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Maria Killam’s Trend Forecast for 2020

By 01/05/2020January 6th, 202052 Comments

The new colour for 2020 is BROWN

It took 11 years for brown to be back in fashion. No one wanted to wear it, because everyone was busy trying to eliminate the Tuscan Brown trend from their homes.

I do smile when I read articles declaring that ‘Earth tones are back’ just because people are seeing brown and warmer, beige tones in decorating.

However, how I know this for sure, is that my clients–locally and from all over North America–are NOT asking me for earth tones for their walls.

It’s white, off-white, cream, greige. The end. The palest of the pale. If they are smart, they consult with me, or my ebooks on how to choose colour or white instead of just painting their walls BM Chantilly Lace. Art gallery white is RARELY the right answer.

And you might be able to get away with painting your new build Chantilly Lace because you probably won’t have existing creamy trim, cabinets or travertine floors from the brown trend. However, it still won’t look right, because everything else in your decorating will be more off-white, cream or greige. It won’t look perfect, but you won’t be as offended as you would be by the wrong undertone in a neutral.

Related Post: 10 Steps for Planning your New Build

Ellie Cullman

Beige is most definitely back in decorating.  Just not for walls. It’s too soon, we just did beige/earth tones 10 years ago, it’s way too soon for people to start painting their walls BM Shaker Beige or SW 6122 Camelback.

So back to brown for a second. In the last 10 years that the grey trend has been going strong (trends have a 10 year shelf life) people would see ANYTHING brown and immediately declare that ‘brown was back’.

I also mentioned seeing brown at High Point in my last two trends reports, here and here. However, what that simply meant was that the consumer was open to adding it to their grey colour schemes to add warmth, NOT that it was coming back as the current trendy neutral.

I couldn’t resist posting this photo of me in my new brown coat and heels (brown is technically better for my colouring than black).

 Coat (The Bay)  | Heels

Anyway, here is a great example of brown being used in a fresh way in the showstopper brown room of 2019 by designer Eddie Ross (below).

Eddie Ross in House Beautiful October 2019

Notice how brown is being used to create drama? A backdrop to bright colour? This is a completely new way to use brown.

But Maria, isn’t this a clean and dirty combination?

Technically no, because the contrast is so high. If the “brown” here was more of a mid-tone pink beige , well then yes, it would look too muddy to support the clean white, coral and turquoise accents.

And the other thing that’s new about brown? We will be seeing it paired with crisp whites and off whites rather than cream (below).

Related post: 3 Surprising Reasons Your Colour Scheme Looks Dirty

Browning Architects

James Farmer

Where you’ll need cream (above) is if your house is still decorated with the more muted golds, oranges and greens from the Tuscan trend.

Complex Creams are in

As I just said, everyone is still obsessed with white walls, and the requests for grey walls have dropped off steeply.

Clients are asking for creamier, warmer neutrals–even beiges–in the palest they can be before they are white.

Complex Creams like SW Divine White (which can be found in my SW Foundation Collection here) are becoming more and more popular. Stay tuned for more about this category soon.

AND, if you are reading this and it’s making you unhappy that you have grey walls (not almost white) DO NOT despair, just add colour to bring it to life!

Creamy walls in Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi’s home via Architectural Digest

Black is hitting critical mass

And speaking of high contrast, black is hitting critical mass in homes near you. But my lovelies, we know better than to go off the rails and use black for every item and piece of hardware you install in our homes right?

I blogged about the black trend many times (including how easy it is to overdo it) since I first announced that it was coming 4 years ago here and here.

This is where knowing how to mix metals  becomes really important. Everything black really stands out in a white bathroom.

Notice here that the faucet and lighting are chrome not black. The windows and wood stained accents help lighten and prevent this kitchen from looking dark, flat and predictable.

Beautiful House

Arches are back

How long have we been trying to eliminate them? I’m trying to remember.

A beautiful arched doorway like this one never goes out of style, but like any trend when they are installed just because, well that’s when they can look wrong.

T.S. Adams Studio

Rattan Furniture

When you can buy a hanging rattan chair, that’s when you know it’s trending!

Serena & Lily

James Farmer Interior Design

Colour and Pattern

The white walls obsession isn’t going anywhere, but there is growing interest in colour. If Zillow’s 2020 prediction holds, we will see more colour and pattern and a move away from neutral Scandinavian minimalism:

Goodbye, Hygge (look it up). Hello, color! Fun will return to home design in the form of bold prints, lively wallpaper and brightly hued walls. After a decade of Scandinavian modern design that dominated retail and social media feeds as Americans embraced neutrals, minimalism and clutter-free living, expect a shift toward playful, creative design. Look for color to be injected in unexpected ways in kitchen cabinetry and appliances, in lighting fixtures and on interior doors and moldings.

Naturally, I would LOVE to see more colour and pattern in interiors this decade. Minimal all white interiors, while fresh and trending, simply don’t look NEW anymore.

Meg Braff

We might be bored of white but that doesn’t mean white kitchens and bathrooms are out

Richard Anuszkiewicz

And yes, this time of year for the last few years, bloggers and magazines have been eager to declare the death of the white kitchen.

It’s natural to look for the ‘next’ thing, and kitchens in natural wood finishes and new colours and tile are looking striking and new. But we also know that novelty does not equal timeless in the long run.

Time will tell if any of these innovative looks will turn into new classics, but meanwhile, you still won’t be able to pin point exactly when your classic white kitchen was installed. AND you’ll still be able to decorate your white kitchen or bathroom with any colour your heart desires.

Crisp white finishes are exactly what you’ll need to have the flexibility to introduce more colour into your decor going forward. It’s when you install the trendy neutral of the moment in your hard finishes that you get stuck in a trend cycle with no way out until a major renovation.

Kitchen cabinets in your favourite colour are always timeless

Along with the classic white kitchen, I can always get behind painting your cabinetry in just the right hue of your favourite colour. If you’re decorating your forever home, and not worried about appealing to every-buyer, go for it! You won’t regret it. Just make sure it works with your hard finishes.

Tiffany Brookes Interiors

Painted kitchen cabinets are definitely trending.

If you are choosing colours and finishes for your kitchen renovation this year, I can help here with my Create a Classic Kitchen online package.

New Traditional and Grandmillennial Style

Related to the (gradual) shift away from white walls and neutral, minimal decor, there is a call that gets louder everyday for plusher, more layered and comfortable traditional decor. House Beautiful has coined the term “Grandmillennial Style” (ie. Millennials that cultivate Grandma’s homey Laura Ashley style). Though I think aspects of this look have appeal across generations (everyone loves to label millennials, sheesh).

We called it out as the emerging “New Traditional” trend here.  It is a reaction to the hard edges and minimalism of the modern, contemporary, industrial and mid century modern looks that have dominated this past decade.

And yes, that includes the white modern farmhouse and white walls in general too.

Grandmillennial Style via Elle Decor

Ariel Okin Interiors

More colour, styling, fabric, drapes, detail and pattern all work for me!

So over to you! How do you feel about brown returning to the fashion and decorating scenes? Are you ready to approach it in a new way? Or would you rather leave it in the past?

Have you embraced the black and white trend? Or are you craving more colour?

If you’d like your home to fill you with joy when you walk in the door, let me help you refresh your home in the new year! With my Online Colour Design Services.

If you’re local, email my office.

Related Posts

Maria Killam’s Trend Forecast for 2019 (well, was I right?)

Ask Maria: Should I Buy a Black Sofa?

All Grey Home in 2011 and all Black in 2019

15966 pins


  • Julia says:

    I LOVE THIS TREND FORECAST. As a redhead I’ve always loved deep brown. It looks fabulous with those bright colors and whites! I think you are spot on, Maria!

  • June says:

    When it comes to brown….been there done that….BUT not like THAT!!!! That deep rich brown is gorgeous paired with the coral and turquoise. I could live with it.

    Sweet fluffy brown coat, you have there, Maria.

  • Judy Reed says:

    I apologize if I offend anyone, but I find the the brown in the first three pictures hideous! Spare me from ten years of that!

  • Mary Anne says:

    I love brown clothes, have an old brown coat everyone always loves! have some brown sweaters I’ve held onto too! I have brown furniture, but not the walls or window treatments ! I like it in small doses in the inside of my home! You look very good in brown too!!

  • Phylis says:

    I like how Brooke and Steve from Patina Farms have warmed their Scandinavian gray/blue antiques and linen upholstery with warmer whiskey/brown distressed leather chairs and warm hanging tapestry. Wasn’t sure at first, but I really like it now.

  • Lorri says:

    All neutral rooms can be as beautiful as a snowflake, but they miss the mark for me EMOTIONALLY. Modern streamlined furniture can be stunning as far as individual pieces mixed in, but rooms full of only modern bores me to tears.

    All this means I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the trends we are leaving behind.

    The aqua cabinets in that Tiffany Brookes kitchen are my vibe. Lots of whimsy and COLOR are my vibe.

  • Lynne McKiernan says:

    Never painted the molding in my home white like many of my neighbors. Waiting for stained woodwork to come back in style. Sounds like I may not have to wait too much longer. House built for n 1989.

  • Mimi Goldberg Shulman says:

    This is such a great recap and forecast post, Maria! Happy New Year!

    I have never loved brown. I feel like it looks best in the Mediterranean, where there is so much and such variate stone.

  • June says:


    Basically I’m right there with you!

  • Oh Maria, you truly set the standard! Thanks for combing through all the chatter out there and boiling it down for us. I love that stained (brown) furniture is back and though I’m 52 I’ve always loved “Grandmillenial” style – though I call it New Trad – or Chic Sadie Old Lady…or whatever. I grew up in Virginia where traditional style was always punctuated with fresh colors and whimsical patters (look at Monticello!). And I welcome more layered plushy looks. I loved wearing brown several decades ago so, of course, I’ll do it again. But I’m not ready for beige walls yet. My favorite line: “But we also know that novelty does not equal timeless in the long run.” I tell my clients, if it’s expensive and hard to replace lets stick with timeless and classic. Always works! Thank you for being our collective Color Guru! Xoxo!

  • Kay says:

    I have never liked brown as a paint color, nor in overwhelming amounts (e.g., covering entire walls and ceilings) as natural wood, and I frankly do not understand why it is trending again. On the other hand, Maria, you look fabulous in your new brown coat and heels, and I understand that brown looks right with your coloring. To me it’s all about context and personal preferences, not about the latest trend.

    Where I live, it takes a good five years for interior decorating color trends to take hold, and I expect to see newly redecorated homes for sale awash in grey for years to come. But I am busy buying up white and grey towels at Home Goods for my 15-year-old white and grey bathroom in preparation for the long dearth to come.

  • Jo says:

    Judy Reed – I agree!

  • DeTo says:

    The only other kitchen/bath color I’ve seen besides white that seems to work with most trends is very dark blue, such as navy blue. They seem to work with brown, cream, white, beige, grey, sage green, mauve, etc. It seems like all the trends during my lifetime work with white, but also with dark blue/navy. Thoughts?

  • paula says:

    how would you incorporate white and or gray with cherry cabinets? I have gray and white and blue lr and dr in an open concept with kitchen. This kitchen came with expensive cherry cabs and very tuscan granite and backsplash. Is there a way to marry the gray trend with the tuscan trend? I’d like to put in new backsplash and counters but not sure how to coordinate.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Sounds like off-white/cream countertops and backsplash would be a great replacement! Hope that helps, Maria

    • Sherri Clark says:

      Paula, thanks for asking the same question I had!
      We have a similar situation at our home and have been talking about updating, possibly painting the cabinets offwhite. My husband (who is a custom home builder, but not one of those nasty bossy ones) also wants to paint the tile backsplash. I’m just not sure how that might come out.
      The granite stays, and the 20×20 slate-style tile as well. I’d love to see posts with photos of how some of you have incorporated all these elements and how it works out!

  • Anne says:

    I completely agree with more colour, pattern, drapes, even, God forbid, a bit of clutter! A house can be both a showpiece and a home. I love the English country look with some paired down clutter, colour, pattern and layers. Bring it on!

  • Adelaide says:

    Brown is not a colour I would ever choose, but this trend can pass me by because I have “colour me happied” my home by following your advice Maria. Trends don’t affect me except for throw away accessories, but my large staple pieces of furniture are in colours I love against a griege background and wooden floors.

  • Marilynn says:

    I love brown always have. I think the key here is choosing colors that you love and will be timeless. I like looking at classical portrait paintings and notice a lot of brown and black together with gorgeous rich creamy white tones. Add a touch of blue or a rich yellow and I am in.

  • Sandy says:

    Happy New Year to you Maria, Terreeia and your family!

    I am still partial to clean bright colors including white and so I can see using brown to warm up these colors through touches of wood or leather finishes however I cannot see brown being used as a main color scheme. The examples you provided where brown is the main color scheme confirms my preference to leave it in the past. Really don’t want to head back into muted tones of Tuscany greens, powdered pink or blue.

    I believe staying fresh with white and clean colors would be more timeless. Keeping everything looking new.

    Just my thoughts and so grateful to be able to share with community of folks interested in the nuances of color!


  • Julie S says:

    As someone with warm autumn coloring I have always liked brown – but I will not be wanting large blocks of brown in my interior anytime remotely soon!! My piano is too much of a brown block, come to think of it. It is in a shadowy spot which doesn’t help. But I like bits of warm wood and case goods scattered through my light and sunny interiors. And I like a bit of the warm earth tones in decor and natural fiber rugs to liven up our sunny off-white, blues & greens decorating. The rock in our area is orangey so it feels right at home inside.

    I’m interested to hear more about the complex creams/palest beige wall paints you are getting requests for. I used these in several average-light spots of our home and I love the faint warm glow of these pale tones! I used SW White Duck and Behr Crisp Linen. They feel better, less dingy, than the 80’s navajo white that we were updating.

  • Mary Louise says:

    I’ve been living with tuscan colours on the walls – golden yellow, rusty-red and will be painting soon. I would actually like to get away from all the different colours and have just one colour for the kitchen, dining room, living room in what is basically an open concept 1960s home. I have a gold sofa, teak tables and gold-toned wood dining room. The living room has a large, north-facing room that lets in a fair amount of light. I was thinking about BM White Dove but also SW Creamy. Based on what you wrote about creamier colours coming back, should I use the Creamy colour.

  • Donna says:

    I love brown – in all it’s iterations! I love the colors of stones, wood, tree bark, coffee beans, chocolate labs, deer, chestnuts, aged metal, tortoise shells, stallions, eagles, old leather book bindings, whiskey, teddy bears, violins, baseball gloves, acorns, cinnamon sticks, truffles……… I would never be bored decorating with brown. I would imagine that there may be as many shades and undertones to browns as there are white, or grey. I have always included browns, both cool and warm, in various hues, in many of my home’s finishes. Like with white, browns have given me the flexibility to sample trends from the 80’s to present. For example, when Tuscan was out, and grey was in, all I had to do was cool down the brown palette with natural tones of greys and greige – and always lots of warm whites and cream. Well, I guess I just like brown – such a plain word for such a complex range of hues! Thanks, Maria, for this thought provoking trend forecast!

  • Gini says:

    I’m pleasantly amused to read the “grandmillennial” term. Since buying our Tudor style cottage last year, my husband and I have really enjoyed cultivating a traditional look inside. We left the floors as they came to us (a warm honey tone) and have decorated with antique rugs, a chesterfield sofa, and stuffy, super traditional dining set. So glad I resisted the advice we received to paint all the interior “bright white with black trim”.

  • Jackie says:

    As a former brunette with pale skin, and now silver haired, I do not look good in brown or warm colors, so I don’t like to decorate my home in them either. I’ve always liked black and white and high contrast color combinations… and like things light and bright. During the Tuscan trend, my home was taupe and white with black accents — and white kitchen, though I did have to live with travertine tile in the bathrooms. I agree with Kay: “To me it’s all about context and personal preferences, not about the latest trend.”

  • Elaine says:

    Love brown! Always have, always will. I love color, but sure like a black accent.

  • Anneli says:

    Thank you for your forecast. No I am not ready for brown but some of the pictures above is beautiful, like James Farmer.

    When I moved into my current rental, back in 2006, the livingroom walls were painted brown. And I added more brown with my brown leather sofa and brown armchair along with my IKEA Billy bookcase, in brown. What a nightmare! It took the landlord six months to redo the walls and I still haven´t recovered from those horrible six months.

    In Sweden we have some who are into wallpapers with lots of colour and pattern, mostly vintagelooking like William Morris.

  • Fran W. says:

    I’m happy to see traditional interiors making a come-back. Traditional is timeless in my book. I’m also glad to see the farmhouse trend winding down, as it has been so overdone. Great post, as always. And you look smashing in that brown coat. Love the bright yellow bag! 🙂

  • LilJDC says:

    We have been grand-gen-X for a long time, having inherited lovely antiques and an addiction to color and pattern from my parents. We have a very large family and a spare white minimalist house would be a nightmare.

  • BillP says:

    Does this mean that brown wood furniture is also coming back?

  • Lucy says:

    Trends are always exciting but in reality there is nothing new under the sun! It is what makes you happy that counts. To me if you stick with the basics and add color your home will always look on trend. I love looking at the way a lot of the designer are putting color together. Some need your course Maria and others are spot on!

    Your posts are always so well received and informative! Love them!

  • Tara says:

    That Kitchen by Richard Anuskewietz is the ultimate. Indescribably beautiful.

    Great post.

    I’m somewhat lamenting painting over my SW Bateau Brown accent wall (from 2013) in favor of SW Peppercorn in 2018, but it needed a change.

    I love color and pattern! Hooray for the new “Grand-millennialism”!!

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful images.

    P.S. I bought a new brown faux fur coat this past early fall, too! I was in Galveston for a conference and had forgot to pack a coat. 🙂 Luckily, the hotel dress shop had a limited but good selection. It gets a lot of compliments. But yours is gorgeous!!

  • JoAnn says:

    For some of us brown and beige were never out, and they were also never in the category of Tuscan style. Like some of the most famous interior decorators, we love brown wood floors, bamboo shades, grasscloth wall coverings, sisal and seagrass rugs, mahogany, teak, and butcher block counter tops, traditional classic antique brown furniture, and animal prints like cheetah, leopard, and ocelot. Touches of black look fabulous with brown. I’ve loved my chintz with a chocolate background and clear flower colors of golden yellows, pinks, greens, and periwinkle. It’s the basis of a whole house color scheme that is colorful, dramatic, and classy. Trends are just trends. I always decorate with what I love.

    • Connie says:

      I agree!
      I noted that most of the brown you mention have to do with softer texture–and that’s where I think brown works so well in almost any color scheme. Where it doesn’t work for me is in hard shiny surfaces like tile, counters, stone etc…

    • Liz says:

      I don’t care for the dark brown walls in Eddie Ross’s room, nor the bright peppermint curtains. I get its all about contrasts, but never been a fan of red and brown, just feels forced, not natural or comfortable. The walls should be white, red or pink or blue not brown. Its like all the fabric, white chairs say sunroom and the walls say wine cellar. Brown walls feel confining to me.

      Not a fan of the brown subway tile either. Although I can see men loving it.

      On the other hand, I love John Farmer’s room, it feels fresh, cozy with the white curtains and leather chairs, and like the blue lamps…, check pattern as they all feel natural and comfortable.

      I also love Ellen Degeneres room because it too feels comfortable with the heavy woven curvy arm chairs, rustic sideboard contrasted with lots of windows, midcentury modern vibe.

      I agree brown is great in wood, floors, leather chairs, …just hate an all brown room. That’s my two cents worth.

      Thank you Maria, for all your great up to date info and all your color wisdom!

  • jane says:

    I LOVE that brown subway tile bathroom!

    On the other hand, the beautiful island in the Richard Anuszkowicz kitchen is the opposite of user-friendly and it makes me sad to think of how little it will take to ruin its finish. It’s definitely a show-stopper, though.

  • Stephanie says:

    SO EXCITED about color, browns, and Grand Millenial style! Yes to personality!!!

  • cathy says:

    Is SW Accessible Beige considered a neutral, a beige? What is your opinion on this color for walls?

    • Maria Killam says:

      It’s a green grey, if it relates to your decorating or you have a lot of bright, clean decorating, yes! Maria

  • Diane Mussorici says:

    So happy to hear complex whites are making a comeback. Just painted my bedroom with divine white walls and they are so soft, warm, and absolutely divine.

  • Renee says:

    I enjoy brown on wood or wherever it is the natural colour. For me, it’s not so much as disliking brown elsewhere; I just find it depressing and always have.
    You will never find brown in my decor or on me. Most shades of brown and camel look fabulous on blondes (as it does on you, Maria) but not on brunettes with a yellow skin tone. It makes me look like death. Perhaps that’s why I find it depressing.
    Colour Me Happy is my motto.

  • Marina says:

    Hi Maria,

    Well, brown? I am definitely ready with new trendy brown ????. I know many people love brown, including my mom… She adores all tints of brown, but I personally love food related brown tones, such as chockolate brown, cappucchino brown, pale crem-brulee brown .. ☕????????
    I love reddish brown tones, but not the yellow ones .. I just adore Eddie Ross’s luxe room with combination of coral red, chocko-brown and turquoise. Also, Meg Braff’s coral-brown with violet-blue look very sofisticated. The tree wallpapers are my fave..

    I totally embraced the white and black design and firmly belive it will never grow out of fasion ????. Especially, coupled with wooden materials and natural textures .. I can’t take my eye away from Ellen Degeneres’s and the following Beautiful House’s kitchens with glass walls .. Also, black and white go perfectly with soft marshmallow pink, green or blue .. ????

    So, I say yes to brown, if it reminds me of tasty things ????

  • Cyndia says:

    I never embraced the gray trend for myself, even though I have specified it for clients that requested it. While my home is not in the Tuscan trend, I use warm creams and browns in my home but I use lots of color; navy, teal, coral, and my beloved greens. Always greens. It always gets compliments. And most of all, makes me happy.

  • Rose says:

    I have a dark green sofa and I had my walls painted Benjamin Moore’s Stone Hearth. The room has a lot of light. One site says that because of the undertones, green won’t work but that site showed a lighter green. Can you tell me if I should definitely repaint the walls or is there a chance the color might work?

  • Terry says:

    Maria, do you feel that Sherwin Williams Creamy falls into this trend of “light walls” close to white but not ‘art gallery white’? I too would like to have lighter warmer walls without having that stark feeling.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Well it’s cream, so if that works with your decor then it could be a possibility. Hope that helps, Maria

  • Holly says:

    Hmmm..brown tiles in the bathroom would make me think of…well…poop! No thanks! Even though I’m Canadian, I’m Scandinavian at heart. And while that style has white walls, I have white furniture & some grey instead, and beige & greige walls. Our house just doesn’t have enough natural light to make white walls work in our house, ends up looking sad & drab. But when I check my pinterest faves, I’ve saved all white walls lol. Fun reading about the trends, so interesting.

  • Rebecca Campbell says:

    I’m very happy with brown coming back. It also suits me better than black. It looks better than white and black when it comes to dirty feet and hands too. I got rid if a lot of light and clean colored rugs as they were all ruined by children and pets. Now my rig has rust and beige and some blue and its holding up. I have a lot of colorful upholstered furniture throughout the house. One room is kind of jewel toned. I wouldn’t mind painting that room brown.

  • Andrii says:

    I work for Pottery Barn and all my co workers call me Grandma, cuz of my style. Now I know I got style ” Grandmillennial Style” LOVE IT.

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