Help me find "mid-century dark brown" paint
March 14, 2008 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm a fan of mid-century modern design. We've just bought an apartment in a building from that era (1961), and want to furnish it appropriately. We've got some vintage stuff we've collected over the years, and have bought some new stuff from Ikea and elsewhere that fits the bill. I'm also planning to build or modify some simple items (shelves, an entertainment center) in mid-century style -- and here's where I've run into a major problem: I can't seem to find paint in that very dark, almost-black brown that is so characteristic of the period. Any suggestions?

I've looked at the paint chips on offer from half a dozen different manufacturers, at various hardware stores, and nothing quite captured it. As this blogger (who faced the same dilemma) put it, "I was hoping for a slightly darker, more bitter brown, something that really embodied the color 'expresso' [sic]".

It does seem to me that "mid-century dark brown" has a "bitter" quality to it -- undertones of black and green, perhaps? -- that make it very different from even the darkest brown colors of paint I've seen on offer these days (which tend to be orangey).

With the growing interest in this style, I'm surprised this kind of color is not more widely available. Can anyone recommend a specific brand and color of paint that fits the bill? Or does anyone have experience mixing other paint colors to get something like this?
posted by Artifice_Eternity to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: P.S. Yes, I considered staining my furniture instead of painting it. I may do that for a few items (esp. older items I'm going to restore), but for big stuff like shelving units, I just want to put them together quickly, and I won't be using the most high-grade wood, so I'm planning to go with paint.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:27 PM on March 14, 2008

I did something similar mixing black with just a bit of green to get something akin to the Arts and Crafts "black". Only problem is duplicating the color in the future. What I would do is find something that is the color you want and take it to a real paint store or large home center that has a color scanning paint color duplicating machine. Supposedly they can match anything.
posted by Gungho at 12:37 PM on March 14, 2008

I think you are looking for an oil or latex based version of Jacobian stain. It might be worth contacting Guerra Paint and Pigment find out if such a thing exists in oil or latex paint form. Their website is here:
Guerra Paint
They have a handy link on the right side of their home page with sample colors. Generally a green or blue undercoat would be needed to offset the red hues in most rich browns (I'm thinking a less red color like van dyke is dark enough but might be too cold/dull). You'd likely want a clear finish coat over whatever paint you end up applying so that the light gets in a bit and adds depth.
posted by stagewhisper at 12:44 PM on March 14, 2008

Acually, I should have provided you with a link to Kremer instead. Guerra is more geared to fine artists, Kremer to woodworkers.
Kremer's Pigments
posted by stagewhisper at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2008

The Fairfax Brown in Sherwin-Williams' Suburban Modern line looks close. Or Polished Mahogany in the Art & Crafts. I think these are exterior paints, though.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:40 PM on March 14, 2008

If you have an item that is the color you want, take it with you to the paint store. They can scan it and formulate a matching paint color for you.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2008

We have a tropical Asian interior and have used a lot of mid century modern pieces that were in the same color palette. I have had some luck using tinted wax instead of paint on some furniture and even handmade case and base mouldings. I am wondering if their black wax might not fit the bill?
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 2:20 PM on March 14, 2008

Check out Hand Made Modern for some of the aesthetics you might be after interiorwise. Available as a TV show and in book form.
posted by Iteki at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2008

Response by poster: otherworldlyglow: Yes, those look like exterior paints. But after poking around, I found some other colors on Sherwin-Williams' site that look promising -- I need to find some paint chips of Black Bean (6006) and Bitter Chocolate (6013). Eventually I also dug up some possibilities at Benjamin Moore as well.

It's surprising how difficult it is to find actual paint color listings on these sites. I couldn't find them when I first looked (before posting my question).
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 4:26 PM on March 14, 2008

« Older Who's the best to help me with my bad credit?   |   Till death or 3 years, whichever comes first. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.