Mixing Brown & Black, Beige & Gray in Design & Decor
I created this article with advice for mixing the neutral palettes of brown/beige and black/gray back in 2013 and it remains one of my most read blog posts. I’ve updated it several times and in 2019 is the latest update of projects and a new video. Do you have questions about how to blend these colors in your decor? Contact me.
Over the last several years the neutrals of choice have shifted from the brown and beige spectrum to the grays and blacks and now whites are also gaining popularity. Gray tones are hot right now in both interior design and in fashion. If you will be renovating soon, it’s a great time to incorporate more grays and blacks into you home. But what if you completed a remodel or new decorating scheme just a few years ago? Are you worried that your brown-based interiors will look dated? I know that a few of my clients felt that worry. I’ve worked with them on stunning solutions and I want to share those with you.
The good news is that we are talking about neutrals and no neutral is ever “out of style”. Neutrals are classic, timeless and always a good bet for major pieces in your home. They make a great base on which to add color and have longevity. However, if you find yourself working with a very brown and beige base, I have some tips to help you incorporate grays and blacks and blend it all together for a timeless, balanced and livable interior. In fact, by incorporating neutrals from the black and brown and white color bases, your home will naturally be more classic and timeless.
This room is a fabulous blend of tan and gray, with touches of black and blue. Perhaps you find yourself with a tan sofa. Paint an accent wall behind it in a striking charcoal gray to really make the sofa contrast against the wall and give the room an update. While this room is primarily neutral, because it is pulling from both the brown spectrum and black spectrum, it is a more dynamic neutral palette. The bold pillow fabrics add a little something extra.
Here we see the same concept: gray walls behind a tan sofa, with a tan jute rug and white pulled in with the chairs. However, this room also incorporates lovely fabrics that blend the grays and tans. These fabrics, in the drapery and pillows, bring the room and colors together elegantly and seamlessly.
If an accent wall or gray walls won’t work in your home, there are still plenty of opportunities to add gray to your beige sofa. One easy tip – add gray accents. In the room below we see gray throw pillows, throw and dining chairs. To punch it up a notch, orange pillows add a little spice. This particular view doesn’t show art or window treatments, but that would be another opportunity to add both the gray and orange for a complete, balanced design scheme.
The interior designer of this room has taken a more combined approach. The furniture pieces are a combination of both grays and beiges. It works so well because the furniture fabrics are in the same tone – not mixing light and dark colors, but an even balance through all pieces. The green accents help to pull the various pieces together in harmony. The warm gray walls and area rug serve as appropriate backdrops, complimenting the combination.
I’d like to introduce you to the most recent room in which we incorporated these tips. This home was an early 2000’s build when brown and tan were all the rage. When it was time to update the master bedroom, the clients wanted to add more back and gray elements. The whole home has a tan carpet and the adjoining master bathroom has brown tiles, which we needed to blend with the scheme. To keep our room anchored with some brown elements, we used wood, and a lot of it. We started with the new walnut furniture. Natural walnut has some dark and gray veining, which bridges to grays easier than an really red wood species or stain. Then we added a reclaimed barnwood to the ceiling. Again, the aged, reclaimed wood has darker and gray character. With our brown base in place, we added a medium gray paint to the walls and added back and gray in the fabrics and artwork. The room now has a rustic chic and slightly mountain vibe that our clients desired.
Finally, incorporating both browns/beiges and blacks/grays can be done in the more permanently designed areas of you home, not just furniture and decoration. This bathroom design features a soothing balance of gray and tan. It’s earthy and spa-like. It works so well because there are multiple uses of each color. We see gray in the floor tiles and again on the painted walls. Tan was used on the wall tiles, countertop and again on the woven roman shades. The repetition of colors creates a harmony and balance in the space.
Below is a kitchen remodel completed by Beautiful Habitat in which we mixed browns and blacks for a timeless interior design. The rest of the house is in browns and tans. We purposefully added black to this kitchen update to blend with the house, yet pull in the black. The granite is a beautiful black and brown combination. We mixed black glass tiles and travertine in a custom backsplash design, made more interesting in the vertical installation.
I originally wrote this article to answer a common question which I was being asked: How can I mix gray into my brown home? And that I’ve done that. As I reflect back over the last several years of the gray and black trend, now moving into whites, I have also encountered clients who felt that they have to change to keep “updated”, but they don’t really like gray. My advice is always to do what speaks to you and never blindly follow trends. On that note, the two projects below are cases in which the clients specifically wanted warmer neutrals: brown and beige. The initial worry is that they were unpopular, but with our help we were able to give them a classic, timeless look they love.
Want more design tips?
Want hands on guidance and exertise for your home? Schedule a Discovery Chat with me today!