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Colour of the Month // Donkey Brown

This month I’m re-doing our lounge room and was looking for a colour that would tie in well with everything in the space, but more importantly, that would give a really nice, rich, and sumptuous old-world feel. I was looking for library/snug,/smoking den sort of escape, and yet had to contend with a lot of extraneous factors, including that this room is part of a semi-open plan space! It’s a tricky one. The lounge gives directly onto my dining room, which on one wall opens onto our courtyard garden, and on the other to our kitchen. Also, the kitchen/dining area has terracotta floor tiles (took me a long time to warm to them, but once I figured out how to work them I came to love them), and our lounge antique pine floorboards. Over the years I’ve gathered a lot of things and somehow these spaces and the things within them have become a layered combination that I would never have picked, or envisioned to begin with (but that I really like!).

The dining and kitchen have a bit of a [and this is probably a stretch!] French farmhouse feel – the terracotta floors, painted furniture (lots of warm creams and light greys), the sisal and woolen rugs, olive green velvet couches, loads of indoor plants, and little touches of yellow, crisp Aegean blue, and grass green (in pottery, serving bowls, and artwork). The lounge room, however, has been a bit of an uncertain space – we have an antique chaise longue in mahogany and damask cream silk, a pale wheat green linen couch, and a timber fireplace with deep green Victorian tiles…


It took me some time to develop a solution to my problem. In the end though, I chose a warm, medium brown with milk chocolate undertones and a sort of donkey colouring. This works so nicely with the French farmhouse side of things – including the terracotta floors, which sit wonderfully against this slightly greyed brown with extremely subtle pink/orange undertones.

The best thing about this brown though is that it’s really a neutral. And I think this is such a valuable thing to note – browns are neutrals! I didn’t want to go with a fair colour, but I wanted depth and boldness (so sick of cream walls!). But in fact I really needed something neutral to tie everything together and have the space as a whole make sense. As it turns out, browns are such a good way to add warmth, depth, and confidence to a space without making an enormous statement or picking fights with other colours/objects/adjoining rooms in your house. They’re neutral, but cozy, they’re supremely elegant, and yet really comfortable. It’s hard to find a colour with these qualities, and considering the needs of my lounge room, brown turned out to be a good choice!

Which brown?

Donkey Brown is a reasonably loose shade – meaning that you can use it a bit lighter, a bit darker, a bit greyer, a bit more saturated, or as a perfectly medium tone depending on your space. I used a classic medium tone for my lounge room, but one with quite a lot of brown in it. I tried the more grey versions and they just didn’t give me that unctuous feeling I was after. Below are a few examples of colours worth experimenting with, and how they look once luxuriously lathered over walls.


This room by Carolina Design Associates is in Sherwin Williams – Tea Chest. Resene Double Nullarbor is an extremely close match for those who don’t have access to Sherwin Williams paint. I used Double Nullarbor for my lounge room walls and it’s delciously brown, but adequately grey to maintain its neutrality.


Resene Tobacco Brown is a warm, smoky brown. A tiny bit greyer (and therefore less brown) and darker (so more posh) than what I used, but would sit nicely in most scenarios because of its slightly reduced saturation. Be aware – it’s quite a bit darker than it looks here (and a bit darker than the room above).


These walls are a bit less brown than those above, but a similar depth. They look fabulous up against golds and creams. 



I love the elegance of this room – it reminds me of Versailles (?!). This is certainly a greyed version, quite akin to that of Resene Tobacco Brown.


Resene Squirrel Brown is a softer, more muted version of Donkey Brown for those looking for a paler palette.


Lark Interior Design

Going a bit darker is a good option for those who want to make a statement or highlight architectural details by contrasting walls and trim. A darker shade also does a great job of complementing outside greenery. This space is by Lark Interior Design

jacko bean

Resene Jacko Bean is less saturated and darker than what I used, but a sumptuous and confident brown none the less. It’s darker and greyer base means it would work well next to richly coloured things (reds, golds, teals).


Gold and rich brown – heaven.






About the Author:

Our principle designer Poppy is a Masters of Architecture graduate from the University of Newcastle, Australia. She graduated in 2013 with First Class Honours, received the Dean's Medal and was awarded the Australian Institute of Architects NSW Chapter Masters of Architecture Graduate of the Year prize. In 2010, Poppy received the Eric Parker Travelling Scholarship encouraging the research and drawing of architecture.

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