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How to Design With Any Shade of Brown

Design Trends

With our recent announcement of Art and Craft (DET682) as our 2022 Color of the Year, we we highlight a warming trend in color. Gray tones are moving to browns, which are cozy, comfortable, and just as versatile in design.

Decorating with Brown

Depending on whether you want the space to feel open and airy or dark and mysterious, there’s a shade of brown for every mood. Here’s a small selection of our top trending browns for 2021:

With the wide range of browns Dunn-Edwards offers, let’s dive into creative ways to use brown:

Light-Brown Tones
A great place to begin designing with warmth is with a selection of lighter-toned browns. These colors provide a hint of color, tying in the elements without major color commitments.

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Dark-Toned Browns
If your design plans need drama, look no further than the range of dark chocolate hues that bring a dynamic, glamorous effect to a room.

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Warm-Brown Tones
Hygge-style warmth and cocooning are in order with this range of browns. This selection is peaceful and tranquil, like a late-autumn afternoon.

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Cool-Brown Tones
Earthy-inspired browns are rich and calming, creating a space of moody sophistication.

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Photo Credit: Bethany Nauert


Case Studies Highlighting the Beauty of Brown

Slow Living in the Sonoran Desert
A slow-living lifestyle was a key driver for the design of the Combs’ home in the Sonoran Desert. Building on their brand, Joshua Tree House, Sara and Rich purchased the 40-acre property on the edge of
the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. with the goal of opening the space as a meditative retreat for those seeking a quiet place to rest and recharge.

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Photo Credit: Bethany Nauert


The color palette chosen was a blend of warm neutrals, honoring the local desertscape. “We took a Dunn-Edwards fan deck marked with the Dunn-Edward 2020 Trends colors out into the desert and laid it down in the sand next to the surrounding cacti. We loved the idea of creating this palette that would be very similar to the one we would have ended up with if we had built the structure from the sand itself,” Sara stated.

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Photo Credit: Bethany Nauert


Dunn-Edwards consulted with the Combs on the color direction, who immediately found inspiration in the 2020 Color + Design Trends story Co-Habitants, which showcases desert hues, and reveals a sophisticated earthiness and muted luminosity in its palette. “We felt particularly connected to the Co-Habitants story, which is all about being champions for the Earth; finding a certain luxury in stillness, quiet and the ordinary; and drawing influence from a series of experiences and places we’ve visited throughout our lives.”

Bohemian Oasis
Nestled in the desert area of Joshua Tree, California lies a bohemian retreat known as Casa Joshua Tree, renovated by owner, artist and designer, Lindsay Hollinger, who lives and works there, hosting workshops and a yearly creative residency for visual artists and writers.

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Photo Credit: Lindsay Hollinger

Hollinger’s style is a mix of minimalist, modern and bohemian with an emphasis on natural materials and simplicity. With this in mind, the patio redesign focused on the desert views and landscape, “Everything is about the beauty of the natural environment. I wanted the space to integrate seamlessly with the views, so
color choices and materials were all based on that idea. And I really, really wanted a porch swing. I had a vision of sitting on a swing drinking coffee every morning, and I had to make it a reality.”

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Photo Credit: Lindsay Hollinger

East Meets West at Oeste
Inspired by the arid beauty of Yucca Valley, California is Oeste, a project recently completed by Claire Thomas. This project provided a blank canvas for Thomas and property owner-partner Yayo Ahumada to
showcase their love of the desert and Thomas’ vision for the residence.

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Photo Credit: Claire Thomas


“I have this philosophy that when creating a home, especially one that isn’t your primary residence, it should really transport you. So, when thinking of Oeste, Yayo and I were inspired by our trips to Mexico and Morocco—two places we love for their rich culture and eye-catching colors,” stated Thomas.

Check out more information on how to design with brown, more trends on warm neutrals, and our 2022 Color of the Year announcement.