In years gone by, gray has dominated the world of interior design. While the mid-2010s saw gray largely admired for its cool tones associated with the minimalist trend, gray has in more recent years somewhat fallen out of favor with design lovers.
While you may disregard decorating with gray completely as a color of the past, we're revisiting this cool hue to explore how to style it amid the resurging of more warm-toned and maximalist decor ideas.
'Although over the last few seasons, we have 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,' says Helen Shaw, Director of Marketing at Benjamin Moore.
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.
What are the on trend ways to use gray?
If you're intrigued as to how you can incorporate gray into your home decor while being aware of mistakes to avoid when decorating with gray, continue reading to learn what the design experts have to say. Overall, it's clear that experts agree gray is 'a great choice for a clean and uncluttered look,' as Patrick O'Donnell, color expert at Farrow & Ball observes.
1. Opt for gray-green to bring warmth
For a more modern take on cool grays, designers point to gray-green, the new neutral shade that brings the warmth of green to classic grays for a more inviting spin on the classic hue.
'A gray paint with a green undertone is a fool-proof choice as green grays sit at the center of the color wheel and flatter both warm and cool colors,' says Helen Shaw. Ashley McCollum, color expert at Glidden also points out the move towards a warmer take on grays, saying: 'We see many cool grays being phased out in favor of warmer neutrals.'
Ashley McCollum is a Marketing Manager and color expert for PPG’s Architectural Coatings business in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to joining PPG in 2017, Ashley's career was heavily focused on color and visual merchandising for retail environments. Ashley earned her MBA in Marketing/Management from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
2. Keep it subtle with pale-toned grays
To embrace the clean look of grays but without adding a weighty feel, light variations of gray can be an effective choice, especially for bright rooms. 'Light gray works incredibly well in a room with tons of natural light,' explains Amanda Wiss, Founder of NYC-based home staging firm Urban Staging.
'The room will have more warmth and depth than a plain white room,' she adds. 'A dark gray cabinet can also elevate the look of your room, but be sure to pick one with warmer undertones so it looks rich and inviting.' When choosing the rest of your decor scheme, there are lots of colors that go with light gray to consider.
3. Embrace 'greige' for a modern spin on classic gray
Another option for a warmer take on gray, is to opt for greige: a combination of gray and decorating with beige for a soft neutral hue that balances warm and cool tones. Joshua Smith, Founder of Joshua Smith Inc explains: 'I am so happy we are now straddling the ‘greige’ look because of the warmth it has compared to the cooler grays of the early to mid-2000s.'
'Greige serves as the perfect neutral and can work in cool or warm palettes usually. When used as a wall paint color, you get slight mood, warmth, and a perfect backdrop for almost any color scheme,' Joshua continues.
Named a Rising Star by House Beautiful and part of Traditional Home's New Trad Class of '23. With projects on both coasts, Joshua Smith Inc, offers full-service residential interior design – and life-changing spaces. Joshua draws on decades of experience transforming functional spaces into inspiring environments that engage the senses and nourish the soul. By cultivating the connections between mind, body, spirit, and space, he helps his clients elevate their experience each day.
Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing at Sherwin-Williams highlights that these hues can look particularly good in gray kitchen ideas, saying: 'Delicate and warm grays are an excellent choice in kitchens because they offer a hygienic and serene look in busy family spaces.'
4. Replace black with charcoal gray
For a bolder approach to decorating with gray, using it in place of black can work well if you're aiming to create a moody feel. 'Gray can be a strong neutral when used right,' says Devon Wegman, Design Director at Devon Grace Interiors. 'It can add moodiness to a large space when black would feel too harsh and white would feel too stark.'
Sue Wadden also recommends embracing dark gray for a modern and cozy look: 'Dark grays can serve as a focal point by using it on an accent wall to add a dramatic look or on all four walls to make a space feel warm and cozy.'
With a strong background in design and color leadership, Sue Wadden was appointed director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams in 2016, and has been with the paint brand since 1998.
5. Use gray as an accent color
Embracing gray in home decor doesn't just mean using it as a paint color, but you can instead opt to channel gray through the accents of a room, as Lauren Lerner, Founder of interior design studio Living with Lolo explains: 'If you want to incorporate gray into your home we would suggest using it as an accent such as in pillows rather than big items like cabinetry and wall paint.'
Is gray still on trend?
While traditional cool-toned gray may not be the most on-trend color at present, these variations of gray are no doubt stylish and offer a fresh take on incorporating gray into the home.
'While we have seen homeowners go bolder recently with unexpected and fun home design trends, a neutral like gray will always be on trend due to its versatile nature that can take on a number of different looks,' explains Sue Wadden. 'Gray can be airy, bold, dark... and because of its neutral nature, it easily pairs well with other colors and can be used in different rooms.'
Whether you're a fan of classic grays or are feeling inspired to embrace a more warming gray with these new ideas, there are lots of options for ensuring gray looks relevant and fresh in home decor. There are also lots of other color trends that we've rounded up to give you some more ideas – from neutrals to daring hues.
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Emily Moorman is a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, working across a range of topics spanning interiors, celebrity and emerging trends. With a background in the fashion industry, Emily is well-versed in the world of design and trend cycles. Her undergraduate degree was in Fashion Communication and Promotion which she studied at Norwich University of The Arts, specialising in writing and digital communications.
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