designing with [all the shades of] gray

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architecture + design / inspiration / trends

I have had more than one conversation lately with a real estate agent in which they’ve asked me what is popular right now. This is both in the context of preparing homes to put on the market and also how to advise new or prospective home owners on basic updates they could make to their new home to “bring it into the 21st century” if the property is older. I generally shy away from designing based on trend because the trendier something is today, the more dated it will look next year. The trick is to reference current styles to bring the home up to date while mixing in enough unique personal touches and “timeless” design elements to keep it from looking like a copy & paste job out of the latest magazine, and hence like yesterday’s news farther down the line.

With that said, my answer to the question about what is popular now is gray. Gray everything. Gray has replaced beige as the most popular neutral for wall colors, flooring, and is found in accessories, furnishings, and pretty much everywhere else you can put it.

gray room 1

A monochromatic gray room can be soothing and understated.

What I love about gray:

  1. It’s a neutral, meaning it goes with everything
  2. It can be understated, sophisticated, and complex: gray is created by blending complementary colors together, so you can have a warm gray, cool gray, even a gray that changes color depending on the time of day and lighting
  3. It makes colors pop – wood is rich and warm next to it and any accent colors in the space will glow
  4. It is a style chameleon: it can be modern, traditional, or anything in between
  5. It’s not beige. Seriously.
gray tile

Gray tile provides a great backdrop to display colorful accessories.

gray and brass

Brass and white look really sharp against gray cabinetry.

My favorite shades of gray

On the walls I prefer to use a gray that has other undertones. For example, I love to use warm grays because they tend to feel softer and cozier. Two good ones are Sherwin Williams Perfect Greige 6073 (1), and Proper Gray 6003 (2).


For darker dramatic walls, Miller Iron Horse 0161 (3) and Foghat 0156 (4) are great options. Don’t be afraid to go bold – the deeper your wall color the more your accents will pop.


Sources: gray bedroom | gray tile | gray cabinets



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