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WV Design Team: Go-with-all gray decidedly not ‘dull’

By By Holley Price
WV Design Team
Photos courtesy of HOLLEY PRICE
The dark gray paint really highlights an otherwise ho-hum ceiling, calling attention to what would be an insignificant detail if it had been painted ceiling white.
This marble shelf with gray veins running through it offers a neutral backdrop that reflects bold colors.
Geometric designs in varying shades of gray are showing up scores of wallpaper designs.
Gray is showing up in fabrics too — great for throw rugs, pillows, window treatments and more.

As I started this article, I knew I wanted to write about gray.

I love the color — it can be as flat as concrete or have different hues of green, blue, purple or brown floating up through it, depending on the time of day and light hitting it.

But something was nagging at me — the never-ending question: What is the proper spelling of this fabulous neutral?

So, I Googled it. The mystery is solved: “gray” is correct in the U.S., and “grey” is the British spelling. Now I can write on (whew).

I will have to disagree with the parts of the definition that say “gloomy, dull and uninteresting.” I’m sure they’re describing a person’s mood, but I still take offense in defense of this sassy little color.

Gray is full force in home decorating now. It is a great neutral — every color goes with a gray.

You can choose warm grays with brown undertones, or cool grays with blue undertones.

Either can be warmed (with oranges and reds) or cooled (using blues and greens) by the colors accompanying them.

One of my favorite projects in the past few years was a client who was making a move to a different house. She’d always had very vibrant wallpapers and wall color in her home. The new place was a fresh start and she wanted everything painted in three shades of gray.

We were a little hesitant, but decided it was only paint, and if we hated it, the colors could be changed.

I chose three married grays (samples 2, 3 and 4 on a strip) and we went for it.

It was stunning, to say the least. Granted, she has an amazing art collection and we were able to go crazy on fabrics because everything pops beautifully off gray.

Everything went — from very formal, dark landscape paintings to bold, modern art, white to bright orange bedding as well as a brown leather sofa and hand-painted fabrics.

We were even able to take a fourth dark glossy gray to use as an accent on ceiling trim.

The best way to test a paint color (any color actually) is to put a couple of good-sized samples (12 by 12 inches) on a few different walls and keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too brown or too blue — or whatever color you don’t want it to get — and then be sure to check it out with your lamps on at night. You will be amazed by the color differences that will appear throughout the day.

Look at your fabrics the same way. They won’t have as much color variation as paint, but some will change.

In the kitchen, one of the most classic looks is white Carrara marble countertops. Subtle gray veins run through this beautiful white stone, and it can be mixed with any color of cabinetry — stained or painted, it all looks good with Carrara. Heads up, though: It’s a bit pricey and needs a little more upkeep than granite, but it’s a truly stunning look.

You can find Carrara tile for backsplashes. The brick is my favorite, which can give you the classic, rich look for a fraction of the cost.

Wall color is up to you. Gray is a good option here as well.

A bonus of gray is that it doesn’t show dirt as easily as other neutrals.

Adding pops of red, turquoise or citron green with some pottery or glassware will put your kitchen right on this timeless trend.

I’ve been so excited about the geometric wallpapers and fabrics available lately and there is no shortage of them in gray! A quick trip to Wallpapers in Stock will show you a great sampling of wallpapers and fabrics to redo a room, add curtains to your space or simply make a few toss pillows to freshen up the sofa.

The fantastic color combinations that include gray available in textiles right now might seem a little out there, but pair them with a classic fabric you already have and it will be that little tweak your room needed.

I love strong wallpapers in small bathrooms — the bigger the pattern the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Don’t worry that a big print or dark color will shrink the room — it’s small to begin with and it’s not going to get any smaller (or bigger) looking depending on your wallpaper.

The bathroom is good for gray too. There are Carrara mosaic tiles, beautiful gray cabinetry and countertops with gray highlights, and flecks of silvery bling that scream “fabulous!”

It looks fresh and clean with white tile, and if you want an old-school look, grout around your white tile in your tub with gray grout.

Another tip: Don’t use bleach-based cleaners on colored grouts; it will strip the color out of them.

Give gray a chance. It is a wonderful base to add to your favorite colors. Gray can keep vibrant colors from getting away from you and enliven more muted tones. It’s a much neglected neutral and deserves some recognition.

The beauty of gray is that it is timeless. Everything goes with it and is always hiding a surprise with every flicker of sunshine that hits it, quite unlike the gloomy, dull and uninteresting dictionary term.

Holley Price is the owner of Holley Price Interiors in Charleston. She can be reached at 304-421-1505 or by email at holleypriceinteriors@gmail.com, on Facebook and on Twitter: @Holley_Price.


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