At first glance, it feels like brown is making a comeback from the 90s, but this new brown colour trend is different. Here’s what is new about the brown trend and some of my timeless guidelines for not going overboard with this new trendy neutral.
Last week Vogue wrote an article outlining why brown is taking over interiors in 2022. Some of my followers were alarmed and messaged me on Instagram about this startling new trend. Follow me here for daily tips about colour and decorating, oh and my outfits of the day 😉
I think many of us are still traumatized by the espresso brown from the Tuscan trend. But let’s be clear, the brown that’s trending now is cognac brown and I’ve been talking about it for a few years now. See my posts here and here.
Browns from the Tuscan trends are NOT back
It’s been over 10 years since the Tuscan trend technically ended but builders kept installing espresso cabinets for several years after, which eventually made the look was way overdone and tired.
Before I continue, let me just say that there is NOTHING inherently wrong with espresso brown from the Tuscan era. It simply got overused like every trendy neutral does when it’s having its moment – just like grey.
Espresso and chocolate brown have quietly just slipped back into rotation with all the other colours that we might choose to decorate with – like in this photo below. The difference is that brown is simply not in the spotlight anymore.
The new trending brown colour is cognac
Because the brown that’s currently having its moment is warm and toasty – in the range of cinnamon to orange cognac. And for once, this is good, because cognac just so happens to also be a timeless leather sofa colour. And now, since it’s available at every price point, the average person can afford to buy one.
Before this shade became trendy, a cognac leather sofa was closer to $10,000.
The cognac sofa is the gateway to a warmer colour palette
As I mentioned here in my colour trends report at the end of 2021, when a warmer colour like cognac starts trending, people literally start “warming up” to everything ORANGE.
This means warmer paint colours (see below) as well as wood panelling and hardwood flooring.
It also means if you didn’t get around to replacing your honey oak floors with the espresso colour that was trending in the 2000s or the world of grey in the 2010s you’re pretty happy right about now.
Saying this dates me, I know, but the last time I specified this shade of deep orange beige (see below) for WALLS was 2002, right before the cooler espresso brown trend arrived on the scene.
How do you know if you are working with orange beige? Grab my neutral colour wheel to reference perfect examples of all 9 undertones wherever you go.
Of course, when brown looms large on the scene, beige is always along for the ride. And while pale complex creams are going to be the most versatile way to dip into the warmer trend for most of us, we will also see these deeper beiges reappear too.
A happy accident between colour trends
For the consumer, tackling a project when the major neutral trend is shifting can get confusing.
Last week I received an SOS message from a client who said the siding going up on his commercial building was NOT the siding he had chosen. His contractor had ordered the wrong colour and most of it was installed already. He said, “I have 5 opinions, none of them professional. And if it has to come down, it’ll cost the contractor $150,000! Will you come take a look?”
Here’s what was installed (above). I’ll show you the entire project when it’s completed, however when I was there, I pointed out that 5 years ago, we wouldn’t even have considered keeping this orange/yellow shade. But right now, it reads cognac, the colour we are busy warming up grey and white with everywhere. So painting out the pink brick that didn’t work with it was a better option than replacing all the siding.
I also mentioned that every commercial building right now is some shade of cognac with black and white or grey, like this one (below).
What’s new about the brown trend?
The NEW brown trend is bound to be different than both recent iterations. If you remember, there was the warm, orange to ginger combined with a sage green phase of the 90s. Then in the early 2000s it shifted to the cooler, espresso brown trend. Each colour trend lasted roughly ten years, plus overlap between early and late adopters.
Now, it looks like the new brown and beige trend has more to do with the former colour trend of the 90s, warmer (more orange) overall. And, obviously, sage is here too again to coordinate.
For many of us, it’s a welcome change from the overly cool and stark spaces of the grey, black and white trends. Which is precisely why it’s here. And like any major shift in the trending neutral colour palette, the most important thing to remember ONE THING:
It’s ok to embrace the new colour trend, but don’t tip into overdoing it (aka, making it the default choice for everything).
Because that’s all too easy to do – you know, let your decision fatigue take over and make every choice brown – because that’s also how it goes bad. I’ve worked in the world of colour and design through enough of these major neutral colour trends to see that it’s ALWAYS the problem.
Timeless guidelines to embrace any new neutral trend without going overboard
I can tell you with the confidence, built on years of experience, that the safeguards and solutions to overdoing a trendy neutral are also always the same:
- Incorporate PLENTY of WHITE and cream to keep your room looking fresh and timeless.
- DO NOT CHOOSE EVERYTHING in the same neutral colour range that is everywhere in the stores at the moment, remember to practice restraint and deliberately create balance and contrast.
- Certainly, DO NOT REPLACE all the fixed finishes in your house like flooring and tile in the trendy neutral of the moment. Because eventually, you’ll be facing a complete renovation AGAIN in 5 or 10 years.
- ADD COLOUR. Choosing decor in your favourite colour, rather than the neutral tone that happens to be saturating the market at any given moment, is always the best bet for longevity.
Over to you my lovelies… Are you embracing the cognac brown colour trend yet? NOT like you must, just asking 🙂
If you’d like your home to fill you with happiness when you walk in the door check out my eDesign packages here.
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P.S. Heads up! My brand new ‘made with real paint’ Understanding Undertones™ colour wheel is still available. You can still get one at the introductory price, which is going up MONDAY, Februrary 21 at midnight! Get it here now if you’ve been thinking about it.