Akron interior designer Cynthia J. Hoffman cautioned that to keep the interior from looking as dull as a winter landscape, gray needs to be accompanied by plenty of light, she said.
Hoffman 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 it’s winter or summer,” she said.
No natural light? Use plenty of artificial light, she suggested. But make sure it’s dimmable, so you can change the mood of the room to fit the way you’re using it.
Douglass and Hoffman said it’s 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.
Hoffman particularly likes the way gray makes bright colors stand out. She showcased one client’s 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.
Mathew 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,” she said.
It’s 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 a bookcase.
The 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 down the contrast.
It all depends on what you like, how you use your space and how you want to feel in it, she said.
As with any paint color, try out gray 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 paint store.
The good news is that no matter what color you love, there’s a gray you can use with it, Mathew said. You don’t have to abandon your color scheme and start from scratch just to be in fashion.
It’s more important that you love your colors, she said.
Lust after them, even.