state of deep thought, originally denoted a state of profound, dark melancholy.

Brown comes in a huge variety of shades and hues. Brown shades with more red or blue in them, like rust or siena, are cooler in tone; browns with more yellow or orange will be warmer. Because of the variety, decorating with a monochromatic brown scheme can be fashionable, but to avoid dullness, it is necessary to combine tones: a rust-colored pillow, a khaki throw and a chocolate brown chair can work together in the same room.

Cool brown shades are complimented by pink, grayed purples, blue and teal; warm browns take golds, oranges and reds and yellow-y greens. Ivory and cream, whites with some yellow in them, can soften the edges of browns. Earth-friendly shades such as sage greens, sky blues, yellows and oranges are always good go-withs for brown.

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