embedded with glass and gray ceramic chips is used
in a full bathroom in a home decorated by interior
designer Robin Brechbuhler in Jackson Township,
Ohio ó Gray, you tempter.
stirred our passion. Youíve inflamed our desire.
want you everywhere. In the bedroom. In the bathroom. In
ó gasp ó the kitchen.
are held captive by your silken charms, helpless in your
wait. You didnít think we were talking about the
protagonist of that steamy novel hidden on countless
Kindles, did you?
no. This is about gray, small g. The color.
canít get enough of it ó all 50 shades or so.
has shown a dramatic increase in popularity since 2010
and particularly in the last year, the National Kitchen
& Bath Association reports. In fact, the color is
used in 55 percent of the kitchens and 56 percent of the
bathrooms decorated by the designers who make up the
a grown-up hue that lends a sophistication consumers
crave, the association says.
is more than just a mixture of black and white, said
Sonu Mathew, an interior designer who works on the color
team that curates the palette for paint maker Benjamin
Moore & Co. Gray can have undertones of red, blue,
green or purple, which she said makes it "very
complex," even mysterious.
characteristic makes gray work well with many colors,
Mathew said. Gray gives the eye a chance to rest, she
explained, so we can appreciate the other colors in the
designer Amy Douglass believes grayís ability to play
well with others ó even other neutrals such as creams,
tans and white ó is a large part of its popularity. Itís
similar to black in that regard but not as stark, said
Douglass, owner and senior designer at the Interior
Design Studio in Medina, Ohio.
just a little softer," she said. "Itís not
as dramatic as black and white."
has paired gray with yellow and white in a sunroom, and
sheís now using a bluish gray in a kitchen sheís
designing. It works well with the slate on the roomís
fireplace and the maple of its cabinets, she said, as
well as the gold, tan and rust in the adjacent great
Canton, Ohio, designer Robin Brechbuhler incorporated
gray liberally in a Jackson Township, Ohio, home she
decorated for Elizabeth Hoover, chair of the Herbert W.
Hoover Foundation and great-granddaughter of Hoover Co.
founder W.H. "Boss" Hoover. Brechbuhler said
the color choice was inspired in part by the metal of a
couple of vintage Hoover vacuum cleaners displayed in
neutral palette throughout the house blends grays with
beiges and browns, a quiet background for bursts of
a sitting area off the kitchen, for example, pillows in
cream, orange and rust brighten a dark gray sectional.
Gray grass cloth panels break up the dark taupe wall in
the media room, and a wall covering made from chips of
gray ceramic and glass makes one of the bathrooms
loves the way gray sets off the colors of the antique
Hoover displays around the house.
a wonderful neutral," she said. "Itís sort
of taken the place of beige."
used to be considered cold and masculine, Benjamin Mooreís
Mathew said, but its use in fashion and other products
such as cars has given us a new appreciation for it.
When we see gray used beautifully in, say, a silk
blouse, we start to break those old associations and see
new possibilities for the color.
gray in our area, however, takes a bit of care, Akron
interior designer Cynthia J. Hoffman cautioned.
in Northeast Ohio. Not much sunshine," she said. To
keep the interior from looking as dull as the winter
landscape, gray needs to be accompanied by plenty of
light, she said.
outfitted a loft for one client with a charcoal floor
and chairs covered in charcoal mohair, but she played
them against ivory earth-plaster walls that lend warmth.
Natural light bathes the space, and "that room
feels beautiful, whether itís winter or summer,"
natural light? Use plenty of artificial light, she
suggested. But make sure itís dimmable, so you can
change the mood of the room to fit the way youíre
and Hoffman said itís also important to pay attention
to the undertones when choosing a gray. Use a warm gray
with warm colors, a cool gray with cool ones.
particularly likes the way gray makes bright colors
stand out. She showcased one clientís vibrant artwork
by using a gray hardwood floor, gray carpeting and a
black sofa to form a backdrop, and then brought pops of
color into the room by choosing dining chairs in
different hues pulled from the art.
said gray can also be used successfully in a
monochromatic palette, but the trick to pulling that off
is contrast. Incorporate lighter and darker shades of
gray "so your eye can move around the room,"
not necessary to immerse yourself in gray, however, to
be part of the trend. If you just want to experiment
with the color, Mathew suggested using it as an accent,
perhaps on a piece of furniture, a door or the inside of
amount of contrast you use on the walls is important,
too. If you want a more energetic room where you notice
the individual colors, use shades of gray with a good
deal of contrast. If you prefer a more relaxing
atmosphere, dial the contrast down.
all depends on what you like, how you use your space and
how you want to feel in it, she said.
with any paint color, try gray out in a room first.
Mathew recommended painting a large sample on a piece of
poster board or foam core and moving it around the room,
seeing how it looks in the darkest corner and the
brightest spot. Light affects how we perceive color, so
the lighting of your room might make a gray look very
different from the one you fell in love with in the
good news is that no matter what color you love, thereís
a gray you can use with it, Mathew said. You donít
have to abandon your color scheme and start from scratch
just to be in fashion.
more important that you love your colors, she said.
after them, even.