Design trend favors white, but brown furniture still classic

Design trend favors white, but brown furniture still classic

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

Here’s a question for you. Is brown furniture out? On the design and decorating road these days, you’ll very often hear vendors and decorators say that it is, indeed.

If you are going by auction house reports, you’ll have to agree there are some fabulous deals being made these days on brown furniture at very low prices — far lower than they were a few years back.

Does anyone really want Grandmother’s tall clock or Mother’s Chippendale style breakfront, the pieces that once occupied space in the family dining room filled with crystal, plate and accessories? I will not say “no,” but back in the days of Elsie de Wolfe, that breakfront and those Chippendale chairs would have been painted white.

Yes, it seems the current trend is that millennials will paint the chair frames white or some other color, should they even want the pieces. Alas! Sad as it may be that for some, brown is out.

But I would argue that classic furnishings are never out. I hardly believe the incoming White House dwellers, whoever they may be come January, will want to get rid of the classic furnishings in the Red, Blue or Green rooms and replace them all with painted-white pieces, lacquered and ready to be viewed by visitors.

Some places just don’t call for all the new white. A classic remains a classic. Just like the Queen of England would look silly in a mini-skirt, a classic home just doesn’t look right filled with everything painted or repainted. Brown is the way to go — where it is appropriate.

White and painted is a perfect choice when the setting being furnished is a contemporary one, perhaps in a high-rise condominium in Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York. Those Miami folks are betwixt and between, for they seem to like the opulence of gilt, a la Arabia, or the steel and glass of contemporary styles along with some white leather upholstery.

Likewise, white-painted furniture in the shabby-chic vein can look right at home in a cottage by the sea or a farmhouse on the plains.

Yes, I like the brown furniture. I like the Swedish/Danish look of pieces by the master Arne Jacobsen, and I like the vintage look of 1940s South Beach. I also like fine antiques, not only in period-style rooms but also in less formal spaces where they can provide a lovely old school accent.

After all, every style has its place. I do understand that many of those who are now decorating are moving away from the browns. That may be true, but so is this: As with fashion, there is a time to be in, and a time to be out. From my years of in the design business, I can tell you with certainty that what is in today will very likely be out tomorrow.

So if you feel stuck in the browns, do think twice before you get out the paint jar or the spray can and drench everything in white.

My last piece of advice: In the end, do what you like — but please be sure you’ll like what you do.


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