Bring neutral tones into your home with brown paint

The ultimate chameleon colour, there’s a shade of brown to suit every room in your home, from rich cocoa and deep russet to smoky taupe and pale mushroom.

Bunnings magazine, August 2019

Nature’s neutral

Not traditionally considered the prettiest of colours, brown is having a resurgence in modern interiors. Brown reflects and reinforces our connection to nature, says Rachel Rimmer, founder of colour consultancy Hello Colour. Theres been a shift away from all-white interiors – people want to live in warmer, friendlier spaces – and brown fits the bill.”

Why we love it

Brown’s appeal lies in its versatility. Fill a space with dark cocoa, taupe and umber and you’ll feel instantly cosy. Or paint your walls a lighter hue to create a welcoming backdrop for every decorating style from rustic to retro. “Brown is often referred to as nature’s neutral, because it has this incredible earthy quality people find soothing,” says Rachel. It also plays nicely with almost every colour, and is the perfect foil for tactile timber, concrete, brick and terrazzo.

neutral wall

Choosing your hues

Think about the purpose of the space. “In the living room, you’ll want to gravitate towards warm, earthy tones to generate feelings of comfort and relaxation,” says Rachel Lacy, colour category manager for Taubmans. “Whereas in the kitchen, where you want higher energy levels, go for a spicy brown with undertones of red and orange.”

Next, look at how much natural light your space gets. Lighter hues reflect artificial illumination most successfully, so if your space has low natural light, go for a pale, buttery brown like amber or suede. Darker hues work best in open-plan spaces and any room where you want to create a cosy atmosphere – think shades of coffee and chocolate.

Tip: “Reddish browns and rich, chocolatey hues make wonderful accents. These add depth and warmth without completely dominating a space” Kelly Magee, British Paints expert.

neutral ornatments
Earthy tones promote relaxation in living zones, while high-energy areas like kitchens are ripe for spicy hues.

Sweet dreams

With its associations of calm and stability, brown lends itself well to sleeping spaces. “Deep, dark browns like British Paints Dark Master will create a cocooning feel, while a soft, creamy brown like Set In Stone will make your bedroom feel airy,” says British Paints expert Kelly Magee. Continue the theme with accessories that take their cues from nature: a jute rug beside the bed, timber bedside table and a chunky woollen throw over linen sheets. 

neutral lounge room
To create intimacy in larger rooms with lots of natural light, opt for a deep, rich brown; walls in British Paints Timber Loft.

The great outdoors

Brown isn’t just a practical choice for exterior walls, it’s also the perfect foundation to recreate the sun-scorched feel of the Mediterranean. Choose a rich, muted tone such as ochre, sepia or terracotta and accent with pops of pinky-red, sunset orange or peach. Just remember that lighter browns will reflect the sun and keep the inside of your home cooler, while darker walls will absorb heat and keep your house warmer.

neutral cushions
Paint a single wall for impact and add interest with varying textures and tones.

Perfect pairing

Dark browns look fantastic with bold colours like orange, or more muted hues such as pale pink. At the other end of the spectrum, lighter browns love blues, greens and jewel tones. For a soothing 70s palette, pair with cream, apricot, clay and blush. “Believe it or not, brown and blue are best friends,” says Rachel Rimmer. “Think camel and navy, tobacco and teal or beige with just about any blue, with a splash of deep brown for contrast. She also recommends mustard with dark navy: Exotic and dramatic, this combination is warm and wonderful.

If you’re still unsure, look to colours that sit opposite brown on the colour wheel. “Try colour blocking a terracotta brown like Taubmans Warm Wassail against an adjoining wall in dusty blue like Shindig, says Rachel Lacy.

neutral dining area
For flexibility, add a stronger tone to a portable element, such as a room divider.

The right white

Vanilla and chocolate, coffee and cream – you only have to look at a dessert menu to see why brown and white work so well. Choose a white that shares a similar tone to your chosen colour. “Most browns have a warm undertone, so try to avoid cool whites with a bluish undertone,” says Dulux colour expert Andrea Lucena-Orr. “Both Dulux Natural White and White Polar Quarter look great when paired with darker brown walls, while Lexicon Half looks fabulous against lighter, softer browns.”

Your colour palette

Taubmans Fudge

2 Dulux Reddy Brown

3 British Paints Sandy Gorge

4 Taubmans Rundle Rust

4 shades of brown

Pick your perfect shade of brown

Head into your local Bunnings store to pick out the perfect shade for your house.


Photo credit: Lisa Cohen, British Paints; James Moffatt, Taubmans Mike Baker

Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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