The world looks fabulous wrapped in the colors of fall. And at the base of this beautiful bouquet of radiant color is brown. Earthy, warm, soothing and satisfying, the color brown encourages us to slow down and snuggle in. And eat hot, buttery popcorn. Or, is that just me? I digress. Here are my favorite ways to work this dramatic, but undemanding neutral into your home decor.

Pair brown with lighter, brighter colors: A few years ago, brown was it. So much so that people were going overboard with this dramatic neutral. Folks were washing their homes from ceiling to floor in brown, with brown walls, brown furniture, brown artwork and more.

It didn’t take much to make the Brown Houses, as we began to call them, more visually appealing. The trick? Pair brown with lighter, brighter colors. We created a palette that is perfect for a living room, dining room or bedding ensemble using fabrics featuring browns, creams and pops of warm reds. Switch the red for navy and you have the same stately look.

Brown also looks great mixed with brighter, bolder accent colors. In a mix of fabrics, we added in a liberal amount of cream, then threaded in a bit of sage and celadon. I also love turquoise, apple green, fuchsia (any pink, actually), orange and yellow with brown.

Bring brown alive through pattern: The secret to keeping a focused palette interesting and alive is to swirl the colors together with lots of different patterns. The mix of patterns in the furnishings is the key to success.

Use brown to spotlight lighter accents and artwork: Great artwork can get lost on a light wall if you are not careful. But when you hang lighter pieces against a moody, dark canvas of brown, holy smokes! It pops! The walls in a gallery at Nell Hill’s are painted Molasses, one of my Mary Carol Artisan Paint colors. This is one of our most popular paint colors, and for good reason.

My friend Cynthia painted her dining room walls Molasses and the wood trim Garrity Cream. The light cream trim keeps the dark walls from feeling heavy or dull. And, wow, does it look great with her casual dining room furnishings. The brown is content to recede into the background and let the individual elements in the room shine.

Add brown to make spaces soothing: Warm and wonderful, brown pillows on a comfy cream sofa look ready for your Sunday nap.

My Top 10 list of decorating faves? A pair of brown leather wingback chairs flanking a fireplace. Be still my beating heart! The light stone fireplace surrounds, and blue walls and plump plaid pillows keep the chairs from feeling too dark. All this serene setting needs is you, a cup of tea and a good book.

Pair brown with earthy accents: The color of bark and soil and fall leaves, brown is a natural when paired with earthy accents. My friend Jean made her covered porch an ode to nature’s rugged side by furnishing her space in brown wicker chairs and irresistible textiles in a mix of browns.

A rustic wood table is a perfect celebration of brown in all its many shades and finishes.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at She can be reached at

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