For many years, the classic yet versatile look of painted furniture has been a beloved addition for a pop of color or a clean white, minimalist look. But Kelly Wilkniss of My Soulful Home is encouraging decorators to drop their paintbrushes and embrace the “brown furniture renaissance.”
Old World Elegance
Well-chosen brown wood furniture can pair well with a variety of different themes and décor choices, whether it’s traditional, modern or anywhere in between. It adds an elegant touch that can’t be matched by painted furniture.
“I am drawn to wooden furniture as the antique and vintage pieces have generally been made with solid wood and excellent workmanship,” Kelly says. Unpainted, traditionally finished brown furniture often have qualities such as detailed hand carvings or dovetail joints that can only be seen in pieces with hefty price tags, but can often be purchased second hand for a fraction of the original cost.
“I am drawn to wooden furniture as the antique and vintage pieces have generally been made with solid wood and excellent workmanship,” Kelly says.
The natural look of wood can also be easily transformed to fit into rustic or luxurious styles by working with its features rather than fighting against them. “Many brown wooden pieces have natural grains and intricate details that are best highlighted in their original brown-tone stain,” Kelly says. Nature truly is the best craftsman and each stain and pattern appears to be uniquely intentional, so it would certainly be a shame to cover up these variations that make the piece so beautifully elegant.
Decorating with brown wood furniture doesn’t have to mean leaving your painted pieces behind, Kelly believes these two different styles can coexist in one space and even balance each other out in juxtaposition. “I use a lot of white in my decorating. In fact, my entire 3-story house is painted white inside and out. The brown furnishings add Old World elegance and keep the spaces from floating in a sea of white paint.”
In Kelly’s home, brown wooden pieces tend to be larger; these are what she calls the “anchors”, while the smaller pieces usually undergo a paint transformation. “Small pieces don’t have the heft to anchor, so it is fun to coat them in a white, a pop of color or even gold,” Kelly explains.
There is also an added layer of precaution involved with painting furniture – it is always important to take the time to examine the value of a piece, especially if it is very old, before breaking open a paint can. Valuable woods with unique grains like birds-eye maple or quarter sawn oak are best left unpainted to display their natural beauty. Aside from the value, a space can also look cluttered when every furnishing is painted. If a piece has presence in its natural state, Kelly believes it would be best to just leave it be.
Although keeping furniture in their brown-toned finish or stain can be seen as boring or plain, ironically, brown furnishing can also be utilized as statement pieces. And in Kelly’s home, she does exactly that. She insists, “They are needed punctuation marks in the context of my décor.”
Charm & Character
When selecting wooden furniture for your home, Kelly believes the most important aspect is not the type of wood itself but it’s unique character, such as the different stains or grains of the piece. “Darker stains, less grain and more character are what I seek out when shopping for wooden pieces for myself or clients,” she shares, “such as a dark stained piece with carved details or a lighter pine with loads of time worn patina.”
There’s also no need to restrict yourself when styling the piece, the key is to embrace this natural color and texture of wood and mix it with other contrasting colors. “If you have brown furniture, mix it with white – especially if it is stained dark or weathered. White paint, accessories and shiny mixed metals bring out another side of your brown furniture,” Kelly recommends.
I use a lot of white in my decorating… The brown furnishings add Old World elegance and keep the spaces from floating in a sea of white paint.
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