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Does red and brown go together in a living room?

Does red and brown go together in a living room?

The combination of red and brown in a living room can be an elegant and stylish choice when done properly. In this article, we will explore if and how these two colors can work together to create a cohesive and attractive space. There are a few key factors to consider when decorating with red and brown, such as the shade and tone of each color, the color palette, and the proportions in the room. With careful planning and style techniques, red and brown can make for a warm, inviting, and fashionable living room design.

Complementary Colors Theory

In color theory, red and brown are considered complementary colors on the color wheel. This means they are directly opposite each other. Complementary colors create high visual contrast and high energy when placed together. They also balance each other out nicely. The warmth of red works well with the earthy tones of brown.

Using complementary colors together requires some skill and restraint. Placing high concentrations of pure red right next to rich browns could look jarring. The key is to use muted and lighter shades of each color near each other and reserve the boldest versions as accents throughout the space. This creates a harmonious interplay rather than a clashing effect.

Shades of Red and Brown

With red and brown, pay close attention to the exact shades and tones you select. Some pairings will work better than others. For red, burnt orange reds and brick reds tend to complement brown shades nicely. Stay away from primary reds, which can feel too intense with brown.

For brown, go for warm medium-toned browns rather than cool dark browns, which will contrast too strongly. Think milk chocolate, coffee, cinnamon, and chestnut shades rather than dark chocolate or mahogany. Those richer browns can be added sparingly for depth.

Lighter tints of red and brown will blend more easily. Think blush, terra cotta, camel, beige and tan. Soft peach reds also combine well with light to medium browns. Pay attention to any undertones as well. Yellow-browns and orange-reds will coordinate better than blue-browns and purple-reds.

Color Palette

When decorating with red and brown, it is important to build out the color scheme. Adding coordinating colors will bring cohesion. Neutrals like white, black, gray, and beige are safe choices. Earth tones like green, yellow, blue also complement red and brown. For a bolder palette, jewel tones like emerald, sapphire and amethyst add dramatic flair.

Here are some red and brown color palette examples:

Warm neutrals Cream, light brown, tan, warm grays
Earth tones Sage green, olive, khaki, dark yellow
Jewel tones Ruby, garnet, emerald, bronze

A mix of colors and textures will keep the palette from feeling one dimensional. When red and brown dominate, the scheme can feel too heavy and dark. The supporting colors will add lightness and dimension.

Using Red Accents

One way to effectively incorporate red into a brown room is through accents. Red has powerful energy and draws the eye. Use it strategically in smaller touches to add focal points. Red throws, pillows, rugs and artwork make attractive accents against brown sofas, walls, floors and furniture.

Candles, flowers and decorative bowls also bring in red in subtle ways. Avoid going overboard with red accents. Aim for a 70-30 ratio of brown to red. Too many strong red accents may feel overwhelming in the space.

Varied Textures & Materials

Varying textures and materials helps the red and brown scheme feel layered and dimensional. For brown, think textured rugs, nubby throws, wood surfaces and leather. For red, introduce sleek silks, velvets, polished lacquers and glass.

Too much of one texture can make the palette feel flat. Use sheers and linens to soften shiny lacquers and smooth leathers. Mix glazed ceramics with worn, distressed woods. The interplay of sleek and organic enhances the elegance of the color scheme.

Purposeful Placement

Be intentional about where red and brown are placed in the living room. Use brown as a neutral base on larger surfaces like sofas, ottomans and area rugs. Paint or paper walls brown for a cocooning effect. Use polished or stained brown woods for substantial furnishings like shelves, cabinets and tables.

Then carefully place eye-catching red accents around the space. Drape red blankets over chairs for pops of color. Hang red art above brown furnishings for an anchor effect. Set red lamps or vases on brown surfaces to cleanly contrast the colors. Place a bold red rug on top of brown hardwoods or tiles. Be mindful of how the colors and patterns interact.

Balanced Proportions

To keep the color scheme harmonious, maintain balanced proportions of red to brown. As a guideline, limit red to 25-30% of the overall scheme. Brown should dominate around 60-70% since it is the neutral base. The remaining 10-15% is for your supporting colors like cream, tan or slate gray.

If red starts edging closer to equal brown proportions, scale it back. Too much red compared to brown can feel overwhelming in a living room. Watch out for going overboard with multiple red sofas, chairs, pillows, and accessories competing with all the brown. Keep red in the accent role.


Proper lighting ensures red and brown both look their best. Warm lighting brings out the rich warmth in brown tones. For red, bright lighting elicits a vibrant glow. Use a mix of ambient, task and accent lighting. Overhead fixtures give diffused general lighting. Targeted lamps provide task lighting. Picture lights illuminate artwork while sconces cast reddish light on red walls.

Candlelight and sunlight streaming through windows also add natural glows. Dimmer switches allow you to control the lighting depending on your needs at different times. Proper lighting prevents the palette from feeling too dark and muddy.


Red and brown can make a dramatic color combination when done thoughtfully. Pay attention to shade variations, complementary colors, placement and proportions. Use brown as a neutral base and red for accents. Vary textures and lighting. With the right approach, this palette can create a living room that is rich, warm and welcoming. The interplay of red and brown brings stylish energy and earthy elegance to this special gathering space.