Brown and White and Chic All Over: Steal This Neutral Living Room Look
Call it mocha, putty, java, cocoa, earth, or weathered tan—the color brown, in all of its safe simplicity, is having a moment.
There’s a little irony woven into the idea that all young executives in ZIP codes affiliated with cutting-edge tech want to do in their down time is reconnect with nature—especially at home, even if they’re living in high-floor apartments and tiny bungalows without much, or any, outdoor space.
We’re seeing shades of brown creep back into interiors, replacing coastal grays and blues and busy eclectic trends with its subtle, sophisticated, assured sensibility that is too lovely to be boring.
“That’s all I’m hearing from my clients,” says Angela Scaletta of the Bay Area interiors firm, Angela Grace. “They want soothing, natural materials, and colors that are found in the natural world. It’s all neutrals.”
Sure, maximalism is in for some, with its electric color and head-spinning prints. Bold art and and sculptural furniture with ’80s overtones is, too. But if you’re in a rental apartment, like the one pictured here near the Sea Cliff gates, investing in wallpaper and custom shades in bold pattern, or a detailed paint job, isn’t sensible. And if your brain is already feeling taunted by the constant barrage of information, coming home to even more stimulation isn’t ideal.
When you see the tastefully appointed living room, above, it won’t come as a huge surprise to hear that Scaletta spent some time early in her career in the design department at Pottery Barn. There’s a quiet, understated aspect to her work that really plays in San Francisco, where apartments with white-washed crown molding and ornate Edwardian fireplaces are coveted rentals.
But a nod to the classic, minimal interiors of the ’90s also works in this Venice Beach bungalow designed by Christine Vroom, with a mix of warm brass accents (like this Kelly Wearstler-designed light fixture) and coppery throw pillows (see below).
Classic brown accents can bridge the gap between traditional and modern, layering the warmth of natural leather, plant dyes, untreated wool, unglazed clay pottery, and rusted metal accents.
Here’s how to re-create a neutral, mellow palette with plenty of warmth and texture—on a budget.
We only recommend things we love. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.
Get the Look
Start with a Simple Rug
This beige and creamy washable area rug from Ruggable is a solid imitation of a vintage Moroccan style, for a lot less.
Add a Natural Leather Chair
A vintage leather safari chair will set you back a pretty penny. But this Oslo mid-century inspired chair, available at Home Threads, is a deal for under $500.
And a Coppery-Brown Throw Pillow with Soft Texture
A velvet pillow adds softness, texture, and warm color to an all-white sofa.
Mix in Terracotta Accents
A candle holder from Anthropologie adds a subtle, sculptural element.
And Finish with Vintage (or Vintage-Inspired) Art in Sepia Tones
Don’t have family heirloom art to hang on the wall? Or time to find someone else’s discarded inheritance at an estate sale? Brush Wiz offers hand-painted replicas of classic oil paintings, from landscapes and Fauvist masterpieces to proper portraits, for under $300.
Splurge on a Pop of Pattern
A hit of modern print keeps the room rooted in the present tense.
Read the Current Issue Here!
Get one year of Sunset—and all kinds of bonuses—for just $24.95. Subscribe now!