Since gray is the new brown, I have been hearing all kinds of reactions about how cold it is, with people (including designers) declaring: ‘I would NEVER decorate with gray’.
I even had a reader who sent me an email asking about a statement a designer had made, ‘You can’t mix two neutrals together; therefore, brown and gray can’t go together’ and I’m here to tell you, yes they can.
The problem with the ‘trendy neutral of the moment’ whether that’s brown or grey in your area, is that so many people choose it as their DEFAULT NEUTRAL.
If they have a colour choice to make, whether it’s a new sofa, new hardwood or outdoor furniture, everything ends up BROWN or GREY or BLACK, for example.
Grey is the current trendy neutral because earth tones feel dated and overused. Bright and clean colours are trending, and beige dies as a backdrop to clean colours. Nothing bring grey to life faster than yellows (above), fresh greens, orange/peach, reds and pinks (below).
The other day I picked up an old House & Garden Magazine and flipped it open to this interior by Steven Gambrel his interiors will explain what I’m saying the best (all images in this post from his website):
Here is an interior painted in a pale blue gray:
Muted blues are tricky to specify for the walls because people often get them confused between green grays and blue grays. A gray that technically ‘reads’ like a neutral gray on the walls is usually a green gray, like HC-173 Edgecomb Gray (below) here the ceilings are the same colour:
Basically if you want blue walls, you need to actually select a blue gray so that you don’t end up with baby blue.
If you look closely at this kitchen (above) the stone countertop and flooring and subway tile have a green undertone while the interior panels of the doors have been painted a blue-gray. It’s subtle and doesn’t look necessarily wrong (to the untrained eye) but can you see it now that I’m describing the difference? Most people can.
I prefer this combination of grays (above), because it looks more intentional.
A more sophisticated analogous colour scheme with the blue gray walls and toss cushion paired with the green gray drapery, upholstery and carpeting.
A small sidenote–this is not a colour combination I would use when decorating (too cold for me in general), I am simply showing it to demonstrate the two grays and because I think it has been tastefully done.
In this image (above) the doors are actually a violet gray, and the beams on the ceiling look slightly lighter.
I recently received this comment on one of my posts:
“Just from reading your blog I see colour differently. I was buying paint the other day and a chap came in with three gallons of Abalone Benjamin Moore, he showed the clerk a photo of his purple wall and both he and the clerk scratched their heads and said it was the weirdest thing that the light made the paint purple. Boy, did the clerk give me daggers when I chimed in that Abalone is purple based.”
And this is exactly what has so many people think that the light changed the colour when really, you just choose the wrong grey.
See how this room really looks like a cold blue gray? Well there it is; technically the extreme of gray. But as you can see by all the images prior to this one, there is a huge variation of grays that simply provide a calm, neutral backdrop when mixed with warm colours.
There’s nothing wrong with a blue grey if you love blue!
Rooms that are the most interesting and sophisticated, usually have a well balanced combination of warm and cool colours which have been introduced by the flooring (shown above) or the warmer tones in the furniture itself.
All images from S.R. Gambrel
Here Steven has taken blue and green and warmed them up and away from gray undertones for the decor of this room!
Obviously most of these images are very tone on tone and neutral so for many of you, it’s too much gray, but I hope I’ve shown that when someone says ‘gray’, they are probably not thinking about the coldest blue gray in the paint deck!
It’s all in the Undertones, download my ebook here if you really want to get the undertone of your greys right. (if you have a computer you can download my book)
If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.
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