With less than one per cent of people apparently liking the colour brown, current colour tastes in interiors don’t bode well for the renaissance of brown antique furniture. Edd Thomas of the Antiques Young Guns, says we need to learn to love the colour for the age-old humility and warmth it can bring to modern homes.
Season of colour
A quick look outside reminds me that this is the season of colour. From the garden to bold summer clothes, it’s the time of year when we take note of the colours in our life. Within the antiques and interiors world colour plays a massive, though often under-recognised, role.
From collectors’ items that soar in value because the glaze has developed an unusual, and hence rarer, tint; to homeware objects that contain the latest uber-fashionable tones. Colour influences our decision making in many ways. Countless studies have shown that small variations in a tone are picked up by the hard-wiring inside us all.
It is why a room can bubble up a sense of anger, or make you want to sit down and meditate. It’s also why we have to trudge back to our local hardware shop when the colour on the paint tin doesn’t turn out exactly as we’d hoped.
The colour specialist Joa Studholme recently explained our current love of pastel. According to her, today’s harsh and unforgiving world is causing us to seek a softer sanctuary inside our own homes.
She’s right. From the geometric monotone of everday items (from phones to office buildings) our eye is bombarded with bold contrasting colours. And that is tiring. It explains why, over the past few years, soft whites and pastels, with equally soft textures incorporated into them, have grown in popularity within our homes. They help relax the eye and make our tiny rooms feel larger and safer to us.
Brown but not out
As a furniture dealer, my professional appreciation of colour can take on a much more frustrating inner rant. Of all the colours of the rainbow, for some reason brown – especially dark brown – seems to globally sit at the bottom of most people’s wish list. In one study by Eva Heller, an acclaimed German writer and social scientist, the colour brown was sadly liked by less than one percent of her survey group, even coming below pink, grey and violet (ouch!).
Brown’s warm welcome
Brown is a colour (so my research tells me) that represents frugality, earthiness and seriousness. In the Middle Ages it was the colour of mourning, and in Feng Shui it is most often used in dining rooms and living rooms to show your guests that you are humble and warm-hearted.
Sadly when our ancestors finally figured out that wood was a pretty good material from which to make objects, they were clearly not paying much heed to the modern-day colour theory.
Bring back brown
As the antiques industry continues to bemoan the decline of brown furniture, we need to understand the unwitting barriers traditional furniture lovers now face. Not only have we moved away from the formality these objects represent (and made ourselves houses with rooms barely large enough to swing a cat in) but, for all their warmth, many pieces just remain resolutely and unashamedly brown.
Being part of the one percent that actually likes the colour, there are only two things I can do. Either I can conform and adapt (as many have done) by painting, bleaching or otherwise changing the natural unpopular tone to something more fashionable, or I can sit down and try to teach the other 99 percent of the world why it is OK to aspire to humility and warmth. From fashionable mid-century modern Danish teak, to 16th-century oak, with a depth of patina to die for, brown comes in many shades, some more popular than others.
Brown is, therefore, not just a colour it’s a way of life.