Let’s talk about gray or as the British prefer – grey. Either works for me. Such a short simple word for a neutral color certainly carries a lot of weight: it’s actually a verb, noun and an adjective!; most recently associated with a steamy book series and movie, and; worthy of many, many articles including this Washington Post piece “The Gloomiest Color on the Spectrum is Now the Hottest for Your Home”. Before diving into why gray is now the go-to color, the writer queries, “If you ask a thousand people to name their favorite color, you might get one that would say gray.” I would wager, none :).
Top Designers Choose Gray
So why all the fuss about boring old gray? In my opinion, I find it to be the most chic and modern neutral. Gray is the perfect backdrop for showcasing accent colors. It’s a soothing color. Kind of like a gray day – it let’s you take things down a notch. Unlike white, gray is less stark and provides a more subtle contrast when introducing other colors. But don’t take it from me. Fans of gray run the gamut in the interior design world – using the color in modern to traditional settings. In My Domaine’s recent article “Top Designers Share Their Favorite Gray Paint Colors”, Nate Berkus, Betsy Burnham, Thomas O’Brien, Martyn Lawrence Ballard and Miles Redd share their fave grays.
I do love their choices. The gray paints I use most are all from Benjamin Moore with swatches below.
In “41 Exquisite Gray Rooms from the AD Archives”, Architectural Digest emphasizes designers’ embrace of gray. “Forget white and beige. When it comes to neutrals, gray has been the hot shade for the past several years and it’s popularity has yet to fade. Once associated with sadness and dreariness, the color has gained popularity with top designers, who appreciate its versatility and sophistication.”
Looking for more gray inspiration? Here are a few articles for you to scroll through to get your gray fix: Apartment Therapy, “Shades of Grey: Find the Perfect Grey Paint for Any Room in Your Home”; House Beautiful, “35 Chic Gray Rooms that are Anything But Boring”; Elle Decor, “20 Best Grey Paints According to Top Interior Designers”; and, Traditional Home, “Decorating: Gorgeous Gray Rooms”.
Fad or Trend?
With the ground swell support for gray as the “it” interior color from top designers and top shelter magazines, it begs the question – is this a fad or a trend? Fads come and go every couple of years while trends tend to take root and last for 10 to 20 years. This is an important consideration when making a significant investment in the interiors of your home. Soft goods like bedding, accent pieces, rugs and some furniture can be replaced every so often. But hard goods like flooring, painting, kitchens and bathrooms are long term investments – for these, we want to make sure we don’t sink money into a flash-in-the-pan style. As pointed out in the Washington Post article on gray, when kitchen and bath manufacturers introduce new lines, they do extensive research into the fad vs. trend conundrum. The verdict on gray seems to be that it is here to stay, as stated by Nancy Yusko, a design manager for kitchen and bathroom fixtures at Kohler. “We would never launch a color we didn’t feel had staying power because a homeowner puts our product in and expects it to stay for 20-plus years.” Case in point – if you go to the Kohler website, the keystone photograph is of a gray kitchen and a blog post on their site “Fads Fade. Classic Stays” features a gray bathroom.
Which Gray Should I Use?
I am somewhat relieved that I am limiting this discussion to how and where to use gray for interiors. It’s a great exterior color, but let’s leave that for another day. It is a bit overplayed but there is truth in saying that there are 50+ shades of gray. There are subtle differences between shades of gray – there are cool grays, warm grays and grays that you love in your friend’s house but take on a totally different look in your home. “Choosing grey paint is a cinch. You only have a few…thousand choices. Do you want a light grey, medium grey, charcoal grey? A brown-ish grey, blue-ish grey, black-ish grey?” confirms Apartment Therapy in their “Shades of Grey: Find the Perfect Grey Paint for Any Room in Your Home.”
I recently spent a serious amount of time and gray paint testing colors in a client’s home. Some looked great on the swatch, in the can and in photos, but once we put it up on the wall, the colors changed quite a bit. I strongly recommend grabbing several different shades, painting some sample squares and leaving them up in the room for a few days so you can see how the color changes during various times of day and night. We put up two different grays in three different locations to see how the lighting in the room effected the color.
We ultimately chose the top color which is Ralph Lauren UC13-Pale Gray.
Question: Best Room in the House for Gray?
Answer – any and all. “…if you’ve ever lived with a grey before, you know it makes rooms feel very chic and glamorous. Grey is a color that adds instant polish and even an air of mystery to a space,” says Erika Woelfel, in Behr’s “50 Shades of Grey” post. In all fairness, there are 50 gray shades of Behr paint!
A recent Remodelista post “Going to the Dark Side with Mad About the House in London” featured Kate Watson-Smyth who writes her own interior design blog “Mad About the House”. Watson-Smyth is so smitten with gray (or grey – she is British) that she wrote an entire book about the color – “Shades of Grey”. The Remodelista piece featured Watson-Smyth’s London home which is done in many shades of gray. What I love about this article is that it shows the house as it was before – every room painted white, and then the dramatic after, a house in all gray. Below is just one bathroom, but click to the article to see how gray transformed this home.
It is pretty clear that gray is a great color for any home no matter what style decor you prefer. I use gray in many of the homes I design and like Watson-Smyth, some of my homes feature a shade of gray in every room. Following are a few images of VGI designed homes where gray is used throughout.
Just about to sign off with something witty when I look down at the keyboard and realize – my nailpolish is gray – Essie Take it Outside, if you want to know!! LOL!