Maria Killam’s Trend Forecast for 2020

The new colour for 2020 is BROWN

It took 11 years for brown to be back in fashion. No one wanted to wear it, because everyone was busy trying to eliminate the Tuscan Brown trend from their homes.

I do smile when I read articles declaring that ‘Earth tones are back’ just because people are seeing brown and warmer, beige tones in decorating.

However, how I know this for sure, is that my clients–locally and from all over North America–are NOT asking me for earth tones for their walls.

It’s white, off-white, cream, greige. The end. The palest of the pale. If they are smart, they consult with me, or my ebooks on how to choose colour or white instead of just painting their walls BM Chantilly Lace. Art gallery white is RARELY the right answer.

And you might be able to get away with painting your new build Chantilly Lace because you probably won’t have existing creamy trim, cabinets or travertine floors from the brown trend. However, it still won’t look right, because everything else in your decorating will be more off-white, cream or greige. It won’t look perfect, but you won’t be as offended as you would be by the wrong undertone in a neutral.

Related Post: 10 Steps for Planning your New Build

Ellie Cullman

Beige is most definitely back in decorating.  Just not for walls. It’s too soon, we just did beige/earth tones 10 years ago, it’s way too soon for people to start painting their walls BM Shaker Beige or SW 6122 Camelback.

So back to brown for a second. In the last 10 years that the grey trend has been going strong (trends have a 10 year shelf life) people would see ANYTHING brown and immediately declare that ‘brown was back’.

I also mentioned seeing brown at High Point in my last two trends reports, here and here. However, what that simply meant was that the consumer was open to adding it to their grey colour schemes to add warmth, NOT that it was coming back as the current trendy neutral.

I couldn’t resist posting this photo of me in my new brown coat and heels (brown is technically better for my colouring than black).

 Coat (The Bay)  | Heels

Anyway, here is a great example of brown being used in a fresh way in the showstopper brown room of 2019 by designer Eddie Ross (below).

Eddie Ross in House Beautiful October 2019

Notice how brown is being used to create drama? A backdrop to bright colour? This is a completely new way to use brown.

But Maria, isn’t this a clean and dirty combination?

Technically no, because the contrast is so high. If the “brown” here was more of a mid-tone pink beige , well then yes, it would look too muddy to support the clean white, coral and turquoise accents.

And the other thing that’s new about brown? We will be seeing it paired with crisp whites and off whites rather than cream (below).

Related post: 3 Surprising Reasons Your Colour Scheme Looks Dirty

Browning Architects

James Farmer

Where you’ll need cream (above) is if your house is still decorated with the more muted golds, oranges and greens from the Tuscan trend.

Complex Creams are in

As I just said, everyone is still obsessed with white walls, and the requests for grey walls have dropped off steeply.

Clients are asking for creamier, warmer neutrals–even beiges–in the palest they can be before they are white.

Complex Creams like SW Divine White (which can be found in my SW Foundation Collection here) are becoming more and more popular. Stay tuned for more about this category soon.

AND, if you are reading this and it’s making you unhappy that you have grey walls (not almost white) DO NOT despair, just add colour to bring it to life!

Creamy walls in Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi’s home via Architectural Digest

Black is hitting critical mass

And speaking of high contrast, black is hitting critical mass in homes near you. But my lovelies, we know better than to go off the rails and use black for every item and piece of hardware you install in our homes right?

I blogged about the black trend many times (including how easy it is to overdo it) since I first announced that it was coming 4 years ago here and here.

This is where knowing how to mix metals  becomes really important. Everything black really stands out in a white bathroom.

Notice here that the faucet and lighting are chrome not black. The windows and wood stained accents help lighten and prevent this kitchen from looking dark, flat and predictable.

Beautiful House

Arches are back

How long have we been trying to eliminate them? I’m trying to remember.

A beautiful arched doorway like this one never goes out of style, but like any trend when they are installed just because, well that’s when they can look wrong.

T.S. Adams Studio

Rattan Furniture

When you can buy a hanging rattan chair, that’s when you know it’s trending!

Serena & Lily

James Farmer Interior Design

Colour and Pattern

The white walls obsession isn’t going anywhere, but there is growing interest in colour. If Zillow’s 2020 prediction holds, we will see more colour and pattern and a move away from neutral Scandinavian minimalism:

Goodbye, Hygge (look it up). Hello, color! Fun will return to home design in the form of bold prints, lively wallpaper and brightly hued walls. After a decade of Scandinavian modern design that dominated retail and social media feeds as Americans embraced neutrals, minimalism and clutter-free living, expect a shift toward playful, creative design. Look for color to be injected in unexpected ways in kitchen cabinetry and appliances, in lighting fixtures and on interior doors and moldings.

Naturally, I would LOVE to see more colour and pattern in interiors this decade. Minimal all white interiors, while fresh and trending, simply don’t look NEW anymore.

Meg Braff

We might be bored of white but that doesn’t mean white kitchens and bathrooms are out

Richard Anuszkiewicz

And yes, this time of year for the last few years, bloggers and magazines have been eager to declare the death of the white kitchen.

It’s natural to look for the ‘next’ thing, and kitchens in natural wood finishes and new colours and tile are looking striking and new. But we also know that novelty does not equal timeless in the long run.

Time will tell if any of these innovative looks will turn into new classics, but meanwhile, you still won’t be able to pin point exactly when your classic white kitchen was installed. AND you’ll still be able to decorate your white kitchen or bathroom with any colour your heart desires.

Crisp white finishes are exactly what you’ll need to have the flexibility to introduce more colour into your decor going forward. It’s when you install the trendy neutral of the moment in your hard finishes that you get stuck in a trend cycle with no way out until a major renovation.

Kitchen cabinets in your favourite colour are always timeless

Along with the classic white kitchen, I can always get behind painting your cabinetry in just the right hue of your favourite colour. If you’re decorating your forever home, and not worried about appealing to every-buyer, go for it! You won’t regret it. Just make sure it works with your hard finishes.

Tiffany Brookes Interiors

Painted kitchen cabinets are definitely trending.

If you are choosing colours and finishes for your kitchen renovation this year, I can help here with my Create a Classic Kitchen online package.

New Traditional and Grandmillennial Style

Related to the (gradual) shift away from white walls and neutral, minimal decor, there is a call that gets louder everyday for plusher, more layered and comfortable traditional decor. House Beautiful has coined the term “Grandmillennial Style” (ie. Millennials that cultivate Grandma’s homey Laura Ashley style). Though I think aspects of this look have appeal across generations (everyone loves to label millennials, sheesh).

We called it out as the emerging “New Traditional” trend here.  It is a reaction to the hard edges and minimalism of the modern, contemporary, industrial and mid century modern looks that have dominated this past decade.

And yes, that includes the white modern farmhouse and white walls in general too.

Grandmillennial Style via Elle Decor

Ariel Okin Interiors

More colour, styling, fabric, drapes, detail and pattern all work for me!

So over to you! How do you feel about brown returning to the fashion and decorating scenes? Are you ready to approach it in a new way? Or would you rather leave it in the past?

Have you embraced the black and white trend? Or are you craving more colour?

If you’d like your home to fill you with joy when you walk in the door, let me help you refresh your home in the new year! With my Online Colour Design Services.

If you’re local, email my office.

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  1. For some of us brown and beige were never out, and they were also never in the category of Tuscan style. Like some of the most famous interior decorators, we love brown wood floors, bamboo shades, grasscloth wall coverings, sisal and seagrass rugs, mahogany, teak, and butcher block counter tops, traditional classic antique brown furniture, and animal prints like cheetah, leopard, and ocelot. Touches of black look fabulous with brown. I’ve loved my chintz with a chocolate background and clear flower colors of golden yellows, pinks, greens, and periwinkle. It’s the basis of a whole house color scheme that is colorful, dramatic, and classy. Trends are just trends. I always decorate with what I love.

    • I agree!
      I noted that most of the brown you mention have to do with softer texture–and that’s where I think brown works so well in almost any color scheme. Where it doesn’t work for me is in hard shiny surfaces like tile, counters, stone etc…

    • I don’t care for the dark brown walls in Eddie Ross’s room, nor the bright peppermint curtains. I get its all about contrasts, but never been a fan of red and brown, just feels forced, not natural or comfortable. The walls should be white, red or pink or blue not brown. Its like all the fabric, white chairs say sunroom and the walls say wine cellar. Brown walls feel confining to me.

      Not a fan of the brown subway tile either. Although I can see men loving it.

      On the other hand, I love John Farmer’s room, it feels fresh, cozy with the white curtains and leather chairs, and like the blue lamps…, check pattern as they all feel natural and comfortable.

      I also love Ellen Degeneres room because it too feels comfortable with the heavy woven curvy arm chairs, rustic sideboard contrasted with lots of windows, midcentury modern vibe.

      I agree brown is great in wood, floors, leather chairs, …just hate an all brown room. That’s my two cents worth.

      Thank you Maria, for all your great up to date info and all your color wisdom!

  2. I LOVE that brown subway tile bathroom!

    On the other hand, the beautiful island in the Richard Anuszkowicz kitchen is the opposite of user-friendly and it makes me sad to think of how little it will take to ruin its finish. It’s definitely a show-stopper, though.

  3. So happy to hear complex whites are making a comeback. Just painted my bedroom with divine white walls and they are so soft, warm, and absolutely divine.

  4. I enjoy brown on wood or wherever it is the natural colour. For me, it’s not so much as disliking brown elsewhere; I just find it depressing and always have.
    You will never find brown in my decor or on me. Most shades of brown and camel look fabulous on blondes (as it does on you, Maria) but not on brunettes with a yellow skin tone. It makes me look like death. Perhaps that’s why I find it depressing.
    Colour Me Happy is my motto.

  5. Hi Maria,

    Well, brown? I am definitely ready with new trendy brown 🍪. I know many people love brown, including my mom… She adores all tints of brown, but I personally love food related brown tones, such as chockolate brown, cappucchino brown, pale crem-brulee brown .. ☕🍦🍫
    I love reddish brown tones, but not the yellow ones .. I just adore Eddie Ross’s luxe room with combination of coral red, chocko-brown and turquoise. Also, Meg Braff’s coral-brown with violet-blue look very sofisticated. The tree wallpapers are my fave..

    I totally embraced the white and black design and firmly belive it will never grow out of fasion 🎹. Especially, coupled with wooden materials and natural textures .. I can’t take my eye away from Ellen Degeneres’s and the following Beautiful House’s kitchens with glass walls .. Also, black and white go perfectly with soft marshmallow pink, green or blue .. 🍡

    So, I say yes to brown, if it reminds me of tasty things 😁

  6. I never embraced the gray trend for myself, even though I have specified it for clients that requested it. While my home is not in the Tuscan trend, I use warm creams and browns in my home but I use lots of color; navy, teal, coral, and my beloved greens. Always greens. It always gets compliments. And most of all, makes me happy.

  7. I have a dark green sofa and I had my walls painted Benjamin Moore’s Stone Hearth. The room has a lot of light. One site says that because of the undertones, green won’t work but that site showed a lighter green. Can you tell me if I should definitely repaint the walls or is there a chance the color might work?

  8. Maria, do you feel that Sherwin Williams Creamy falls into this trend of “light walls” close to white but not ‘art gallery white’? I too would like to have lighter warmer walls without having that stark feeling.

  9. Hmmm..brown tiles in the bathroom would make me think of…well…poop! No thanks! Even though I’m Canadian, I’m Scandinavian at heart. And while that style has white walls, I have white furniture & some grey instead, and beige & greige walls. Our house just doesn’t have enough natural light to make white walls work in our house, ends up looking sad & drab. But when I check my pinterest faves, I’ve saved all white walls lol. Fun reading about the trends, so interesting.