There was a time when “brown” suffered from the awful stigma of being thought of as an ultra conservative and unimaginatively dull, and totally lackluster color. Let’s face it, brown used to be boring. Brown is easy to mix, as every five year old will tell you. Ask a child what colors make brown, and they will gleefully tell you red and green, or orange and green.
Technically, brown is a tertiary color, which means it is obtained by mixing secondary colors. Secondary colors are green, orange and purple.
Technical theories are always nice in theory, but artists seldom pay any attention to them. That is simply not the way to arrive at a sumptuously gorgeous shade of brown, or any color, for that matter. Artists prefer to “feel” color, and through years of experimentation and practice, they/we just know what to put together to create that beautiful color.
Brown’s first cousin “beige” used to be a cop out for people who could not stand color, people who were afraid of color. So beige became the choice for the non-committal folks, who preferred to make their environments as plain and restful as possible. Note, I didn’t say simple. Simple is entirely different. Simple can be very bold, it can be conservative, as well as bright and colorful.
These brown and beige prejudices don’t apply anymore since shades of brown have become so rich and luminescent. People look gorgeous against a brown wall. One of my favorite brown paint colors is Whittal Brown HC-69 from Benjamin Moore. I use it often because it works so well with skin tones. It’s very much like the brown in a John Singer Sargent portrait. It’s medium dark with undertones of violet, but very subtle and mellow.
To achieve a specific brown it takes a sophisticated eye, excellent color sense, and skill at mixing color. Visit your local paint stores and collect a few chips of browns that you like, so that you can test them on your walls at home. If you find a color you like, you can obtain a 2 ounce paint sample from your paint store to try painting a patch on your wall. Be sure to live with the color a few days before making your decision. Color changes in every light, and you want to make sure you are happy with it before painting an entire wall.
The color brown is “earthy” smoldering and rich. It has a warm, neutral feeling when used in home décor. It’s a natural color that is associated with everything from Mother Earth herself.
Because we have become so appreciative of things that are from nature (the outdoors), many of us want to re-create that healthy natural environment inside the home. We want to reproduce that quiet feeling of peace and tranquility that nature provides.
Brown creates a perfect background for other colors, such as rich, earthy reds, oranges, greens and purples. The lighter brown family, such as tan, taupe, beige, umber, cream, create a warm, intimate setting in which other colors that are juxtaposed on them look richer and more vibrant.
A very dark brown, like chocolate, is a great alternative to black.
We painted one wall in our New York apartment chocolate brown, on which we mounted ivory colored bar-relief sculpture. It was dramatic and eye-catching, and the brown was a perfect backdrop for the sculpture.
What does a preference for brown say about you?
If your automobile is brown, then you are the “salt of the earth” brass tacks type. If it is taupe, then you are a timeless classic type.
Browns tend to stimulate the appetite. Hmmm…people must be thinking of chocolate, coffee, and nuts.
Brown has a very stabilizing effect on the observer. Because we associate it with nature, organic product manufacturers often use brown in their packaging.
Quite frankly, I’ve never been an enthusiastic “brown” person, but I am beginning to appreciate all the beautiful browns, and the light neutrals that are available today. I think they are elegantly casual and casually elegant. Using these rich warm neutrals throughout the house is a wonderful way to produce a nice flow from room to room. And other colors work beautifully with them.
The next time you paint your walls, give some thought to the beautiful browns.
What colors make brown? It all depends upon the brown.