Blue + Brown = Blown
October 22, 2010 11:23 PM   Subscribe

The chocolate brown/robin's egg blue combo: when did it start being popular? Where did that combo come from? Why so pleasing to the eyes? And still trendy today? or outdated and tacky?
posted by Busoni to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (42 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
some info here
posted by KogeLiz at 11:28 PM on October 22, 2010

I'm not sure, but my wife did that combo with our furniture rug combo two years ago. I'll let you know when we "absolutely need!" to change our living room decor.

Probably next year.
posted by sanka at 11:28 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Huh. I just got my chocolate brown winter coat out of the cupboard and was wondering whether to go for a pale blue scarf/hat this year, or whether I'd look daft. I'll watch this one with interest...
posted by penguin pie at 11:36 PM on October 22, 2010

Anecdotal: my grandma chose those colors for her house (chocolate brown shingles with blue shutters and other trim) in the 1960s. It's been that way ever since. It looks nice.
posted by dreamyshade at 11:42 PM on October 22, 2010

It had a resurgence in time with the real advent of DIY interior decorating blogs. A lot of Apartment Therapy a couple years back was blue and brown. Now it's a little out of style, but it's undeniably pretty and natural, so it persists. You'll find that any two color combination with a natural inspiration will come back in cycles of about 30 years (well the 30 year thing has been the case for most of the 20th century. It might speed up! It was slower in previous periods). So, earthy brown and sky blue, grass green and wheaty gold, pine green and berry purple, dark ocean blue and slate greys...

Brown and blue will always look nice if handled with a deft hand. Often the brown can go wrong, and you'll end up with poop brown with a lovely light blue that reads more baby boy's room disaster than fashion statement. It also looks really balanced with crisp white, so it will be eternally appealing to anybody trying to work with a blank slate.
posted by Mizu at 11:57 PM on October 22, 2010 [7 favorites]

No doubt the fashion comes and goes, but I started to see a lot of this maybe 5-10 years ago on snowboarders and skiers (but then I live in a ski town) and more recently it has been popular everywhere.
posted by ssg at 12:17 AM on October 23, 2010

Tufts University colors?
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 12:24 AM on October 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

I',m a renter, so every place i've lived in has WHITE WALLS THAT CANNOT BE CHANGED. I yearn for colour. Maybe the people painting their walls in blues and browns have renter room rage.

in the UK, covering one wall with a very striking wallpaper seems to be the thing now. Fifteen years ago it was wallpaper borders and dado rails.
posted by mippy at 2:38 AM on October 23, 2010

30 years? That means teal and pink are on their way!
posted by gjc at 3:36 AM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I see these colours a lot in the restoration hardware and pottery barn lines with heavy frequency in the kids section. Something about the colours seems a little dated to me and I am suprised to see them still so heavy into this combination. They are a beautiful match, it just seems that they have be trendy for a while now.
posted by saradarlin at 4:00 AM on October 23, 2010

I remember they were big in Domino mag about 5-7 years ago, and I was just thinking that I like the color combo, but it does seem a little outdated now.
posted by pipti at 4:38 AM on October 23, 2010

Does it ever go out of fashion? I've used the chocolate brown and duck egg blue combo in decor, clothes and website colour schemes since I was old enough to make choices and will continue to do so until they line my chocolate brown coffin with duck egg blue satin.

But I am not very trendy.
posted by ceri richard at 5:30 AM on October 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

I blame Twitter.
posted by drlith at 5:48 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I did my living room in these colours last year, but I was unware that it was a trend. Can you tell us why you think it's a trend, Busoni, and show us some examples? Because otherwise this will just be one of those open-ended discussion threads that we aren't supposed to do in AskMe — you need either an actual problem to be solved or a question that potentially has a definite answer in order to fit the AskMe criteria.
posted by orange swan at 6:11 AM on October 23, 2010

I think this Boston Globe piece from 2005, is right: a) to point out that every generation seems to think it discovers that particular combination, then gets slightly tired of it; b) to set its origins around the 1920s, making it genuinely Art Deco (as opposed to "eBay Art Deco").

Teal walls go back a long way (the American National Trust partnership with Lowe's [pdf] gives a sense of how far) but the combination with brown paint, as opposed to stained/dark wood, feels early-20th c.
posted by holgate at 6:56 AM on October 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I remember seeing this colour combo in a paint-sample brochure in 2007 and really liking it- that was probably the first time I noticed it in an interior design application. It reminded me of Birk's, a Canadian Jewellery designer that uses bright blue boxes (like Tiffany's, but darker) with brown ribbon, and they've definitely been around for a while.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:02 AM on October 23, 2010

It's been around at least since I was 12 or so, because I distinctly remember ordering some Delia*s outfit of brown cords and a egg blue t-shirt because some teen magazine told me what a hot color combo that was. least 16 years old.
posted by ifjuly at 7:03 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

It was a popular color combination in the 1920's in the US - it came up a lot in research on interiors when I was design student.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:03 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't remember the name of it, but every year some national (US?) color organization chooses what colors are going to be cool that year or season or whatever. Having watched a lot of HGTV in the mid 2000s, I have a feeling the DIY TV and magazines definitely furthered this trend, where maybe before people were more likely to choose the colors they liked rather than something they'd seen on TV.

Also, a friend of mine works at a place that does wedding invitations. The chocolate brown + X (esp. robins egg blue or tiffany blue) is very popular and kind of overdone, in her opinion. It's just not seen as very original anymore. Many brides don't care about being original, but some seem to think this trend is something new.
posted by elpea at 7:10 AM on October 23, 2010

elpea, are you thinking of Pantone?

"The PANTONE VIEW Colour Planner is a biannual trend forecasting tool that offers seasonal color direction and inspiration 24 months in advance for multiple usages, including menswear, women’s wear, activewear, cosmetics and industrial design. Introduced in 2004, PANTONE VIEW Home is a comprehensive forecasting tool for the home furnishings industry."
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2010

And not that you asked, but here's one forecast for 2011's spring/summer colors.

(Not Pantone affiliated, and, in fact, I'm a bit color-challenged...)
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:27 AM on October 23, 2010

It's a classic - 1880's - 1920's. For clothing, early 50's. Most recently dark wood tones /chocolate brown began being paired with pale grayed-pastels (especially pink) about ten years ago. I was in design school at the time and remember loving it. The robins egg/chocolate brown combo became popular for interiors a few years later. I was working in commercial photography at the time and suddenly everyone's sets were some variance on this combo.
posted by marimeko at 7:44 AM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Go Jumbos!

But otherwise...I have one friend who redid her bedroom in these colors about 4-5 years ago, having seen it in a magazine, and another friend who did her bathroom in blue/brown just a year or so ago, apparently believing it to be a unique product of her own mind, and she was crushed when I commented on what a fashionable color combo it was.
posted by naoko at 7:54 AM on October 23, 2010

I think it's a little overdone. It seems like EVERY new bakery and cupcake place uses these colors (along with some variation of horizontal or vertical stripes) in their decorating and logo. But I'm in the industry, so maybe I'm suffering from press release fatigue.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 8:01 AM on October 23, 2010

elpea, perhaps you are thinking of the Color Association's forecast committees?

Anyway, blue and brown smacks of 2006 for me. Not that that's a bad thing. And considering that it's a combination that has been used during so many periods in so many ways, (you want historic? I definitely recall Marie Antoinette blathering about sky blue and chocolate silks in an epistolary collection of hers I had to read in high school,) you're bound to please at least a reasonable slice of the population at any given time with it.
posted by Mizu at 8:02 AM on October 23, 2010

For every other little girl's pack in all the elementary schools I visit, just add pink to this combo and you're there! For at least two years running.
posted by emhutchinson at 8:57 AM on October 23, 2010

Near as I can tell, it jumped the shark about 18 months ago, when absolutely everything in the stores and on Etsy was in that color combination.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2010

Where did that combo come from?

The Clampdown?
posted by hangashore at 9:22 AM on October 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

FWIW, recently got a batch of new clothes for work and one day happened to go with a combo of brown trousers ("caramel," according to the label) and a light blue dress shirt, since I had an old, thrift-shop tie from way back that I had hardly worn and which combined shades of brown & blues in a neat pattern. Thought nothing of it, once I resolved that it wasn't obviously hideous, etc., then went to work and was quite surprised that day by the number of complements from coworkers about this outfit. Same reactions each time I've worn it since, coming from both the fashionistas and the resident slobs, so I was guessing there's some deeper aesthetic going on but hadn't consider whether it carried over to other venues for style, like interior design. Interesting thread thus far....
posted by 5Q7 at 10:31 AM on October 23, 2010

b) to set its origins around the 1920s, making it genuinely Art Deco

I didn't see that reference in the article, holgate?

But the color combination makes me think of William Morris, who used the pale blue or teal a lot and contrasted it with dark greens and browns (and dark blue).

I didn't realize it's a recent trend but still think it's a lovely combination.
posted by torticat at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2010

This article in the New Yorker (subscription required, but good abstract) talks about the people who come up with color trends.

As for the brown/blue combo, it really doesn't matter if it's trendy or not, it matters whether you like it or not.
posted by brookeb at 12:59 PM on October 23, 2010

I'm going to be the kid with the super unpopular opinion, but I hate that combo, much in the same way I hate "Southwestern" colors (dusty rose, salmon, robin's egg blue, etc).

So not everyone likes it. :P I think the popularity came about when shabby chic went back in style.
posted by patronuscharms at 1:51 PM on October 23, 2010

Yeah, I think the recent popularity began about 10 years ago- just before that, it was impossible to find decent pale/bright blue accessories or rugs anywhere (I know this because I have two pale blue striped armchairs). I personally feel like it has been done to death by Apartment Therapy and Pottery Barn, but you should really decorate your house for you. Do what you like, because you live there.

If you want to update the combination slightly, I would shift away from chocolate to more of a terra-cotta or amber shade. I look for colors found together in nature, because you can't really go wrong that way.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:05 PM on October 23, 2010

I love this color combo. I'm always trying to steer away from black, my default clothing color choice, to chocolate/dark brown, which is warmer. Chocolate brown/pale blue/robin's egg blue seems like a classic to me.

I've always attributed the popularity of that particular blue to Martha Stewart.
posted by pinky at 2:26 PM on October 23, 2010

torticat: mea culpa, I misread that particular piece while distracted by paint catalogues. I'm glad that marimeko and OneMonkeysUncle back me up on it, though ;)

I do think there's a difference between the classic Morris patterns drawn from nature and the Deco-style solids and geometrics that tend to dominate the modern teal/chocolate revival -- at least, in the US, where wallpaper remains somewhat marginal in home decorating.
posted by holgate at 4:41 PM on October 23, 2010

I'm not a huge fan, but my past three roommates (one guy, two girls) have all separately chosen a variation of that combo. Slightly different shades of brown/blue but brown/blue all the same. I have a dress from the 50s in those colors. Its a classic. Ive seen pictures of interiors of homes from the 1930s in that combo, but was robin egg blue with naturally dark wood trim.
posted by custard heart at 4:55 PM on October 23, 2010

Designer Jonathan Adler's furniture, pillows, throws, rugs, and other housewares have been pushing this color combination since circa 2003, if not earlier.

It was also featured as a common color combo in the marketing and branding for the Bravo interior decor show "Top Design" for past seasons. Perhaps not coincidentally, Jonathan Adler is a judge on the show.
posted by Asparagirl at 5:16 PM on October 23, 2010

Who cares if it's "trendy" or "dated?" It's a pretty combination, you like it, so go for it. I think it's a good combination of masculine/feminine, which is hard if you're designing for two.
posted by radioamy at 6:21 PM on October 23, 2010

This reminds me of mauve / seafoam and maroon / teal, the latter two a darker version of the former, ubiquitous in cheap public and private interior decoration from the '90s and early '00s, so you still see them everywhere in various combinations.

Why? Did someone work out that these colors don't show dirt or are most efficient to produce, like the light green paint of the 1920s-30s, or did the viral meme just spread that everyone should use these colors?

They don't show much dirt because they are already a little greyed.
posted by bad grammar at 8:27 PM on October 23, 2010

These were the colours of my primary (grade) school uniform in the 80s. The combo was wrong then, and it's wrong now.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:20 PM on October 23, 2010

Marked Boston Globe link as best answer, but really everyone added to the conversation, so thanks. Didn't know the blue/brown had such a long history.
posted by Busoni at 6:48 AM on October 24, 2010

At Tufts we thought (on a good day) that it combined the blue of the sky and the brown of earth, or (on a bay day), poop brown and washed-out blue.

Now it just makes me think of 1970s Catholic school uniforms.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:02 AM on October 25, 2010

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