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Decorate a brown living room

There were a lot of brown living rooms in the ’70s, and although we can sometimes call the ’70s the decade that taste forgot, the brown living room was not a bad thing. Give it a modern twist with lots of light to complement the earthy tones that create a mood of reliability, warmth and security. Experiment with tone, textures and shades.

Brown living room

When you are starting with a brown base, remember the deeper the shade, the more dramatic the effect. Matte dark brown paint can make a big, chilly room seem much warmer and comforting, but if you go over the top and have dark brown leather armchairs and dark wooden shelves overflowing with books, it can feel a bit ‘Gentleman’s Club.’ Light brown walls are trickier, but not impossible, to get right if you steer clear of anything that could be mistaken for tobacco stains.


Wall-to-wall carpeting works well, but it must have a thick, hard-wearing pile. Hessian is also great, as are plain, lightly varnished floorboards with either a single, bold coloured rug or a Persian style, predominantly green patterned rug. There is a fashion for rubber flooring, which is easy to clean and very child-friendly, but this only works if you are going modern all the way. If so, bright red is electrifying, particularly if your living space leads directly into the kitchen, where the floor will work as well.

2Soft furnishings

If you don’t have an ethical problem with it, a slightly worn, big brown leather sofa with lots of throw cushions and hand-knitted throws or small rugs looks wonderful. Or stick to neutral soft colours. Do not overfurnish. The room will feel smaller anyway with that big sofa and dark brown walls. A couple of strikingly patterned armchairs and foot rests will encourage people to feel at home and put their feet up.

3Hard furnishings and shelving

Think about what you are trying to convey. Is it academia and seriousness? If so, line one or even two walls with shelves and fill them with books. You can afford to be a bit messy here. Life is too short to align all your books perfectly. An antique roll-top writing desk is an object of beauty and practicality. A slim, wooden coffee table will sit prettily in front of the sofa. If you are going for a modern, family life ambience, go for a computer style desk and a flat-screen TV placed at a diagonal from the sofa.


You need plenty of light, preferably natural, to set off the darkness of the brown. The bigger the windows, the lighter the curtains, the more you can really follow the whole brown, back to nature mood. If your living room does not have great natural light, one bright, central light with a dramatically patterned shade will do for the main lighting. Do place a floor or table lamp next to each seat and on one side of the sofa. Stick to one style, old or modern.

Home how-to

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