She Loves A Brown, Masculine Room, But He Doesn’t. Huh?

Dear Laurel,

My wife and I love reading your blog. Every Sunday, it’s waffles or French Toast, a big pot of coffee. Then, we head to the “woman-cave” to read your blog on the big desktop Mac.

But, something I’ve noticed and I hope that you don’t mind my pointing it out, is this. Over the last couple of years since we found you, I can’t help but notice that it’s always the wife who has a “problem husband.” (unless I’ve missed something)


Aren’t there ever any “problem wives?”


Yes, yes, yes, I know. You ladies think that we’re all a bunch of chest pumping Neanderthals when it comes to decorating. And, we supposedly love our dark, masculine “man-caves” where we go to get away from the screaming kids rejuvenate, I guess.

Well, I have a good one for you, Laurel.


My wife’s retreat is the one that’s dark. In fact, it’s a brown, quite masculine room! Or at least, what most people consider to be a “masculine room.”


And mine is well, the sun room. Light and bright. That’s my happy spot. The wife won’t go in there because she gets migraine headaches and light and bright is often a trigger. She calls my light bright space, “the ice-box.” And it’s not that it’s cold or anything. It’s just that it’s not anything remotely cave-like.


Forgive me. It must’ve been a woman who came up with the term “man-cave.” ;]


Right? And please don’t laugh, or I will start crying in my coffee.

Does that make me a freak or something?

Imagine that. An emotional man who doesn’t care for brown, masculine decor, and isn’t into a lot of stained wood either.


Hey, it’s Father’s Day, so I hope that there are other men out there like me, who love pale and are manly enough to admit it!


Darryl Carter white and black kitchen-masculine room

And it’s not like I hate those tones, but just more in moderation. I love my white walls. For instance, I adore the work of that decorator, Darryl Carter. But his penchant for painting walls white is too pale for the Mrs.

But, naturally, she also wants to please me. And of course, I want her to be happy too.

It’s just that when I think of brown interiors and decorating with brown, I have this hideous image of the house I grew up in, in the seventies.

something like this only the TV wasn’t over the fireplace, of course.


However, maybe I’m missing something? I figure if anyone can help me like brown, it’s you, Laurel.

Thank you,

Wallace R. White (but you can call me Wally)




Thank you Wally.

And, no fair. The good ones are always taken! ;]

Before, I go on… Wallace/Wally is a fictitious character.

But, I am aware that I write the post from a woman’s perspective.


However, some might be surprised that about 15% of the readers of the Laurel Home Blog are male. Thanks guys! And I mean, GUYS!


And today, being Father’s Day and all, I would like to honor all of the Dads out there by focusing on one, I conjured up.


On a quiet Sunday, which I expect today to be, 15% is still roughly 4,000 men.

So, if you have a chance, out of that many, maybe a few of you will let us know your preferences. Do you love light and bright? OR, do you prefer the so-called “man-cave”, browns, earth tones, etc.? Or maybe you prefer something else?


I promise. No judging, critiquing or laughing, (unless you’re laughing too).


Of course, women may answer as well. Maybe you too, prefer dark, rich rooms?


What about you, Laurel?


Well, I like it all. But, if I had a bigger house, I’d have some of each. But, mostly light and bright.

In the meantime, I’d like to transport both men and women into a world that’s not so hung up on color. Or the hottest trends.

There was a time and for quite a long time when brown wasn’t a dirty word. In fact, it would appear that brown wasn’t considered strictly a masculine and/or yucky color.


No, in fact, brown was a color for the upper classes. Rich folks.






In fact, there is so much art which features brown and it’s not just guys either.




Philip de László (Hungarian 1869-1937) ~ Winifred, Duchesse of Portland, 1912





Easton Neston - brown interior beautiful Georgian architecture - interior design - Henrietta Spencer Churchill

Above and below the magnificent Easton Neston Manor house, that I was incredibly lucky to see in person last fall during my trip to England.


The interior design is by Henrietta Spencer Churchill. She was there and gave us a beautiful tour. We were not allowed to take photos of the interior. These as you can see are from Architectural Digest. The renovation was carried out by Ptolemy Dean.


Easton Neston Main Parlor. brown damask wallpaper

This is the place where the klutz Laurel spilled her tea on the Aubusson rug. Not this rug. It was a smaller room. It was one of those moments when I wished that someone would just grind me straight into the carpet. Knowing that my life was soon to be over, I shamefully went up to the butler and told him what had happened.


As I was waiting for him to box my ears, he said, “Are you all right?”


Meaning, did I burn myself? If I did, I’m sure I didn’t notice. All I could think about was the rug. And then as he was starting to make his way back to the kitchen to fetch more biscuits, he said:

“Oh, no bother at all. I’ll just say the dog did it.”


chocolate_by_myenvoy-Ola Grochowska-it's not easy being brown

myenvoy-Ola Grochowska

Oh, not this sweet pup. A chocolate lab. How delicious– especially with that snow-covered punim!


via- noperfectdayforbananafish-Chocolate brown decor - brown interiors - brown decorating- world's best chocolate cake recipe. the link is on the blog. click the link to find it.

via- noperfectdayforbananafish

 Here is the recipe for the world’s best chocolate cake.

And no arguing. ;] This one is the best. I’ve fed it to dozens of people and all concur.


I once had a client who said that brown is the color of depression.

Obviously, she had not had the right chocolate cake.




The breathtaking home in New York City of Carolyne Roehm;

That’s chocolate-brown velveteen on the walls!

(sorry, I could not find the original source of this image)


James T Farmer @jamestfarmer on instagram @robertnorris A Place To Call Home wood paneled living room study

James T Farmer @jamestfarmer on instagram @robertnorris From, his book, A Place To Call Home


you can get it here.


cabinet is stained Alder-Elizabeth Kimberly Design. Northstar Builders, Inc.

Northstar Builders, Inc.

Elizabeth Kimberly Design

I love the accent of the wood-stained cabinet made of Alder Wood.


You’ll never guess but Miles Redd did this handsome kitchen.


Mary commented about the washer/dryer being white and feeling quite out-of-place in this very dark kitchen.


Below is another iteration of the same kitchen by Miles Redd.


I don’t know which one is more recent, but if I had to guess, I would say that this one is. The reason being is that I can’t imagine ripping up the gorgeous black and white floor and putting in what looks to be wood laminate.


miles redd black and white kitchen

But, I like the warmth and color in the first version of the kitchen.





If ever there was a “Are you finished yet?” look, this is it!

Or maybe she’s furious with her mother for making her wear those overly puffy sleeves!


laV restaurant, austin texas by mcalpine tankersley - brown velvet drapery

Above and below by Bobby McAlpine and Greg Tankersley.

LAV restaurant, Austin, TX


LAV restaurant, Austin, TX - Masculine room - Bobby McAlpine


brown-masculine rooms- Bobby McAlpine - @mcalpinehouse on instagram - brown interiors. David Braly - staff architect

Staff architect at McAlpine, Tankersley, Booth and Ferrier – David Braly’s converted firehouse via instagram.

For more of Bobby McAlpine and associates, please check out some of my favorite rooms, they have done over the years.


Julius Kronberg - Romeo and Juliet on the balcony 1886

Julius Kronberg – Romeo and Juliet on the balcony 1886.

I did not know that she wore brown velvet. But there it is.


Well, Wally… I’m hoping that this has given you some positive inspiration and that you’re feeling better about brown.


And, maybe having a brown or a deeper color room. However, if your wife has bad headaches, I might stick to more medium tones as there can be a lot of glare between the contrast of dark walls and the windows. The cure for that, however is shades.

Lots of shade.

For more handsome masculine rooms please check out:

Happy Father’s Day!




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33 Responses

  1. We have a brown kitchen — a warm, rich, saturated brown — and after 10 years, I’m still not tired of it. In fact, when we redid the kitchen in 2013, the only thing that was a “no brainer” was the wall color! There are a few shots here that show the color,

    Thanks for your inspiration/challenging though, I’m working on our dining room (moving from a dark/harsh orange-y red that I didn’t pick) — leaving the walls in place but with fresh paint, the moldingx100 in the ceiling in place, but removing the kinda clunky traditional table/chairs to something more casual and contemporary. Color comes first — your paint guides are a godsend.

    1. Hi Alanna,

      What a great post. Is this whole thing your website? My mom’s from St. Louis and I visited yearly in my childhood.

      Wish there were some before shots. But I can imagine. I’ve some plenty of dark, dreary kitchens. The brown is gorgeous and I’m sure even more-so in person.

  2. Love your blog! It always makes me smile and I usually learn something from each post. I do have brown walls in our family room as it is a large room with a very large window and I thought it might make the room look smaller! Should I feel guilty for painting it brown?

    I do love the look of white walls which I think I may paint my kitchen as it is always dark in there. Although I think I will keep my brown family room!

    1. Hi Laura,

      White can actually look dingy in a dark room, but since kitchens normally have lights on, it’s fine. Just choose a warm, fairly clean white, perhaps like cotton balls or simply white. But please test first!

  3. I much prefer white, light, bright for bathrooms and kitchens.

    If I’m not using a designer (which I never am!) then light and bright because I don’t know how to make those moody, layered rooms look nice.

    I would love to have a room like the one you ruined with your tea, to order my servants around in.

    1. Hi George,

      Hopefully, I didn’t ruin the room or the rug. I believe that it will be unnoticeable because of the color of the rug, the intricate pattern and the fact that wool is self-cleaning, over time. In addition, I don’t believe that it’s an antique Aubusson. I hope not, anyway!

  4. Laurel,
    What a great idea for a Father’s Day post! My husband adores light and bright colors and white trim. His favorite paint color in the whole house is BM Glass Slipper (most of our colors are from your collection). I love the dark rich colors more. I think we both have come to appreciate both types of colors and just work together to find the best colors for each space in our home but it was challenging for several years. As for brown, I was inspired by some of the pink and brown palettes in your palette collection to do my bedroom with ivory walls, brown velvet/ivory/dusty pink velvet bedding. It really compliments our dark wood furniture. I’m going to paint our bathroom one of your browns with lots of white accents. I never would have come up with this on my own! It is such a relaxing, casual space and we both love it. My favorite bedrooms tend to be more “masculine” with just the right touch of femininity.

    1. Hi Eleanor,

      That is so cool! And your home sounds beautiful. I too, love a dark bedroom, but since I only have one and it wasn’t really working in my place, I had to make a decision. But I love this one too. Now, if only I can decide what I want to put on the windows! haha

  5. Laurel, I love your writing style, you really have a way with words. You weaving everything into making sense. You also make so many things humorous, there is always a laugh reading your posts. Thanks for your input on dark colors, Browns are beautiful when done right!

  6. Laurel, You know you get me every time you share one of Darryl Carter’s rooms. I LOVE that kitchen…And Miles Redd’s, too. Like it best with the white floor though. I love white walls but love also black, chocolate, etc. I think I just realized I don’t love anything in the middle. XO

  7. I only wish I could go light and airy. House is all dark. Few windows and little natural light. Very little out there on how to do a big dark house.

  8. Afternoon Laurel..Brown? not a fan & particularly don’t like it at all with yellow. But really liked the rooms that you showed today. Guess I just can’t live with brown. Then OMG you mentioned the chocolate cake..I ran to my fridge, do I have buttermilk? Yes!! Coco powder Yes!! It really is the Best chocolate cake!! I’ve made many times already. Had been a big fan of Ina’s & it’s really good too. But, this is easier to make and delicious. I’m sorry, I have to go now and get that cake started lol Love your post as ALWAYS

    1. Hi Carol,

      That’s interesting that this cake is easier than Ina’s. There are a lot of steps, but in the many years when I made it 5 or 6 times a year, I had memorized everything and it was very easy.

      Enjoy your cake!

  9. Our house had coffee coloured walls … and ceilings when we moved into it – can’t say we loved it, but fortunately, nothing that a can of Benjamin Moore Ecru couldn’t fix!

    My school uniform was a rich chocolate brown, so nope, no brown in this house now except antique furniture. 😉

    I’m worried about young Winifred in one of the early pictures in this week’s story, Laurel – was her waist photo-shopped, or whatever the equivalent was for the era? She looks awfully awfully thin. Beautiful, but oh, my, where are her ribs and tum.

    Happy Father’s Day, all!

    1. Hi Fenella,

      I took another look at Winifred who it appears was quite a beauty. The rest of her looks quite healthy. So, either some artistic license by the artist or else she was corseted to within a hair’s breath of breaking her rib cage.

      And funny, but my wasband (ex huband) had to wear blue for his school uniform and therefore, had the same aversion to blue that you have to brown.

      Interesting the associations, for better or worse, we acquire in our youth.

  10. I was not a fan of dark rooms, except for maybe a den or library where I’d might want to cozy up on a winter’s day. But we recently painted our master bedroom (at my husband’s request) in a color called Texas Leather by Sherwin Williams. I wouldn’t know what to call it…dark gray/olive/brown…as it changes as the day progresses. But it is so rich and I really love it. And I do love these examples. Brown can be quite luscious.

    1. Hi DRL,

      Benjamin Moore also has a color called Texas Leather which is just as you say. I love colors that are difficult to describe because that complexity is what I think makes them particularly beautiful.

  11. Lovely blog entry, as usual, Laurel. Especially nice one for Father’s Day.
    What a kind, quick-thinking and good-humored butler! 🙂
    Enjoy this beautiful Sunday!

    1. Thanks so much Anna. I’ll never forget that man’s kindness. Honestly, I wanted to die. In my defense, I was so over-taken by the incredible beauty of this masterpiece of a home that I’m surprised the entire cup didn’t go down, taking me along with it!

  12. Many years ago I painted our living space a dark brown. At the time I was young & dumb & knew nothing about the concept of undertones. I picked the wrong brown. It was icky. I lived with it for a while before I realized my color choice made me feel blah. I did think having a dark color was very cozy though. And I bet if I had picked a better shade of brown I would have felt a lot better.
    I have to say…As much as I love the handsome kitchen designed by Miles Redd, I’m surprised he had white appliances in the space. (They appear to be a washer & dryer.) The white is very high contrast to the dark cabinets.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Oh, this is funny. I have a different iteration of the Miles Redd kitchen somewhere and in that case, the appliances are gone and the floor is black and white. I’ll go see if I can find it and I’ll add it and then comment again.

  13. Wonderful post Laurel! Winifred’s portrait makes me swoon. Beautiful tones! Guess you’ve figured out I’m another brown loving woman….. thought it was because I’m a redhead. I now know it to be a wonderful neutral. Have you seen how Bill Blass used it? With White! Innovative in it’s time. Thanks for another fabulous post 🙂

    1. Hi Liz,

      That’s my favorite piece too!

      Do you mean Bill Blass’ bedroom? A lot of my favorite designers of the previous generation, ie: Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton, Billy Baldwin, etc did dark and usually lacquer walls and the rooms are all beyond amazing and the very definition of timeless.

  14. I have always preferred a dark rich palette yet, I too, am drawn to Daryl Carter’s aesthetic. I love the look of the rich woodtones against white. I am uncertain whether I could live with it long term. But lately I am finding some of my choices suffocating.

    How best to make a transition? How I wish I could afford two homes….

  15. Beautiful “brown” rooms here, Laurel. Just one thing though — in all of them, the brown is broken up by some at least of the following: plenty of pale in the shape of large windows, white architectural elements, paintings, reflective surfaces (in that kitchen), curtains, upholstery (the Farmer room, superbly coordinated colour mix)… and in the bedroom image, mentally make the bed and see what it does!
    That last is the only room I’d describe as dark and rich.

      1. I’m afraid you’ve lost your bet, Laurel. Sorry, but I detest the English country house look and all variants. At its worst, in the stately home bracket, it’s all chintz and sofas which have seen better days, along with tons of clutter (that lived-in look), wooden floors with draughty gaps, and in the kitchens and bathrooms, primitive British plumbing. But that’s just an opinionated personal prejudice.
        The photos you show of Tradchap’s (or not) house have some lovely vignettes, but as a whole, no!
        If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from garden design, it’s that plants must be put in in good-sized blocks, and I tend to apply that indoors as well.
        I’ll have a look at the other linked posts, to see if you can convince me of … something!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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