Brown living room ideas can add coziness to any size of space. The color is seen throughout nature; from wood, sand to dry leaves, rocks, and more. It's why it's a color that's easy to work with and timelessly relevant to our living spaces.
When people think of living room color ideas, brown isn't often seen on mood boards and inspirational images as a paint color in its own right, but often through textures and materials. But, while it isn't as dramatic or dynamic as some shades, brown is a color of reliability and timelessness. And who says brown can't be glam? 'Brown is a lovely contemporary alternative to grey, offering a warmer tone for a light and fresh furniture and accessories to pop against,' says Anna Burles, principal designer at Run for the Hills. 'So a brown resurgence gets our vote.'
Think chocolate, nutmeg, warm toast, roasted coffee beans. Don't those sound delicious? Here's a look at the different ways brown can be used to style an interior, as laid out by top interior designers.
10 easy ways to design a brown living room
Brown living room ideas are already pretty much a mainstay thanks to materials like wood and leather, but when it comes to decorating your walls with brown, not every shade suits every room.
'If you have a room that doesn't get a lot of natural light, I would be wary of using too much brown, which can make the space feel dull and dark,' says Kirsten Blazek, principal designer of A1000XBetter (opens in new tab). 'Make sure you take a look at the undertones in your chosen brown, which can be influenced by so many other colors like purple, green, and grey.'
1. Choose a textural brown paint
You'll be surprised at the range brown paint has for an interior scheme. With the right shade and undertones, the color can open up the space and tie a few different styles together seamlessly.
Dark toned furniture looks best with light brown walls, the entire scheme offset by lightweight furnishings. Greenery can enliven the space and makes a bold statement against this deep hue.
Another way is to choose textured paint finishes that prevent the color from looking too flat. The tiny bumps and creases on the wall, with brown, can help create an earthy interior; one that reminds you of the outdoors.
'Neutrals, specifically browns, are far from boring,' says Leslie Murphy, principal designer, Murphy Maude Interiors. 'Browns are so popular right now because they connect us further to nature and give off a comforting and warm tone, evoking calm and restfulness, while still being upscale and elegant.'
'I also find that browns pop much more as dramatic, moody paint colors and keep the design feeling very clean and contemporary.'
'We’ve loved using a super dark brown/black in a limewash shade in one of our projects which looked cool, with Earthborn’s Chestnut Brown up to Dado height,' says interior designer Anna of Run for the Hills (opens in new tab).
'We then paired the brown walls with a fresh and zingy off-white sofa and light and bright fluoro art prints by DEX and it looked fab. We also used a lovely silvery brown sheepskin which again popped so nicely from the wood floor and dark inky brown walls. We’d love to do more brown palettes in the future and it’s a lovely contemporary alternative to grey, offering a warmer tone for a light and fresh furniture and accessories to pop against.'
2. Choose earthy wallpaper for pattern and texture
Choosing a brown wallpaper can help add movement to a space and give it a touch of grandiose. Ideally, a subtle pattern can add volumes of style and transform it into a contemporary scape. If you love dark brown wallpaper but want a brighter look for your living room, select a wall covering with a white pattern.
Another way to give your living room wallpaper ideas a glow-up is by choosing a satin-finish instead. If it's a textural design you're opting for, then grasscloth and other natural woven wall coverings are great choices for adding texture.
3. Introduce wooden tones
Wood is a timeless material, suited for every purpose and style. It is durable, sometimes rustic, sometimes exotic. The possibilities are endless, helping to cultivate anything from an elegant living room to a rural-inspired retreat.
While working with wood, it’s safest to stick to a maximum of just three wood tones in a space. This will help give warmth to the space and induce a feeling of cocooning. Usually pale tones work on floors, whereas dark to mid-tones are ideal for cabinets. If it's one accent wood tone you're looking for, a fully wooden ceiling like in this image can work wonders.
'Another way is through using brown on walls with wood paneling; or brown-stained wood window and door frames,' says Catherine Staples, interior designer, Aspen & Ivy (opens in new tab).
You can include wood tones by choosing ones with different textures so you can enjoy the beauty of the subtle differences between them for a tactile interior. Think engineered wood, smooth, and grainy wood, or even driftwood, all within the same space. Charming!
'When it comes to decorating a living room with brown, we like to add vintage wood tones to tie into the colorway,' says Leslie. 'Elements like textures, patterns, and organic pieces can make browns pop, making the overall design feel fresh and new.'
4. Choose taupe textiles for an earthy living room
It can be difficult to convert a large space into a cozy living room, but that's where color can come into play, especially with your furnishings. An earthy brown color spread across the fabrics can help create a unified look.
'Brown is an amazing and classic color, lending itself to nearly any palette,' says Jenna Schumacher, interior designer at Insert Design (opens in new tab). 'It is a versatile neutral that can be used for far more than just wood finishes. If you love brown right now, using it on items that can be updated in the future, like fabrics, allows you to enjoy it for the moment but reimagine your palette when your taste changes.'
5. Layer brown tones for a cozy living room
Layer your room with brown and feel its nourishing energy. Between the walls, the furniture, and the accessories, add browns ideally from the same family and tie it all together with a background of white or cream.
If you're thinking of redesigning a living room, consider a tone-on-tone layering technique of similar colors that help create a wonderfully snug space where nothing screams out at you. The only thing to keep in mind is when layering with one color, a space can read a little boring so it's best to bring in pattern, texture, and art that refrain the room from feeling a little too one-note.
6. Expose brown-toned bricks in a living room
If your home has a beautiful exposed brick wall, you won’t need to do anything more than show it off. And, there is no better way to have brown than in its most natural tones.
One wonderful way to use red brick in interiors is by keeping adjoining walls white or grey and going minimal with decor. Within a tight palette, you can establish your rustic living room's materiality and color palette. If the brick's organic texture seems too stark for you, consider painting it a light color that works well with your other decor choices. This space is the perfect example of untouched red brick done right.
A great way to create a wonderful contrast in a brick-feature interior is to go bold with other colors. Consider a black and white, red, or navy blue living room that looks fantastic against the organic brick wall.
7. Welcome chocolate brown sofas in your living room
'When designing a living room, I love using earthy colors, particularly brown, which tends to serve as a grounding color,' says Kirsten Blazek, principal designer of A1000XBetter. 'Browns can be neutral and work with a wide range of color palettes.'
When it comes to your furniture, brown can be an easy choice to make, thanks to the many types of materials that are this shade. 'I love using brown hues when working with leathers and wood furniture,' Kirsten adds. Compared to whites and beiges, brown offers a neutral living room idea that still packs a punch.
8. Bring in earthy decoratives for a natural interior
Go for an earthy chic look – a big modern living room trend. It's that light, bright room filled with natural wood, organic materials, and neutral tones. Modern yet spare, but never cold.
When you think of live-edge wood, rattan, cane, wicker, natural fibers, jute, and bamboo, they all evoke a sense of calmness, making you feel one with nature. Not to forget, they all carry with them, the softest brown tones.
These materials also induce whimsy in a space, making it feel like a resort tucked away in the hills. Natural materials have breathability to them and work especially well in hot climates.
9. Pair brown with complementary colors
Not all browns are created equal. This color can have red, grey, and even purple undertones, making it the perfect pairing with other bold colors. Think of cherry wood furniture or flooring, placed against a reddish-brown wall. The effect will be mesmerizing.
There are many colors that go with brown, for instance, black, red, blue, and cream. You could even consider pairing different tones of brown for an earthy interior. However, brown also makes a great partner for colder toned-colors such as blue and green, warming up these schemes.
'Brown is a neutral color, so it can be paired with most hues,' says interior designer Mary Patton (opens in new tab). 'I recommend choosing one pop of color and keeping everything else in a brown tone with a sheen to bring light into a space.'
10. Choose a dark wood flooring
The most common wood flooring in the US is oak or red oak. Durable and great for high traffic areas, a dark oak floor holds up well to wear and use. Plus it has a distinctive grain pattern.
Dark wood flooring can lay the grounds for a wonderfully welcoming interior, especially in a farmhouse living room. The floor can act as a neutral canvas and other tones can be easily overlaid via furnishings and paints.
Is brown a good color for the living room?
Brown is a color that very naturally takes over spaces. That's because most decor, furniture, and materials are in tones of brown, for instance, wood, leather, wicker, or brick. It's no question then, that brown is a wonderful color for living or family rooms.
Decorating with different shades of brown, can add depth to a space and enrich its overall palette. Think espresso browns, deep mahogany, and luscious latte shades. These colors are timeless and have an inherently elegant look.
Sometimes an overindulgence in brown can feel rustic and earthy, especially when using woods and red brick. The best way to counter that is to use creams, greys, and off-whites to anchor the scheme to a more modern one.
Brown also acts as a neutral, allowing other bright colors to pop out and look stunning. Lighter shades of brown, like tans and beiges, give a nice lift to other patterns and materials to shine.
How do you decorate a brown living room?
Generally, a creamy warm tan is a great choice for rooms that don't have a lot of natural light. Deeper browns can be used in rooms that open up to the outdoors.
You can give your living room a super dramatic look by pairing browns with purple or bright yellow shades. Pairing this neutral with pop colors creates an energetic, cheerful atmosphere.
Brown looks fantastic as paint, especially textured paint that gives the decor scheme some movement. If the paint isn't for you, then brown wallpaper works just as well.
This rich and understated shade can also be used in layers around the room. From light brown walls, and furnishings to carpets and flooring, a room can easily be doused in brown without making it seem too closed in.
Of course, playing with colors may not be for everyone, in which case, nature can do the talking. Dark timber with antique furniture to wall panels can create a contemporary and warm look inside the home. Also, wooden beams add a great architectural element to the room.
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.