Colour Stories: Brown

Times are changing for the colour brown. Unfairly dismissed for many years as dull and uninspiring, brown is set to be big news in the next few years. Colour trend analysts have predicted that it will take over from grey as the ‘strong neutral’ of choice. And what’s not to like about a colour that uniquely connects us with the natural world and goes by such comforting aliases as chocolate, toffee and toast? To find out about the history of brown, how it literally saved lives and how to use it successfully in your home, read on……

Brown Top Picks

Warm, welcoming and versatile - here are our brown top picks!

Let’s start by getting the terminology right

Brown is not a hue but a shade. It is not found in the visible light spectrum or on a colour wheel which may have been to its detriment in the past. In order to make brown, the three primary colours of red, yellow and blue have to be mixed together. It’s earthy depths can only be created by darkening down other colours meaning there’s no bright, luminous version of brown. For this reason, even though prehistoric cave painters used earth pigments to create their masterpieces and ancient Egyptians ground up mummies to make a brown paint, the colour was for centuries dismissed by artists. Impressionists such as Camille Pissarro layered unblended primary colours to create the illusion of brown rather than mixing them.

The dismissal of brown as a paint colour was as much about snobbery as anything else. The pigments necessary to make brighter colours were harder to come by and therefore the preserve of the rich. Similarly, bright, colourful dyes for cloth were difficult to obtain, marking out the wearer of clothes in vibrant hues as wealthy and powerful. Brown was left for the poor.

Brown’s rise in popularity

The reversal in brown’s fortunes can be traced to two key factors. Firstly, in the 18th century, outdoor sporting pursuits became increasingly popular amongst the wealthy. After all, tan and buff were more sensible colours to wear if you were trying to blend into your surroundings whilst hunting your quarry! For similar reasons, the British Army slowly realised that camouflage was the way to save men’s lives during battle rather than the traditional habit of clothing soldiers in highly conspicuous colours to enable them to spot their comrades. It’s thought that the change of approach was responsible for preventing thousands of premature deaths and of course, khaki is still the colour most associated with the military.

The psychology of brown

As brown is the colour of earth and wood, it is said to make us feel safe, supported and reassured. It can have the depth of black but is softer and more yielding. Rather than being oppressive, it’s welcoming and warm. There’s a good reason why many hotels and traditional clubs choose brown for their decor - it’s charming, understated and invites relaxation. You’ll want to spend time in spaces that do brown well.

How to decorate with brown

It’s almost impossible to go wrong with brown and it’s great as an accent colour to ground a scheme in a softer way than black. Colours as diverse as teal and baby pink look fabulous against dark chocolate.

For a warm, rich, autumn-inspired scheme, team orange-browns such as our Sunset flax and Paprika linton fabrics with chocolate, berry and more vibrant orange tones. Perfect for curtains or blinds in a dining area as these colours are known to simulate palettes as well as conversation.

Tonal schemes are the ultimate in sophistication and work particularly well with the multi-varied characteristics of brown. Combine our Cappuccino or Khaki cotton twill with darker and lighter tones of brown for a sumptuous look. Liven things up by adding metallic accents in copper, bronze or gold.

As brown moves more towards grey, it remains just as versatile. Our Mushroom and Taupe silks look great with a whole host of colours including greens of all descriptions and lots of white.

Discover all that the ‘new grey’ has to offer by checking out our beautiful brown fabrics today at….