The buzz over "50 Shades of Grey" may have faded, but interior design experts say their love affair with the colourgrey is definitely not a passing trend.
Looking back 10 years, designer Mollie Ranize remembers grey being "perceived as a depressing colour palette that was difficult to use, and no one really wanted to live in it." Since then, grey has developed into the go-to neutral colour and a favourite solution to many design dilemmas.
Want to use a bold colour but worry that it will overpower a room or look tacky? Mix some cool grey into even the loudest paint colour and it will instantly look more subtle and sophisticated.
And you can find a shade of grey that pairs well with everything.
"It's kind of shocking that almost everything on the colour wheel is complimentary with it," says Ranize, founder of DMar Interiors in Los Angeles. "That's not something you can say about the whole tan-and-beige wave that we had for a really long time."
ANY ROOM, ANY STYLE
Gray works with every decorating style, from totally traditional to cutting-edge modern. Whatever the style, "grey can be a huge statement," Ranize says, so it "doesn't take a huge quantity of accents to get high impact."
It also works surprisingly well in rooms where you might not expect it: Betsy Burnham, founder of Burnham Design in Los Angeles, uses dark grey kitchen cabinetry painted with a slightly shimmery satin finish. She likes using a softer shade, Benjamin Moore's "Gray Owl," on walls, and painting the trim a crisp, cool white.
Designer Brian Patrick Flynn, founder of Flynnside Out Productions, uses grey "to mediate other more dramatic colours."
"If I am using a lot of black," he says, "I'll pair it with greige to keep the look more subtle and almost lower the amount of contrast. If I'm working with bold colours such as red or orange, I'll usually set them against a backdrop of dove grey or blue grey."
Another combo he recommends: charcoal grey with dark hunter green and black. "All three are super-dark and rich," Flynn says, but "none are really too high-energy, resulting in a sense of glamour that's somewhat rustic and woodsy. It's a really unique look that can be pulled off in the right setting."
Grey is even kid-friendly. It's "an excellent choice for a gender-neutral nursery or kid's room," Flynn says, "since you can accent it with a wide array of colours."
Yet another gorgeous option: Ranize loves mixing greys with deep shades of plum and any deep blue, from navy to teal. Deep blues "can play off of light greys so pleasantly," she says. It brings "emotional impact without being over the top."
WARM AND BRIGHT
Grey doesn't have to make a room feel depressing or cold. "There are ways to bring it outside of that stark, off-putting, cloudy-day kind of vibe," says Burnham. Her favourite strategy is using warm shades of grey alongside organic items like pottery, plants, and natural-wood floors and furniture.
She also warms up shades of grey by pairing them with colours like mustard, olive or soft pinks. These are "combinations you may not immediately think of," she says, but they're surprisingly effective.
As you choose a grey hue, consider the room's natural light. If you're worried that a grey room will look dim, choose items that reflect light. Look for a woven silk rug, wallpaper with a subtle sheen, upholstery with a slight shimmer, and even a tabletop of pale grey or grey and white marble that reflects light.
You can also opt for lighter greys to keep things from getting too intense. If you're considering using grey with red, for example, Flynn recommends dove grey or blue grey rather than charcoal. "Since dark grey and red are both super-dramatic, they can sometimes come across as overbearing or too much," he says. By pairing red with paler greys, the effect is "light and airy, juxtaposed with dramatic and high-energy."
THE BEST BASE LAYER
Rather than adding grey to a room as an accent colour, Ranize suggests using it as the room's base colour. She recommends using paint or wallpaper to create soft grey walls, then layering more shades of grey into the room in the floor-covering and furniture. As a finishing touch, add a few pops of other colours as you wish.
With this technique, she says, "you get this dynamic space without trying to be flamboyant."
If you're building a new home, talk with your builder about using grey as the base colour throughout the property. "Builders and real estate agents are big on using beiges, creams and taupes to neutralize their properties," Flynn says, but "interior designers take the more personable route with grey, a colour which has more personality."
In expert hands, he says, grey "can take on a luxurious, chic or even understated vibe."
Melissa Rayworth, The Associated Press