When selecting a color palette, most homeowners rely on a foundation built on neutrals to maximize flexibility. Shades of black and brown are often go-tos because they make the perfect backdrop for more vibrant pops of color that introduce personality and lively energy. While black and brown are often used individually, pairing the two darker shades together isn't as common. However, when used correctly, the combo can result in a space with depth, soul, and character. "Pairing two deep tones like black and brown can be tricky in your home design. Often a combination of many deep hues like black and brown can create a dark intense space, which can feel unwelcoming to guests. However, if paired correctly, this palette can make your home feel cozy, modern, and most importantly welcoming," explains Emma Kemper, principal designer at Emma Beryl Interiors.
The color black needs no introduction when it comes to the world of interior design: It's a commonly embraced hue that's beloved for its versatility. Black can be used to enhance any aesthetic — from farmhouse to modern — by adding elegance, sophistication, and a bit of an edge to interior spaces. Plus, the hue imbues a sense of mystery and drama wherever it goes.
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Brown, on the other hand, is a warm neutral that adds the depth of black without the risk of looking severe. As an earth tone, it has the ability to function as a stabilizing hue and is associated with reliability, strength, and, not surprisingly, nature. Unlike black, which has very few iterations, brown tones run the gamut from sandy taupe to decadent chocolate and can have various undertones from red to green. Not to mention, the natural finish of wood architectural features — such as ceiling beams, trim, cabinets, and/or flooring —makes incorporating the hue a breeze.
Combining black and brown might feel like a risky move, but they actually complement each other well. And thanks to their neutrality, brown and black pair beautifully with a number of other colors, from blues to yellows to red. But if adding even more color to the mix makes you nervous, Beryl suggests sticking with lighter neutrals, saying: "In order to avoid an overly dark and ultimately spatially minimizing feel, I recommend incorporating lighter neutral tones. By layering in light neutral furnishings, your home will look balanced and bright." However, if you want to go all in, try adding a more vibrant accent color. "Another tactic is to design your black and brown spaces with pops of color. White, red, or green will look striking against a darker backdrop and create visual interest for you and your guests," says Beryl. Either way, there are numerous ways to integrate an accent color into your room, from paint to furniture to easier-to-manage purchases such as pillows, throws, or even books.
How to Complement Black and Brown Furniture
Black and brown are hardworking options for furniture, imparting both elegance and a welcome earthy note. Outfitting a home with black and brown furniture maximizes versatility because it affords you the ability to get creative with the rest of the colors in the room. Whether you want the furniture to be the focal point or you want the walls and decor to stand out, you can match a variety of different colors with black and brown furniture. However, here are some of our favorites:
- White: If a room in your home contains black furniture, using white as a contrasting accent color can make quite an impact. Make the furniture the focal point by painting the walls white or cream. The home decor can also play a role — think white vases, an area rug, and/or black-and-white artwork.
- Red: As a bright, high-energy color, red makes a cheery counterpoint to dark black and brown furniture. Red works well in nearly every room of the house, so it should pair suitably with any furniture piece. Pillows in a rich shade of red, for example, can add vibrancy to a black or brown bed or sofa. If your dining room furniture is black or brown, select a red tablecloth, napkins, or even dinnerware.
- Gray: A neutral color such as gray is perfect for curtains, area rugs, accent pillows, or accessories. A gray fabric containing strands of silver, for example, adds life to what could otherwise be a dull, dark room. Gray paint also works in a room with dark furniture.
- Cream: Cream colors and other pale shades also work well with both black and brown furniture. A black/brown bedroom suite, for example, will help create a warm ambiance when paired with cream- or taupe-colored walls. If possible, make the accents go with the furniture. For example, taupe pillows on a brown leather couch with taupe walls would result in a warm and inviting feel.
Ready to get started? Read on for some of our favorite colors to pair with black and brown.
12 Black and Brown Color Combinations
1. Black, Brown, and White
Lighten up a brown and black color palette by pairing the combo with plenty of white or cream shades. It's no surprise that interior designer Jessica Helgerson knows exactly how to incorporate the three colors to create a space that's equal parts relaxed and refined. In this monochrome living room, creamy white walls form the backdrop to one-of-a-kind furnishings in black, brown, and white. The addition of exposed wood beams ground the lofty space and add warmth.
2. Black, Brown, and Powder Blue
The bedroom is an ideal spot for cocoon-like vibes, so go ahead and embrace a darker scheme showcasing black and brown. Blanketing the walls and ceiling in a deep shade results in the ultimate enveloping feeling, but you can also take inspiration from this cozy, yet bright setup and color block the walls. It's a modern spin on traditional wainscoting that adds interest without visually overwhelming the space. A welcoming shade of taupe adds warmth and offsets the black, brown, and powder blue bedding.
3. Black, Brown, and Pink
Blush is an elegant shade of pink that quiets the visual noise and harshness that can accompany some brown and black pairings. This glamorous dining room by Soeur Interiors effectively uses the three hues resulting in a space that's feminine, but not girly. Thanks to an abundance of natural light and a mirror-clad wall, the design feels expansive and bright.
4. Black, Brown, and Hunter Green
With their reference to the great outdoors, resplendent shades of green look stunning next to earthy shades of black and brown. This bedroom doubles down on the nature theme, flaunting a palm frond wallpaper pattern and a woven area rug that imbue an enviable tropical feeling. Brown bedding and a pair of lounge chairs play nicely with black accents.
5. Black, Brown, and Fuchsia
Black and brown add instant intrigue and allure to interiors, but too much of each hue (or placing them in the wrong areas) can result in a drab look. This sultry den by 47 Park Avenue hits all the dramatic high notes that the dark shades impart by using black on the fireplace surround and a luxe dark brown paint color on the walls. A fuchsia sofa, florals, and a decorative bowl punctuate the space and infuse the moody combination with a burst of energy.
6. Black, Brown, and Olive Green
Pair black and brown with muted shades of green for an organic vibe that's warm and approachable. This cabin-inspired bedroom by Raili CA Design features an earthy palette anchored by olive green-painted board and batten wall paneling. Crisp white linens get a dramatic color boost with the addition of a brown-trimmed black blanket. A series of pennant flags are a youthful touch.
7. Black, Brown, and Orange
Orange and black are fall decor staples, but most people veer away from the combo, fearing it'll read overtly Halloween. However, when paired with plenty of light neutrals, orange looks downright refined even sitting alongside the ebony hue. The team over at Studio Life/Style perfectly executed a brown, orange, and black trifecta in this refined living room with a set of burnt orange club chairs, brown furniture and accessories, and statement-making black decor.
8. Black, Brown, and Ochre
As members of the earth tone family, ochre and brown are a no-fail pairing. Pepper in black to amp up the contrast and add visual weight. This curated living room by Byrd Design seamlessly combines yellow, brown, and black furniture, and then grounds the look from above with a slim profile chandelier.
9. Black, Brown, Gray, and Green
Just a dash of thoughtfully placed black and brown can complement an already intimate space. This moody family room by Veneer Design is a case study in coziness; flaunting light gray walls, charcoal gray beadboard paneling, and a plush emerald green sofa. The addition of a lone black Roman shade and a brown leather pouf add the perfect amount of contrast and depth.
10. Black, Brown, and Mint Green
Lend an air of sophistication to a brown and black pairing by adding cool shades of mint green. It's a harmonizing color that balances the warmth of wood and the heaviness of black in this serene dining room by Decus Interiors. The addition of a pair of glass bubble pendants underscores the contemporary scheme.
Pale shades of brown, with warm undertones like taupe and camel, keep black and navy blue spaces from feeling cold and cave-like. In this bedroom, ebony walls and dark blue bedding are paired with plenty of brown features — in the form of the headboard and playful stripes on the wall — for a look that's anything but serious.
12. Black, Brown, and Red
Red is an energetic shade that can easily take over a space, but using it in conjunction with plenty of neutrals like black and brown tempers its vibrancy. Arent & Pyke used an eclectic crimson rug as the foundation for this living room and then layered on texture with a caramel-colored leather sofa and a woven wall hanging. A black coffee table and throw pillows give the bohemian scheme timeless appeal.
The Best Colors to Pair With Black and Brown
Although brown and black are commonly integrated into interior color schemes, they're often used individually. Most people shy away from the duo out of fear that they'll render rooms lifeless and dull. However, carefully mapping out where the two hues are placed and balancing the bolder shades of black with softer brown tones make them a dynamic combination. While lighter neutrals such as cream and white are obvious choices to use with black and brown, the pair works with a number of colorful shades including:
- Powder blue
- Blush pink
- Emerald green
- Olive green
- Mint green