In the ever-evolving world of interior design, trends come and go. For decades now gray has been the most popular neutral, but recently it seems to have fallen out of favor with interior designers and color experts alike. Or has it really?
Right now, if you scroll through Pinterest or Instagram, there’s a sea of brightly colored interiors ready to fill us with a daily dose of dopamine. The perfect antidote to January. But, for those of us who prefer our homes to feel more subdued, sophisticated, and a little bit contemporary, it’s the spectrum of neutrals that we turn toward when it comes to color trends.
So to find out if decorating with gray is still in favor for 2024, we’ve turned to the experts for their take on this divisive shade. Asking interior designers and color experts alike to debunk the myth: is gray really losing its charm? Or, perhaps, is it standing the test of time? Are they still incorporating gray into their designs, or are they opting for alternative, maybe more enveloping color palettes?
Is gray still in style?
In the 2010s, gray was the ‘it’ color, but it's been on a slow decline in interior design trends for years. From cool tones to warmer undertones, the versatility of gray offers a myriad of possibilities. While vibrant colors have made a dazzling comeback in recent years, gray continues to play a pivotal role in design.
While some designers may argue that gray interiors are on the out, it's important to remember that color trends are subjective, and what really matters is personal style and preference - it is your home, after all.
Here, we chat to the experts to find out how they are integrating gray into modern interiors or the more daring sides of the color wheel that they're turning toward instead.
Designer Kathy Kuo says gray is just fine, and for sure is still on trend, as long as you use it in moderation.
'If you love gray and you take care with your color scheme and furniture choices, there's no reason you can't have a perfectly stylish home with gray interiors,' says Kathy. 'I never feel like any specific colors ever truly go in or out of style because style is what each individual makes of a space,' she adds.
'That said, I feel like using gray as one hue in a larger color scheme of muted colors and sophisticated neutrals is more likely to give you a result that feels layered, warm, and welcoming than if you were to stick to all gray and only gray."
Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry.
The rules for decorating with gray in 2024 is as simple as this: don't go gray-on-gray.
'Remaining a ‘go-to’ neutral to build a palette around, gray works well with a multitude of shades. Opt for a bold and striking look when pairing charcoal grays with rich colors or create a soft and feminine look and combine a pale gray with a blush pink,' says Helen Shaw, Director of Marketing at Benjamin Moore.
'What's fascinating is the shift in preference towards warmer tones in general. There's a growing appreciation for earthy tones and comforting hues that evoke a sense of warmth and serenity,' adds Jennifer Davis of Davis Interiors. 'Rich grays will perfectly complement other warm tones like terracotta, ochre, or caramel, creating inviting and harmonious interiors.'
Founder of Studio Itaca, Gianna Pagliarulo, also doesn't see the tone going anywhere any time soon.
'Gray is such a timeless shade that I don’t think it will ever be out of style, but we are certainly seeing more warmer shades dominate', Gianna observes. 'Warm tones, beige, and the new magnolias are very popular but your choice of color within your home should be dependent on what you like: if you like gray, you should decorate with gray,' she adds.
The most important thing to consider if you are sticking to gray? 'The natural light and warmth or coolness of the room you are decorating is also an important consideration,' says Gianna.
The answer, it seems, isn't quite black or white. In fact, there's a bit of a gray area... Ultimately the consensus is that gray will never fully be out of style, but in 2024 there's a shift towards using warmer tones in our homes.
'For years grays have dominated the 'neutral' spaces in our homes, but warmer tones are making a comeback. Warm neutrals, like Glidden's Limitless, are here to stay, replacing cool tones in 2024 and beyond,' observes Ashley McCollum, color expert at Glidden. But are these warmer neutrals actually replacing gray as the most-used shade?
It appears that the key to decorating with gray while remaining on trend lies with the undertones, as opposed to an all-out hatred for the color.
'I never rule gray out as a neutral tone as there is sometimes a place for it, but I think it was so heavily used as a prominent color for a period of time, and we simply got bored of it!' says designer Holly Vaughan, founder of Vaughan Design & Development.
'I think in some natural hard materials varying tones of grey can be very beautiful, but I definitely wouldn’t choose it in a fabric, and not often in a paint color. I find warmer whites or neutrals with a hint of a color like green much more appealing to work with.'
The feeling is that very cool-toned, flat grays are out, and softer, warmer grays are in. Which is great news, as this makes creating a harmonious color scheme a lot easier.
Helen Shaw notes: 'Neutrals are an essential color family for any interior renovation and range from grays and beiges, to plaster pinks. Although over the last few seasons, we have gradually seen neutrals with pink and red undertones taking over from our traditionally cooler grays, this doesn’t negate the fact that gray is one of the most versatile shades that can easily flatter a range of home schemes.'
'When looking to add multiple colors to a room, a gray paint with a green undertone is a fool-proof choice as green grays sit at the center of the color wheel - so they flatter both warm and cool colors,' she advises. This way, you can bring the warmth of green to gray for a more alluring ambiance.
Helen Shaw is part of Benjamin Moore's UK division. Color expert and international marketing director, Helen and her husband Craig are founders of Shaw Paints, acquired by Benjamin Moore in 2020.
'Gray interiors have long been a go-to choice for many homeowners due to the color's versatility and ability to create a sophisticated, modern look. However, like any trend, preferences in interior design are constantly evolving,' says Jennifer Davis.
'Cool grays, with their icy undertones, might be considered less en vogue in 2024. Yet, it's worth noting that rich, warm grays continue to endure as a timeless and classic choice. These warmer grays possess depth, adding a sense of coziness and elegance to a space that transcends passing trends. They provide a neutral backdrop that pairs well with various design elements, making them a versatile option for interior design enthusiasts.'
Jennifer fell in love with design at a young age and has been working in the industry for over 25 years. She has developed an eye for detail and a talent for creating timeless designs. Jennifer offers a balance of creativity and forward-thinking with a structured, organized, and detailed mentality. Jennifer is driven by her deep passion for design while curating an exceptional client journey, ensuring pure delight from the very beginning to the end.
For most of us, one of the worst traits of gray is the complaints of it looking boring, dull, and ultimately, overdone. But instead of a complete blacklisting of the shade, experts think we'll be seeing a shift in how we're using gray in our homes in 2024.
Designer Montana Labelle, agrees. 'As an interior designer, our biggest qualm with gray is that it not only feels cold and gloomy - but the undertones always leave it feeling purple, pink or green,' says Montana.
'If you must stick with a gray palette we recommend both Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal and Chelsea Gray to at least go with a more moody and saturated grey scheme,' she advises. 'Instead of grey, we tend to opt for beige and ivory for any new projects for a more timeless and classic palette.’
'While cool grays might experience a dip in popularity, it's essential to remember that design trends are cyclical. What's considered "out" today might very well make a comeback tomorrow,' says Jennifer Davis. 'Ultimately, the choice of color scheme for interiors should prioritize personal preferences and the ambiance one wishes to create.'
So it seems we can all rest easy in the knowledge that gray paint is most definitely still in style and can continue to decorate with it with aplomb.
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Charlotte is content editor at Homes and Gardens, having joined the team the week before Christmas 2023. Following a 5 year career in Fashion, she found herself working at many women's glossy magazines including: Grazia, Stylist and Hello and most recently working as Interiors Editor for British heritage department store Liberty. Her role at H&G fuses her love of style with Charlotte's passion for interior design, and she is currently undergoing her second home renovation in Surrey - you can follow her journey over on @olbyhome
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