All too often, when decorating, we think of the obvious colors first: yellow, pale green, and of course, white. Perhaps you recall the time when it seemed everyone's interior was just painted plain white, in part as a rebellion of the over-use of patterned wallpaper in the '60s and '70s. This bright white allowed the furnishings to stand out, and could be seen as a step toward simpler lines and less clutter.

But just as the designer today with a little color know-how wouldn't dream of simply painting the walls and ceiling white without good reason, so too does the slightly more advanced designer consider using other colors, colors which are not necessarily easy to manage and which aren't the obvious choices.

Hazelnut brown is just one such color.

Calling a brown "hazelnut" gives it a warming, welcoming feeling, but the warmth of this color goes well beyond its name. Hazelnut brown is a rich, warm brown, with some red tones mixed in to create the warming mood.

This color can easily be found in natural products; some woods are easily stained to a hazelnut, and some leathers are a natural knockout in hazelnut brown, helping the decorator achieve a woodsy look with just one striking piece of furniture. A hazelnut sofa or easy chair is nicely accented with cushions in a creamy white - but make sure the shade of cream you choose has enough of a warming yellow tone in it, to really bring out the warmth of the brown.

And you're not limited to using hazelnut in furniture. Creamy white walls with hazelnut trim will add a dignified mood to a dining room or study. In a room with large windows that gets plenty of natural light, you could even paint one wall hazelnut, provided you want to use the room as a place for concentration and contemplation.


  • Tip: Hazelnut also works well with deep forest green, and with paler browns, such as a deep sand or a tawny walnut-shell. An upholstered piece patterned in hazelnut and forest green will do well against a cream or walnut-shell wall; add forest green trim and hazelnut sofa cushions, and you're well on your way toward creating a nest worthy of the coziest squirrels.

 

But hazelnut isn't only good for a country-cottage look. It can also work well in a modern interior, especially when paired with brighter, surprising colors, such as orange or bright green. A classic piece such as a leather recliner in hazelnut will work with just about any look, as long as the other pieces are classics of their own time as well.

So don't be afraid to branch out into the browns this winter: they can bring in a warming tone that may be overlooked by a more timid designer, and give the room you're working on a whole new look.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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