Do Brown and Gray Go Together in Interior Design?

Kim Lewis
by Kim Lewis

Today, we are wondering do brown and gray go together because of a project we're working on.

I got a phone call from my builder earlier this week, and we had ordered a concrete tub, this amazing freestanding concrete tub. This tub weighed in at over 950 pounds, palleted, so there's no sending the tub back. She called me, and she said, I think the tub is more gray than you expected. The pictures showed online it looked kind of like a taupe brown.

The bottom line is this prompted the question of, can you mix brown and gray? Can you have brown and gray in the same space, warm and cold, warm and cool? The answer is yes. I saw the tub, and I'm like, look, you guys, there's no concern here. The tub is more gray than we expected, but it's absolutely beautiful.

Brown and gray in interior design

Brown and gray materials

What we have to remember is when you order something like a concrete material, whether it's flooring or a tub or even a light fixture, it's going to come in a little bit different than the photos show because concrete is a natural material, and it does have differentiations.

So we looked at this tub, and what we're doing is pivoting a little bit, but not a lot. We wanted this bathroom to feel outdoorsy anyway. The client was excited to kind of give it a Japanese feel. That is a very, very natural design palette. So what we're doing is we're going to have teak. This is a teak material on the walls.

Creating balance with browns and grays

Creating balance

When you pair brown and gray, I think it's important. I would say one of the rules is to just consider it's all about balance. These warm and cool schemes absolutely go together. In fact, I actually don't love all gray spaces. I feel that it translates as cold, and all brown can feel really warm. So, the perfect balance, just like the earth outside, is bringing up a cool and warm tone.

Mixing brown and gray creates something extremely neutral and, I think, very pleasing to the eye. It has a calmness, a warmth to it, and an earthiness.

So, all of these are awesome examples of living spaces where people have combined wood materials with concrete plaster. I do think it's nice if you have a warm and cool scheme that maybe the warm comes from the wood and the cool comes from a different texture, like a concrete tile, a floor, or a wall plaster.

Where to mix brown and gray in a home

Where to mix brown and gray

I think at the end of the day, the warm and cool scheme can go throughout the house. But it's a really nice place to use this idea in common spaces like the living room, the kitchen, or the primary bathroom. There are some really cool concrete sinks out there right now. Pair that with a wood cabinet, and you've got a really beautiful scenario.

I think it's about balance, too, right? They don't have to be high contrast. The wood can go darker. The concrete can go lighter. They can get more neutral and more monochromatic.

The warm and cool scheme works so well in kitchens and baths because what do we want to do when we go into the bathroom space in our house? We want to relax. It's where we start, and it's where we finish our day. So, I think a warm and cool scheme works super well in a bathroom. You've got wood cabinetry, maybe some concrete tile, maybe wood on the ceilings, maybe some teak stools, some really beautiful concrete sink or tile countertops.

You can do a concrete-looking quartz countertop, which is a great idea. I also love the idea of plaster. What you don't see in a lot of inspirational photos is stark white. We've got kind of a very monochromatic, tone-on-tone feeling with the concrete or with the gray and the brown, and I think that's what makes it work really well. When you start putting something bright white in there, it can work, but it feels a little bit more synthetic. So, if we're going with a warm and cool scheme, it is all about capturing an earthy feeling.

Warm or cool grays?

Warm or cool grays

Something about grays to really pay super close attention to is you really can go warm gray or cool gray. Warm gray is going to naturally have a brown undertone. Then you go cool gray, and it pulls some kind of blue tones to it. So, I think it's important to make sure you kind of hone in on what you want to feel when you're in the room.

Cool gray is naturally going to make the space feel cooler. Sometimes, it can feel cold, maybe more modern, more contemporary, and that's a good thing. Warm grays are going to feel more earthy, more balanced, more grounded, and just more warm in general.

I told our builder if we have brown and gray, all we have to do to make this thing pop perfectly is add some plants because now we've literally created this beautiful earthy sensation. Look outside, indoors, outdoors. If you want an indoor-outdoor feel, bringing in warm and gray tones is a great way to go.

Earth tones, mixing warm and cool

Earth tones, mixing warm and cool

Last but not least, I want to end with a sneak peek of one of our designs because it shows you how we are at incorporating a very neutral, very earthy palette using different earth tones, mixing warm and cool.

Do brown and gray go together?

You can totally do it, you guys. I actually think it makes for an incredible space. Don't be afraid. Don't go all in. My advice is don't go all in on cool rooms and don't go all in on warm rooms. Mixing is a perfect balance solution for your interior space.

So, in answer to the question "Do brown and gray go together?", the answer is yes! I'd love to hear or see the ideas and projects that you've done. Share those in the comments below.

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Roberta D Treichel Roberta D Treichel on Dec 13, 2023
    I am one of those people who love all natural colors together, warm and cool, so I find that animal prints lend themselves really well to these combinations. Just use them in moderation! Leopard print pillows on the couch, or large iron sculptures of giraffe or elephant. Any one of those settings would look nice with these touches. Hope I'm not dating myself too much, but if it's not in now, it will be again!
  • Yolanda Yolanda on Apr 10, 2024
    My leather sofas are dark brown it makes my house look darker. I put gold drapes up and don't like the way it looks will gray drapes look better.Thank you.