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Is chestnut brown a reddish brown?

Chestnut brown is a rich, warm brown color that has hints of red in it, leading many to categorize it as a reddish brown shade. However, there is some debate around whether chestnut brown should be considered a true reddish brown or if it falls into its own category. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the characteristics of chestnut brown, examine how it compares to other brown and red shades, and explore whether it contains enough red tones to be definitively called a reddish brown.

Defining Chestnut Brown

So what exactly is chestnut brown? In basic color theory, chestnut brown is created by combining red and yellow pigments, with a slightly higher ratio of yellow. The more yellow in the mix, the warmer and lighter the resulting brown will be. Chestnut brown sits somewhere between a medium and dark brown, and has a warm, golden-red undertone.

The origins of the name “chestnut” come from the nut of the chestnut tree, which has a rich brown color similar to the shade. Other names for chestnut brown include Auburn and Russet. When evaluating chestnut brown paint swatches or colored pencils/markers, you’ll notice the warm, muted red-orange undertones within the base brown color.

Comparing Chestnut Brown to Other Browns

To understand if chestnut brown should be classified as a reddish brown, it helps to see how it compares to some other brown shades:

Chocolate Brown – This is a very dark brown with more black than red tones. It lacks the warm undertones of chestnut brown.

Coffee Brown – A medium-dark brown with slight olive undertones. The red/orange tones in chestnut brown help distinguish it from coffee brown.

Taupe – Combines gray and light brown for a muted, natural tone. Chestnut brown has much more vibrancy.

Cinnamon – A light, golden brown with strong orange undertones. Chestnut brown is darker and less orange.

So compared to other common brown shades, chestnut brown appears to have a noticeable amount of red/orange influence. The warm undertones give it energy and vibrancy that set it apart from many standard brown colors.

Chestnut Brown vs. Reddish Browns

Now let’s see how chestnut brown stacks up to some shades that are clearly classified as reddish browns:

Mahogany – A very reddish dark brown that has more prominent red tones than chestnut brown.

Burgundy – Much more red-dominant, burgundy is a dark reddish brown that almost appears purple.

Auburn – Auburn has lighter and brighter red tones than chestnut brown.

Russet – Slightly more orange-leaning than chestnut brown.

From these comparisons, we can see chestnut brown generally has more subtle, muted red tones compared to reddish browns like mahogany, burgundy, and auburn. However, it does appear to contain enough red/orange to be noticeably different from neutral or cool-toned browns.

Evaluating Chestnut Brown

So what’s the verdict on categorizing chestnut brown? Here are some key considerations:

  • Chestnut brown clearly contains red and orange tones, visible when comparing paint swatches or color samples side-by-side with neutral browns.
  • However, the red undertones are more muted and subtle compared to shades like mahogany and auburn that are definitively reddish browns.
  • Chestnut brown sits somewhere between a neutral brown and a bold reddish brown.
  • It could reasonably be described as either a warm brown or a soft reddish brown.
  • The classification may vary slightly depending on the specific shade or application of chestnut brown.

Based on these factors, there is no definitive right or wrong answer – chestnut brown occupies a middle ground between neutral browns and bold reddish browns. Some specific shades may lean slightly more reddish, while others appear warmer and less red-influenced. On the whole though, “reddish brown” seems like a reasonable but optional descriptor for chestnut brown, depending on context.

Uses of Chestnut Brown

Now that we’ve explored the characteristics of chestnut brown, let’s look at some popular uses for this versatile, reddish-tinged shade:


  • Chestnut brown hair dye is a flattering option for people with warm, reddish skin tones.
  • Chestnut brown boots pair well with various colors and lend a rugged yet stylish look.
  • Chestnut leather handbags have warmth and dimension while still being neutral enough to match lots of outfits.

Interior Design

  • Painted chestnut brown walls can make a room feel cozy and inviting.
  • Chestnut wood furniture has a timeless, natural look with orange undertones.
  • Chestnut brown throw pillows and area rugs add warmth to cool-toned spaces.


  • The chestnut horse coat color features a rich reddish-brown mane, tail, and legs.
  • Chestnut brown mink coats have orange tinting mixed with the dark brown fur.
  • Chestnut brown chickens are a heritage breed known for their deep red-brown feathers.

As you can see, chestnut brown has broad use across fashion, design, and the natural world thanks to its complex blend of brown and red tones.


So, is chestnut brown a reddish brown? After reviewing chestnut brown’s distinct characteristics and comparing it to similar shades, the answer seems to be: sometimes! Chestnut brown occupies a middle ground with subtle, warm red undertones that distinguish it from neutral browns but don’t dominate like a bold reddish brown. The classification may vary depending on context, but overall chestnut brown does appear to contain enough red/orange influence to qualify it as a soft, muted reddish brown in many cases. This versatile shade brings warmth and dimension to anything it’s used for.

Brown Color Key Characteristics Reddish Brown?
Chestnut Brown Medium to dark brown with warm, muted red-orange undertones Yes, subtly
Chocolate Brown Very dark brown with black tones No
Coffee Brown Medium-dark brown with olive undertones No
Taupe Muted gray-brown No
Cinnamon Golden brown with strong orange tones No
Mahogany Dark reddish brown with prominent red tones Yes, strongly
Burgundy Very dark reddish-purple brown Yes
Auburn Light, bright reddish brown Yes
Russet Reddish-orange brown Yes