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Too Much Brown Furniture! A National Epidemic

Brown leather couch

Too Much Brown Furniture! A National Epidemic

It starts off innocently enough.  You finally purchase your first new home!  Okay, now it’s time to decorate the living room and / or family room.


Your husband has been dreaming of a brown leather sofa for the better part of his adulthood, and convinces you it’s comfortable, classy and not to mention “easy to clean”.  So you pull the trigger!


Yes, it’s definitely pretty.

But then you realize you need more furniture – a console for under the TV, end tables to rest your drinks, a coffee table for your feet…and you panic because you really do not know what to buy.

So you find yourself in Pottery Barn buying a lot of this:


and this:

pottery barn tv console



And this:


Pretty soon, you end up with AN ENTIRELY DARK BROWN ROOM!!  Noooo!!







dark dining room


It also happens in the bedroom, people.



I can not stress enough how widespread this “problem” is.  Half of my clients have rooms full of perfectly classy and tasteful brown furniture.  Nothing wrong with that!  Except that when you put it all together IT’S A SEA OF DARK BROWN.

Okay, so what can we do to fix it?

The good news is that you can make some changes to achieve design balance, “break up the brown”, and to lighten things up a little.


How To “Break Up The Brown”


1) Paint it.


The best things to paint are bookshelves, end tables or TV consoles.

If you’re lucky enough to have new built-in bookshelves, do they happen to be dark brown?

dark brown bookshelves



This owner painted her shelves white and ahhhhh, so much better.  Fresh and pretty.

white bookshelves DIYVia


Here’s another great example of paint transformation:




You could also paint this a beautiful light gray and it would be just as stunning.

2) Get a new coffee table


This is one of my “quick fix” decorating secrets.  I’d say about 99% of the time, my clients have a very conservative, large, dark wood coffee table.

Talk about an easy way to change the feel and direction of a room.  Don’t be afraid to do something a little different!

And you don’t have to break the bank.  Here are a few options that are $300 or less:


beige ottoman

 Safavieh Milan Beige Nailhead Ottoman from Overstock, $267




 Aiden Coffee Table from World Market, $290  (yes, it’s wood!  But it’s not dark brown mahogany, and it’s mixed with metal which makes it okay).

peekaboo coffee table

 Peekaboo Coffee Table from CB2, $279



hammered metal coffee table

 Cala Hammered Metal Coffee Table from World Market, $300


3)  No more matchy-matchy


Okay, not to pick on this room because the pillows and accessories are really beautiful.  BUT the dark wood coffee table and matching end table is what I’m talking about.


You could really take this room to the next level by replacing the tables with different shapes, styles and media.

brown coffee table


This is a great example.  Is there brown?  Yes.  But look – no matching!


The ottoman is cowhide, one of the end tables is brass and glass, and the other end table is a reclaimed wood stool.   Each table is a different style, shape and medium.


Hello, chrome…!

mixed media 2

Via Pinterest


Upholstered ottoman + white end table + light wood end table…mixing that media!mixed media 5


Via Pinterest


Love that marble topped coffee table and white end tables.

mixed media 4


Via Pinterest


Okay, so you get the idea.  The point is to try to make each piece of furniture you bring into the room different from the last piece.  It’s okay to mix and match, I promise!


Don’t let the “Sea of Brown” happen to you.  If you’re already starting with a brown sofa, then make sure every stick of furniture is not dark brown or “heavy”.  If you’re already drowning in the Sea of Brown, then swap out your coffee table with something new!  Paint a book shelf!

beautiful staples design group




I promise it will take your room from “Blah” to “Brilliant”.

  • Rachel

    November 20, 2013 at 3:12 PM Reply

    I seriously feel like you wrote this post for me. You should have taken a picture of my all-brown living room. You are totally right! It must be changed!

  • Melanie

    April 25, 2014 at 2:33 PM Reply

    THANK YOU for this post! It made me laugh out loud (perhaps because it hits a little too close to home). I had no idea what to do with my living room…this post has given me so much inspiration! Thanks!

  • candy

    May 21, 2014 at 2:20 PM Reply

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  • KennethJHaynes

    October 27, 2014 at 6:51 AM Reply

    Haii Lorri, thanks for posting these photo and it looks awesome. Brown leather sofa and light brown wall looks like great combination and even the floor is brown. Awesome!! I can implement some of the concept from the photos to my new house and it was a great idea to post these photos to this blog. Thanks for the information.

  • Helen

    February 19, 2015 at 8:43 AM Reply

    I just purchased a golden brownze carpeting with a patterned chair with the bronze in it and a brown sofa and a brown recliner.

    I want a library look. Walls are now a soft gold. (BLonde of Sherwin Williams).

    Our woodwork and crown molding is oak. Of course all the furniture is oak/cherry and we have a hutch that is antique red. I like the red/gold/green look but can’t seem to pull it off.

    Coffee table is brown leather. Open to any suggestions.

    Thank you

  • Allison H

    July 28, 2015 at 11:32 PM Reply

    Hi, my name is Allison, and I’m a “Brown-a-holic.” I JUST bought brown leather sofa, loveseat, coffee table, and end table. Oh yeah, did I mention I have wood floors too? Oops! To lighten things up, I’m hoping new throw pillows, curtains, and accents will help lighten things up. Wish me luck!

  • Lorene Walters

    August 12, 2015 at 7:16 AM Reply

    It is like a disease. My sister ended in apartment like this. At first she bought a table then chairs and finally dark brown sofa. People said that brown is making you feel comfortable but I don’t think so. Every time I go to my sister’s home It makes me feel tired. For example my apartment is white and blue and you can not feel tired in there. It is just not possible. Thank you for your article. I am glad that I have found someone who is thinking like me. Best regards!

    • Lorri Dyner

      August 13, 2015 at 10:43 AM Reply

      Hi Lorene,
      So glad this resonated with you. LOVE white and blue. Thanks for reading!!

    • Mary Huber

      September 14, 2015 at 2:45 PM Reply

      Our last house was blue and white with one brown leather chair and ottoman for my husband. What a happy house! Our new home has tan walls and brown furniture. My husband bought nice Brown furniture that he loved, so there’s no way I can paint it. I find it depressing and looking cluttered, so I’m trying to find a way to fix it. I keep telling myself I should just be thankful that I have a nice new home. Just wish I could fix it somehow.

      • Lorri Dyner

        October 26, 2015 at 6:30 PM Reply

        Mary, try using a ivory colored throw blanket to help break up the brown. Fold it in half (or in thirds, depending how big it is). Then, lay the blanket along the back of the sofa and the seat, so it creates a thick white line down the side of your sofa. Darn it! It’s hard to explain! I did it here on this TV segment if you want to see what I”m talking about. Check out the second video: http://lorridynerdesign.com/the-better-tv-show-my-fun-before-after-segment/
        That, and a bunch of light throw pillows should help a LOT. Good luck!

  • Barb Grinter

    November 29, 2015 at 10:17 PM Reply

    Help me! Recently moved into a house with design challenges. Dark hand scraped floors, pine woodwork, cream walls, dark grey fireplace with touches of taupe. AND trying to incorporate…yep…dark brown leather couch and recliner. Painting the entire house or trim is out of the question. What color rugs, occasional tables do you recommend. Much appreciated!

    • Lorri Dyner

      November 30, 2015 at 2:36 PM Reply

      Hi Barb! Oh yes, I know this dilemma well. Lots and lots of brown! My best advice is to “cut it” as much as possible and go light wherever you can. This means light colored rugs (think ivory, beige, light gray), and light colored throw pillows (color is great but I would focus on neutral linen pillows). And don’t forget! An ivory throw blanket can be your best friend. Fold it in thirds and drape it along the back of the sofa and along the seat of the sofa. This will “cut up” the brown. I’ve found great throw blankets at Target, BTW. Here’s the video of the throw blanket trick: http://lorridynerdesign.com/quick-bite-sized-decorator-tip-throw-blankets/

  • Annabella

    June 13, 2017 at 2:14 PM Reply

    You’ve save me from painting my entire interior after getting lost in espresso/cappuccino -Dom. Never thought silver coffeetable wd look so good w it ! Having issue of how to keep top surface tough-wear ready tho…

  • Cheryl LaMell

    July 12, 2017 at 5:17 PM Reply

    Best article of the year! I can’t wait to try these =- thanks a million!

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