Decorating with neutral hues will always be a classic choice. Perfect for creating understated interiors, neutrals are embraced across many design styles, from quiet luxury to minimalism.
There are many different neutral hues to choose from for your home decor ideas, but there's one that we've noticed cropping up a lot lately: light brown. Decorating with brown is being embraced by homeowners and interior designers alike for its warming appeal that adds depth to the home while remaining pared-back.
We spoke to interior design experts to understand more about this color trend, as well as rounding up five of the best light brown paint ideas to explore if you're looking to bring this hue into your home decor.
Why is light brown so popular?
'The past few years, we have seen people step away from the cooler white neutral interiors, instead opting for interiors that feel warmer and more inviting,' explains Tyson Ness, founder of Studio Ness, a full-service design studio based in NYC. 'Adding lighter browns, taupes, and fawn tones into your spaces infuses them with a warmth that is on trend and adds a level of depth to the creamier interiors we have seen rise in popularity over the years. By embracing camel tones, it allows the creamier hues to pop.'
Alison Palevsky, Owner and Principal Designer at Palevsky Co adds that light brown colors make an excellent backdrop color in the home thanks to their subtle look, which allows you to be more experimental with the rest of your decor.
'Light brown tones make a brilliant backdrop for any space because you can layer materials such as metal, wood, fabric or paint all in the same neutral family. If the space you’re designing remains mostly neutral in color, adding even the smallest amount of pattern or texture will show it off,' explains Alison.
Bre Hance of InHance Design Build adds that the rise in popularity of these brown hues also has links to the organic modern decor trend: 'I love how light browns compliment the organic craze that’s happening right now. The palette keeps a space feeling neutral and warm, while also being able to mix well with darker hues, or whites depending on what vibe you want for the space.'
How to decorate with light brown
It's clear that light brown can be an effective color choice in the home, but how exactly should you style these warm tones? Below, designers give their suggestions for how to decorate with light brown, whether you want to make a statement or use it as an accent color.
For Kara Piepmeyer of Studio Kosma, incorporating light brown hues in cool color schemes can be just as effective as in warm color schemes: 'It pairs beautifully with cool tones for a high-energy, high-contrast, pop. But it brings a soothing, comforting sensibility when used with other warm tones like terracotta or raspberry pink. I love that it can make a statement in a space, but doesn't feel harsh and cold like blacks or grays tend to do.'
And if you want to create a subtle look, opt to paint the accents, as Tyson Ness advises: 'Another beautiful way to add some light brown hues to your space without doing full walls is to highlight trim and doors; this works especially well if you have a lighter-toned, neutral wall in whites or creams.'
Bre Hance adds that you can also opt to paint more unexpected elements in the room, such as the fireplace: 'When it comes to incorporating light browns, a fireplace mantel can stand out with a brown stain, which brings in a cozy, earthy wood feel without feeling too bulky. Another way to tie in light brown is through stacked stone or veins in marble to bring out the natural features.'
There are also many ways to decorate with light brown through smaller decor ideas, as Bre suggests: 'I love incorporating light browns through soft furnishings like oatmeal linen drapery, throw pillows, and rugs with browns. As well as accessories like coffee table books that have brown tone covers, as well as wood candlesticks, and picture frames.'
'Mixing in rich brown velvet throw pillows or a plush brown rug are easy ways to add warmth to your space with just a small investment,' adds Kara Piepmeyer.
If you do decide to embrace this warm hue, make sure you also offset it slightly with some contrasting colors to complete the look: 'There are tons of ways to tie in and balance the brown palette look with lighter furniture, brighter colors in wall treatments, greenery with plants, and more of your favorite accessories that will complement your light browns like whites, gold tones, a pop of blue, or mid-tone greens for an earthy aesthetic,' explains Bre.
What are the best light brown paints?
Below, we've rounded up five of some of the best light brown paints as recommended by interior designers, to help you on your way if you're looking to channel this trend.
1. Pale Oak, Benjamin Moore
'One of my favorite light browns is Pale Oak,' says Bre Hance. 'I actually have it on my own kitchen cabinets! It is such a neutralizing color that will make a space feel cohesive throughout and leaves room to either make the space feel light and airy with light floors, countertops, and backsplash, or organic and rustic with more textured materials with darker colors and complementary browns and copper throughout.'
For a subtle look, opt for Pale Oak which is a warm-toned neutral brown, perfect if you want to ease yourself into decorating with brown.
2. Ligonier Tan, Sherwin-Williams
'I also love Sherwood Williams' Ligonier Tan,' says Bre Hance. 'It is a richer, light brown that works great for bedroom walls. It has a more orange undertone and gives a beautiful calming countryside autumn ambiance to your space.'
Somewhere between a brown and a beige, Ligonier Tan is a great option for a subtle look that feels endlessly warm.
3. Treasure, Portola Paints
'If you are feeling bold, try going with a warm, light brown limewash,' suggests Tyson Ness. 'Treasure by Portola Paints gives a warm tone that embraces an interior with warmth.' If you do choose a limewash paint, you will also benefit from the textural look these paints give the walls, perfect for adding rustic charm to your space.
This deep taupe hue is a limewash paint which gives a weathered and natural finish.
4. Davenport Tan, Benjamin Moore
'Davenport Tan by Benjamin Moore offers a mid-range tone,' says Tyson Ness. 'Given the rising color trend, it’s easy to find these shades in your favorite home shop to add to your space. For a look that feels curated, opt for varying shades of the color to add depth, and keep an eye out for texture as well; embracing velvets and bouclés will add to the cozy factor.'
Davenport Tan is a gray-brown, perfect for creating a classic look that pairs well with cool-toned accents.
5. London Clay, Farrow & Ball
Lastly, Tyson Ness also recommends Farrow & Ball's London Clay which is versatile to decorate with: 'London Clay by Farrow and Ball is a rich brown that compliments darker and lighter tones alike.'
London Clay is a rich yet slightly muted shade of brown that would look great in a living room for a cozy feel.
Embracing light brown in your home decor is a great way to add warmth and interest while still maintaining a fairly neutral look. We predict to see more of these hues embraced in 2024 as an interior design trend since they're such versatile tones with so many options for styling.
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Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.
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