Design Recipes: The beauty of brown

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

In many ways, deep rich brown has replaced black as the new neutral. Not quite as harsh, it adds warmth and richness. Brown, like a well-oiled piece of wood, often contains various tint and tones that, to some, may be more appealing than black.

Brown and white

When it comes to creating the perfect color palette, there is nothing quite as pure, timeless and versatile as decorating using brown and white. Brown and white simply serves as the perfect blank slate for creating virtually any color scheme you desire.

Don’t be afraid to use a simple all-white color palette, as it can be crisp and fresh. Be open to the possibility of creating a pure brown and white palette as the stark contrast of the pure white paired with the rich brown, which can be stunning.

Foundation color

A versatile way to decorate with brown is to use it as the main color in a space, then pair it with a single accent color such as yellow, green, orange or even turquoise. Warm colors work really well as accent colors against chocolate brown and can add an appealing sense of luxury and coziness. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in an accent color by using an accent wall. Some of my most successful designs ever have involved the use of pure white furniture or a white and black color scheme, highlighted by a bright, bold accent wall!

Be bold

When it comes to color, I believe it should be both seen and heard. Instead of a muted or watered-down brown, go bold! I suggest using a deep chocolate or caramel brown to create a cozy room or a light brown or khaki to create a neutral yet warm and inviting space.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at