Style: Brown is the base of a great space

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

A steaming cup of hot cocoa … logs in the fireplace, ready to light … piles of leaves, raked in the yard … a forest of twiggy bare trees, resting until spring. Brown is the story of fall. And, I think, it’s the story of a well-dressed home.

But an over-saturation of brown, or brown done badly, is like a too-tight hug from your great aunt: It means well, but its leaves you gasping for fresh air. Here are some tips for striking just the right balance of brown in your home.

Use a spectrum of shades

For decades, chocolate brown has been a color crush for many of us. Maybe it’s the name. Who could turn down a color named after this life-giving confection? But I think the best rooms don’t camp on one shade of brown, but instead, thread in this versatile color’s many hues, which range from cool to warm, whisper light to deep dark. By mixing together a variety of patterns, each showing off different tones of brown, groupings feel cozy and rich, but not heavy or stale.

Tell the story through textures

Brown is just one of those colors whose story begs to be told in textures.

One of my favorite ways to layer up a room in shades of brown is to weave in a variety of textiles, all with different patterns and weights. Pick from wools like a Harris tweed or herringbone, plush velvets and lighter weight cottons for your upholstered furniture, window coverings, accent pillows, bedding, throws.

Leather is another irresistible way to add texture to your cozy room. Maybe your bliss is a leather sofa or ottoman, or just a leather accent or two, like a leather clad clock or photo frame. Want a wilder, more rustic look? How about a cowhide?

Of course, one of the most natural and easy ways to bring in a variety of browns in lots of different textures is through your wood furnishings and finishes. Whether it’s a rich mahogany table that’s been in your family for generations or a coffee table made of driftwood, wood furniture and accents are the pillars of a space.

A perfect pairing

Brown is one of those remarkable colors that looks amazing with just about everything it’s paired with. Think of brown as you do black, a versatile base upon which you can build any look you want, from sleek modern to timeless traditional. This time of year, I love it showcased with the yummy colors of autumn, from mustards to burnt orange to olive green. On this bed, we mixed together cool and warm tones of brown, then added in ox blood red, amber and cream.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at nellhills.com.