Living Space: Gorgeous, glamorous gray goes the distance

April 14, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 13, 2011 at 11:14 p.m.

Whatever your color taste, gray is no longer the cold, austere color it once was and may be just the un-color you've been looking for.

Whatever your color taste, gray is no longer the cold, austere color it once was and may be just the un-color you've been looking for.

By Kathryn Weber

Colors can bring out strong reactions. Some love red rooms while others wouldn't know how to live if their rooms weren't bathed in white. But gray is the one shade that is a color chameleon, blending in wherever it's put.

More than just the color of a man's gray suit, gray today comes in shades that show its depth and personality.

What's more, gray may just be the un-color you've been looking for. More than just industrial, plain, cool and lacking interest, gray shades can be described as calming, soothing, relaxing and sophisticated. Whatever your color taste, gray is no longer the cold, austere color it once was.


Gray has always been a color to be feared. The steely blue-gray that was popular in the '80s seems coldly institutional with the palette of grays available now. Grays today range from light oyster to dark blue grays that mimic the deep tones of an approaching thunderstorm. Grays can also run from warm beige and brown grays to cool grays that hint at blue. Grays can even be soft and elegant, such as a putty color that looks smashing paired with ivory and a soft accent color.


When it comes to gray, there are only two rules: warm and cool. Gray either falls on the warm side or the cool side. Deciding whether you want a cool or a warm gray is your first step in selecting a gray shade. If you're decorating a girl's room, for instance, a warm gray would be a good choice. A cool gray for a boy's room will give that industrial look that's more at home is a boy's room. If using a gray in a living room, don't be afraid to mix warm and cool grays. Unlike its cousins blue, green and red, grays can be mixed easily with each other in various shades and look terrific.


Gray does a wonderful job of staying in the background and letting any accent color steal the stage - all while keeping the upper hand. Because gray is a strong neutral, it helps keep bright colors from becoming harsh or dominating the room.

Besides propping up colors, gray also makes black and white seem more special, too. White looks whiter and black blacker against a gray background. White woodwork looks especially crisp against a gray wall.

Gray also pumps up the glamour volume of wood, making all wood stains feel more elegant and sophisticated. Crystal and shiny metals sparkle and dance against a gray backdrop.


Another option for gray? Gray your favorite colors. Steely blues, greens, violets and purples, even grayed browns are all a sophisticated, unexpected, relaxing, soothing - and dare we say, sexy - break from the color norm? To really up the sophistication, try a gray that's almost black. It's got depth without feeling flat and overwhelming like black often does.

Most certainly, gray is more than just the color painted on water pipes. If you've been undecided on color, maybe gray is your answer. It's a color that's versatile and warm that can surprise you with its depth, sophistication and ability to make whatever it's around - like a beautiful picture frame - look better, too.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui E-zine. For more information, contact Weber through her website,



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