The Brownies

Ever since it lost out to ‘blond’ wood in the early 90s trend for Minimalism, interior stylists, journalists and antique dealers have been proclaiming that ‘brown’ (antique furniture) is back. I know, because I have been one of them. For interior designers, who don’t tend to pay huge amounts of attention to trends, the notion that it ever went away is frankly considered a bit of a nonsense.

Brown palette

Aside from dark wood furniture, brown for a decorating scheme has become a bit of a Cinderella since its heyday in the 1970s. It is though, one of those warm organic, grounded shades that can help give a neutral scheme a bit of oomph whilst at the same time, being easy on the eye.I have been on a mission for a while, unearthing textiles, wallpapers and paint in shades of chestnut, umber, russet and cocoa. Wondering why there aren’t more but then discovering that you just have to look a little harder to find where the gems are.

Brown swatch watch

As it turns out, there are many beautiful brown designs available from pretty floral prints to embroidered and textured weaves in stripes and geometric patterns. Each of the fabric companies featured here have more gems than I have space to show.Apologies to the crop in my photo of one particular fabric I love (top left of the moodboard) which is by Laura Hamilton an independent designer whose fabrics go by the name of Bird In The Hand and are distributed by Justin Van Breda. Coupled with the fact that the repeat is large and sampling expensive, I would love you to take a look at Stacks to see it properly. Laura also paints and makes wonderful pottery too @birdinthehand.me 

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Stacks (bottom left), Chestnut on linen by Bird in The Hand at Justin van Breda; Pavilion Berber Brown (top right) PAV002, Veere Grenney Collection at Tissus D’Helene;  Valley Stripe Portland LW163113, Lewis & Wood; Facet Stone (folded on top), Ian Sanderson; Malaya Cocoa 5, The Design Archives; Tree Bough Ivory Jet-FTB-1, JET; Fez Print 1501/1 Cocoa, Guy Goodfellow Collection; Princes Corsage (top right) Burnt Summer, The English Fabric Collection, Justin Van Breda;
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Launching on the 19th September are 16 new colours by @farrow-and-ball with their inspiring new Colour By Nature colour card. Based on Werner’s 1814 Nomenclature of Colours from the Natural History Museum which was used as an official classification of colour from nature, the card has been beautifully reproduced from the original document. Photo: Charis White

How to use brown in a decorating scheme

Earthy browns work well tonally especially when adding in a layering of textures by way of fabrics, flooring and furniture. A little breathing space is sometimes required so don’t forget a little cream and white with a spot of black for definition. Just like with other mineral colours, brown contrasts rather nicely with ice blues, lilac, mustard, mandarin, pinks and reds.The juxtaposition of old with new always adds interest to a room. I love the classic lines of a Georgian chest of drawers but am also drawn to furniture with a decorative profile such as barley twist, bobbin or something with carving or marquetry.

  1. Mix modern luxe wallpapers with antique brown and gilt
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Photo: Jennifer Barron Interiors/Pinterest

2. Alternative four poster bed ideaAttach a simple curtain rail to the ceiling and blend two tones of fabric together for a subtly layered and ethereal look.

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Photo: The Intuition room at The Hidden Hotel, Paris. Hang a simple curtain track directly onto the ceiling. For similar fabrics, take a look at Driftnet and Ghostnet, both diaphanous wide width fabrics in the new Witterings collection by Ian Sanderson Textiles.

3. Barley Twist and Bobbin furniture

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Photo: Yvonne McFadden/Pinterest. This neutral caramel and chocolate scheme is given added interest with cute striped boudoir cushions, textural barley twist beds and sisal flooring.
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Photo: Bernhardt.com/Pinterest

4. Use a pyjama stripe as an accent in a brown decorating schemePyjama Stripe – Jungle is from a refreshing collection of retro coloured stripes at Ian Sanderson Textiles.34e836b6b1b1c4eefaac4beaa24eabb84259674769089816954.jpg5. Brown dining room scheme

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Photo: Betsy Brown interiors. Love the play of striped boxy shaped chair covers with the antique circular bobbin turned legged dining table.

6. Affordable basin consoleFor the fraction of the price of a new basin console unit, convert a small vintage chest with a bespoke cut marble top. By the same token, boxing in a standard bath and then adding a marble top and splashback creates a rather glamorous bath for less.

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Photo: from Signature Spaces: Well Travelled Interiors by Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, Published by Vendome Press via Mix And Chic.com blog/Pinterest.

7. Styling a Georgian chest of drawers Layer a nicely foxed antique mirror with an oil painting for a modern traditional look.

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Photo: Elizabeth Ferguson Interior designer/Pinterest

8. Contemporary dark wood sofa This beautiful contemporary dark wood sofa with velvet upholstery is made the hero with a back canvas of white walls.

Kobenhavns Mobelsnedkerimakes sofa on Charis White Interiors blog
Sofa by Kobenhavns Mobelsnedkeri, Copenhagen.

Sustainable interiors

Without stating the obvious, buying second-hand, antique or passing down heirloom pieces of furniture is hopefully going to go a little way to help preventing more landfill. There are treasures to be found on Ebay but if you want to be sure of finding something speedily and in good condition you might like to take a look at:

  • Fisher London who were featured in Affordable Antique Chic on the blog in January. Hilary Fisher has a carefully curated selection of affordable but high-quality dark wood furniture in her shop on the Gray’s Inn Road in London.
  • Lots Road Auctions in London is a treasure trove of affordable antique finds which have come from smart showrooms and private addresses in Chelsea. There are both antique and contemporary sections. Do keep your eye on my Instagram Stories as I occasionally post what’s on offer at forthcoming sales…
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An antique marquetry marble topped chest of drawers in a previous sale at Lots Road Auctions. Photo: Charis White

Blog rewind

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Bobbin chairs. Photo: Hutchison Antiques.com/Pinterest

Thank you

Thank you so much for making it all the way to the bottom of this post! Like its print magazine counterparts, this ‘September issue’ is rather chunkier than usual.

Brown fabrics moodboard 2 on Charis White Interiors blog
From the top: Valley Stripe, Portland LW163113, Lewis & Wood; Zimba Peat, Tissus D’Helene; Udaipur Medallion from Nine Muses at Tigger Hall, Justin van Breda; Facet Stone, Ian Sanderson Textiles; Woodperry Khaki WOOD007, Veere Grenney Collection at Tissus D’Helene; Fez 1501/1 Cocoa, Guy Goodfellow Collection; wallpaper, Small Damask Beige 880-09, Peggy Angus at Blithfield.

Finally, achieving good design in your home doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Please take a look at my affordable interior design service Styling Box . It is a bespoke service with ideas and samples which you receive all wrapped up in a beautiful and useful Styling Box. There are four design packages and a gift voucher to choose from as well as ideas to gather along the way on Instagram @styling_box_by_charis_white.With many thanks, Charis x

Charis White, Interior stylist/writer. Photography: www.FionaMcLean.co.uk
Charis White, interior stylist/writer. Photo: Fiona McLean

6 thoughts on “The Brownies

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