Brown Is The Paint-Color Shade You Shouldn't Be Scared Of

Calming and earthy? Warm and inviting? This color family has it all.

Bedroom painted Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze
Photo: Courtesy Sherwin Williams

There's nothing boring about brown. With a wide range that can skew positively royal to decidedly neutral, the hue is primed to take the design world by storm, adding a dash of elegance and earthiness wherever it goes. "Browns are gaining momentum in the home, and you can expect to see a lot of this color in 2023," says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. Trina Rogers, Color Consultant with Five Star Painting of Temple, Texas, agrees, and points to its roots for the reason we're feeling its gravitational pull right now. "Brown feels earthy, stable, and secure," she says. "It is a foundation that can allow other nature-inspired colors in a palette to really shine." From barely there taupes to luxurious chocolate browns, the possibilities for this color family are endless, but knowing the best way to put these shades to use takes an expert eye—or at least a few tips from the pros. Here we tapped Wadden and Rogers to share their favorite neutral brown paint colors as well as top-level know how for making them work in your space.

The Best Brown Paint Colors

If you're struggling with where to start your paint selection process, Rogers advises looking to the great outdoors. "You can't go wrong when you look to nature for inspiration in choosing colors for your home," she says. "Neutral earth-tones have become quite popular, and the choices are plentiful." With warmer colors on the trend forecast and the neutral category expanding by leaps and bounds, the time to play with these richer, yet still amiable, tones is now. "From bone whites to dark browns, any of these can be used as a neutral to warm up a space and be a stunning backdrop for any décor and style," says Wadden.

Brown living space
Courtesy Sherwin Williams

Wadden's list of favorite brown shades is a diverse crew with plenty of subtleties to play with.

"My favorite brown colors right now have a range of undertones, such as Foothills SW 7514, Homestead Brown SW 7515, and Rookwood Medium Brown SW 2807, all from our 2023 Colormix Forecast. I also really love the color Carnelian SW 7580, it's a red brown that is deep and rich and dreamy and really unexpected." If you're looking for more of a metallic-inspired shade, Wadden says Urbane Bronze SW 7048 is the way to go, particularly as an accent color on a fireplace or focal wall or even as an exterior paint color that will make the yard's green tones pop.

If you're still trepidatious, we get it. Brown can feel like a commitment—a deep, dark one—but, luckily, Wadden has just the ticket. "For those looking to step their toes into brown but aren't yet ready to take the plunge, I recommend exploring the color family a little further. The Sherwin-Williams 2023 Color of the Year Redend Point SW 9081 is a beautiful blush-beige hue that feels nurturing and not overwhelmingly bright or too neutral," she says. Because of its middle-of-the-row stance, it can easily shift from one area to another. "This balance makes it a smart choice for a home office as a backdrop against a computer or as the setting for self-care routines, like the bathroom or bedroom," she says. "On all four walls, it will cozy up a living room or dining room."

Living Room with Sherwin-Williams Redend Point
Courtesy Sherwin Williams

How To Pair Brown Paint in Decor

To make your brown shades come to life, Wadden advises keeping things natural. "Brown is an earth tone, which makes us feel grounded and more connected to nature. This feeling comes to life in a space when browns are paired with natural materials like clay, wicker, and wood," she says. When used correctly Wadden says tones of brown should create a calming and cocoon-like atmosphere. Her favorite way to achieve this is by not only painting all four walls of the space, but the ceiling too.

Whether you're looking for a way to add a dose of earthy richness to your existing palette or are hunting for complementary colors to bring out its full glory, working with the right shade range will be key. Wadden recommends looking at undertones first and foremost. "For instance, cool greys would work with taupes or cooler undertones. Blues and greens work great with all ranges of brown while warmer tones tend to work better with warmer undertone colors," she advises. Rogers thinks even the trendier blush-beiges and cozy white shades can provide the ideal pairing.

Kitchen cabinets painted with Sherwin Williams Antler Velvet S
Courtesy Sherwin Williams

The Best Spaces for Utilizing Brown Paint

First and foremost, the best spaces for brown paint are ones with good natural lighting, advises Rogers. This will keep even the darkest shades from making your room feel too heavy or closed in. When it comes to just where to use these rich shades, Wadden prefers to keep them front and center. "In interiors, I enjoy these hues in social areas like dining and family rooms," she says. "Warm tones can encourage true connection and get the conversation flowing."

Dark tones can quickly make a space feel dated, so striking the right balance with your design aesthetic is key. "To modernize the color, I recommend pairing deeper browns with a minimalist style and clean lines. This pared-down approach can help give a space a balanced look." For a more eclectic feel, she recommends pairing a lighter brown with lots of textural décor. No matter how you call on it, consider brown paint your décor chameleon, ready to bring out the best in your space no matter the style.

Bedroom painted Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze
Courtesy Sherwin Williams
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