Gray may be hot, but it can leave a room feeling cold

Gray may be hot, but it can leave a room feeling cold
The long trend of monochromatic gray may have just run its course. Add just a few pops of color to relieve the monotony of an all gray living room.

Jennifer Leischer Design and Decor columnistThe color gray is considered an achromatic color, meaning a “color without color,” because it can be composed of black and white.

This definition makes complete sense to me as I’ve always thought of gray as a quiet, non-descript backdrop, the supporting color, the sidekick.

You might find gray washing the interior walls of a residence, wall-to-wall carpet or even very light gray hardwood or tile flooring. But in recent years, it seems as if gray has become a dominant color that no longer wants to be upstaged by its more interesting fan deck peers.

No more creeping up and down the walls or hiding underfoot. Gray is looking for design domination, one kitchen and one great room sofa at a time.

I’ve been taking an informal poll, talking with friends, clients, contractors, painters and anyone who wants to engage in a conversation about the color gray. My questions were straight forward: Is the color gray really that interesting? Does it make the design part of our hearts sing? When we see it, do we jump for joy because it’s the best color out there for our project? Or do we default to gray because it’s safe? Do we go gray because it’s (gasp) trendy?

No longer in the shadows

If you’ve been Pinning and creating Idea Books for your newest design project, you’ve probably come across quite a few gray vignettes and noticed that gray is no longer in the shadows, so to speak, but instead, front and center.

One example is kitchen cabinetry painted gray with Calacatta quartz countertops. The contrast of the gray cabinets and the predominately white quartz with bold gray veining makes for a very stylish statement. But I ask you, where is the color?

Or picture a bathroom all in gray, consisting of silver travertine and light gray ceramic arabesque tiles, a “fresh cement” Caesarstone vanity top and light gray cabinetry. It’s sultry, calming and pouty – but where is the color?

Certain retailers have definitely made the color gray a star. Yards and yards of Belgian linen have upholstered hundreds of thousands of slope, track or rolled arm sofas in various shades of gray. While these pieces are stylish and current, and sometimes even oversized and overfilled with cushy inserts and acres of down and feathers, they are making very gray statements. Again I ask you, where is the color?

Not as easy at it should be

This gray color without color is somewhat controversial when it comes to design. There are many well-coordinated design schemes that include gray in their palette, and some of them do have good amounts of actual color. But more often than not, trying to incorporate gray into a traditional setting is not as easy as it should be.

Yes, there are different tones of gray – warm tones, crisp tones, somewhere in the middle tones – but gray is not for every project and gray isn’t always the modern answer to a color dilemma.

When you’re looking for a new color for your walls, upholstery or kitchen remodel, look beyond the “right now” colors and instead pull color inspiration from your surroundings and the architecture of your residence.

And if gray truly is your ultimate color goal, take your time to find a gray that will play nice with other colors. Find a gray that looks and feels as if it has been part of your design scheme since the beginning.

Jennifer Leischer is the owner of J. Designs Interior Design based in Clayton. Contact her with questions, comments and suggestions at