Brown is Not Boring: How to Use Brown To Create Stability

When I think of brown, I think of coffee, chocolate and tree trunks, some of my favorite things! What do you think of?

At first glance, brown might seem like a rather dull color!

But wait, it’s not. Brown is not only incredibly varied in shades and tones, it can add a sense of strength, wisdom and stability to a visual style, whether for business or personal style.

What the Color Brown Conveys

Brown is a stabilizing color. It signals security and stability, reliability.  Think of tree trunks, especially those of trees that have been around for decades and longer. They symbolize security, a sure foundation.

One of my favorite quotes is “The roots grow deep when the storms grow strong.” It is the strength and endurance of those roots and trunks that allow trees to bear the brunt of storms and all sorts of weather.

The brown tree trunks bring a sense of strength &endurance in spite of winter’s cold.

Just like those tree trunks, brown symbolizes a quiet strength and stability.

Brown can be found in all the seasons, but in nature, it’s especially prolific in autumn. The autumn season is a season of industry and productivity (among other things). The energy goes up as we come out of the rejuvenating days of summer and get back into school, a new quarter and getting things done before the holidays!

Understanding how color works together and how people respond to it is meant to be a guide to help you create a strong presence, whether it’s for a styling shoot for a product, a web page design or autumn wardrobe.

Using the seasonal archetypes (the basis of color psychology) is not meant to be a stringent box, but an illuminating guide.  (An overview of the seasonal archetypes  can be found here).

If you’d like to use brown as a grounding color in your palette, but you’re unsure about which kind of brown to incorporate, the following is a guide to help you get started.

What Browns to Use in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Palettes

Spring linked browns are warm, light and bright. Think of the brown in the Crayola classic 8 crayon box. Cinnamon spice is lovely example of a spring brown. Raw sienna is a warm, rich, milk chocolate spring brown.

Summer linked browns will be cool and muted in nature. If you look at pain chips, look for ones that have a coolness to them. Paint names may include cherry wood or cool champagne brown. Think of light oak.

Autumn linked browns will be warm, muted and more intense. Here you’ll find a wide variety of browns with names such as hickory, oak, coffee, pecan, chocolate and burnt umber.

Light oak is a cool, light brown seen in the summer linked archetype.

Oaks- light and medium- are going to be spring-linked browns. They have a lightness and brightness in their tone.

If you go into a home with walnut cabinets and other decor, it’s still warm, but much deeper in intensity. You can feel the warmth and coziness of the place, right? That would be an autumn brown.

My grandfather took a liking to cherry wood for frames in his art work. Cherry wood, with its red undertones are an autumn-linked color.

Raw umber is a deep, dark brown. In art class, I learned how to create burnt umber mixing ultramarine blue and red.  I’d consider raw umber closest to a winter brown: burnt umber is intense and dark with cool undertones.  But, it would also look fabulous as an accent color on an autumnal palette, probably using a bit more red in it. (See how there is flexibility in the colors and seasons. They tend to merge).

Sometimes I’m better with food.

Here are some pictures of a for-fun baking blog I had years ago.

As you can see, the brown in the macaroons, the pumpkin nut muffins and the super-scrumptious chocolate cake are all very different.

Note the warmth of the brown on the macaroons? The brown gives enough of a depth and stability to keep the cookie “grounded,” but it’s still fairly light. the muffins below have more of the autumnal rich brown.

The cake would be a winter-linked brown…notice how it has a cool tone and a density and richness conveyed by the color. Believe me when I say, it is every bit as luxurious and rich in taste as it looks!


Color Combinations Ideas for Brown

It is a color to wear to interview or to a meeting where emotions may be rampant. You’ll give the impression of enduring strength and calm resolution. Of course, what you do and say will have great bearing!

When you wear brown, be sure to wear a brown that correlates with your dominant seasonal archetype. A warm, muted brown on an elegant, cool, summer-linked personality will look off! (and the wearer will most likely feel as if there’s something off, not quite right) See this article on the best colors to wear to an interview based on your personal seasonal archetypes.

Brown in a home or office can be a wonderful foundation color. Other colors can be added in for the pop of whatever emotion is desired.

Blue, a cerebral and serene color, when mixed with deep brown can create a solid, wise and calm foundation.

Pink and brown is a lovely color combination whether for a baby’s room or a autumn wardrobe.  The nurturing gentle fun of pink with the stability of brown creates a fun vibe that doesn’t go overboard into frilly.

Brown and yellow can create a sense of community and cheerfulness along with productivity. The colors balance out the emotions, as if to say, “we know how to have fun and we get stuff done!”

I feel like I say this all the time, but I’m going to say it again! Become an avid observer of nature when you’re out and about. The combination and harmony of colors in the natural world is stunning. There’s so much we can learn.

And….when you’re out shopping, check out how retail incorporates brown into their color scheme. I love the skin care brand Origins and the Body Shop, both use a delicious blend of browns and complementary colors to create an organic, earthy and friendly brand.

Remove the guessing game! Here's the best foundation colors for each seasonal-archetype.

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