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  • Writer's pictureDann Foley

Brown is the New Grey

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Finally! The shift is happening. I don’t just mean that Fall has arrived (which is an exciting change, in itself), I am referring to the change in palette now sweeping the industry. Today is all about every color, shade and tone of brown! From rich dark cocoa, to golden caramel, to woody warm taupe. This fall/winter in home and fashion, it is all about brown as the perfect accent or palette.

As a designer myself, I have been pushing my clients away from all gray homes and rooms for several years now. I have always felt that a home should reflect its owners and an all-gray room just doesn’t do it. After years of gray, gray and more, gray we are finally seeing a shift in retail offerings beyond gray.

So here is the thing, I am not opposed to all neutral rooms, I love them as much as the next guy. In fact, I have executed many over my almost 40 years of designing private residences and commercial projects. Neutral rooms are actually harder to pull-off because they require a very skilled hand and eye, to assure the room isn’t lifeless and void of personality when you rely neutrals to tell your story.

The thing about change is, you cannot avoid it and styles do change. Some we applaud as they go, others we lament. I want you all to be excited about this change! I want you to realize that neutrals don’t have to be lifeless or cold. In terms of gray, as with anything, if it sticks around too long, it becomes tired.

Gray has always suggested “nothingness” it is the lack of color. The trick to any color is to get the shade right. I still live with fantastically chic deep charcoal gray walls in my study, at home. I love it and have no intention of changing it anytime soon. Having said that, it is the mix of everything, the relationships between all the pieces that creates that personal picture of any room.

Sounds like I might be backpedaling, right? Not at all! When a product, in this case gray as a color, becomes completely homogenized in our retail world, it gets boiled down to its least common denominator, its least offensive and innocuous state. In other words, it has had its life sucked out. What we have been left with is a pale, cool gray that is lifeless, says nothing and reflects badly against the skin.

Here is the terrific news, brown (and every shade it offers) is still a neutral and will work with most gray tones. I am not suggesting you need to repaint your entire house. What I am suggesting is to take a good look at your choices and the quantity and shades of gray in your home. The trick is to know how and when to blend these warmer neutrals in with your existing grays for maximum impact and personal expression. So, how do you use these new browns? How do you keep those new shades from being lifeless? Well, I have some tried and true advice for you. These are easy how-to ideas you can implement when considering your own home.

· Here is the easiest thing to remember about brown. It is what we refer to as a forever color. That means that it is never really out of style, it is a constant. So, even though you are going to be hearing a great deal about brown as the “new trend” in home décor, don’t be scared because it is timeless.

· If you follow color psychology, you will find that brown leaves you feeling calm and secure. That is exactly what we all are trying to achieve in our homes.

· Brown can make any room cozier and more intimate. Two words made for your home!

· The folks who are in the know about such things also remind us that brown is at the center of the New Minimalism. All too often, minimalism has been defined as boiling down your space to its most simplistic form. All shades of white and gray can be too stark.

· The pandemic made all us crazy for our homes, and why not since we were all trapped. What we find now that people are back out is that their homes are still more important than ever and we still love neutrals, those neutrals are now based in the earth and its warmth.

How do you apply brown without dumping all your gray. Well, I have some tips for you on how to incorporate the new “it” color, as well. There is no reason to eliminate all your gray. Depending on your shade gray, you can enliven and update the look with a few creative strokes.

· Cooler grays, the kind I see most often in home décor offerings can be very chilly. It is time to warm up! Begin with mixing in multiple shades of brown from dark to light in things like throw pillows or bedding. What you will find is that your gray can actually appear to change as it reflects your browns.

· If you have painted your entire room gray and don’t want to face that project again, try just painting your accent wall, or even better, try some pattern on those walls. The number of choices is innumerable and there are plenty of patterns that include both browns and gray in the palette.

· One of my favorite ways of changing the entire look and feel of a room without redecorating is to change out the window treatments. Rich jewel tones in brown in curtain panels can create instant drama.

· For those vintage lovers out there, especially our midcentury enthusiasts in Palm Springs, brown is a return to the very best of the 70’s decorating. It is now and it is vintage. Everything old is new again.

As always, I want you to feel empowered by your decorating. I want you to love your home. I want you to enjoy the process of creating something purely personal. These suggestions are not about telling you that you somehow got it wrong. It is just one more exercise in making sure that you got it right, for you! Truly, who else matters.

Live Well!

Dann Foley

DesignerDann @Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest & HOUZZ

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