Gray’s Demise as the Go-To Neutral Color

GREYLRDuring the past 7 or so years, many of my interior design clients have embraced various shades of gray in a big way.  It’s been their preferred color  for their master bedroom and bathroom, kitchen, powder room and other spaces.  Gray dominated in flooring selections, kitchen and bath tiles, kitchen cabinetry finishes, wall paint, wood furniture finishes, and upholstery fabrics.

Today, gray’s reign as THE go-to neutral is fading, according to color trend watchers.  Here’s why that shift matters:

Conventional decorating wisdom suggests that choosing a neutral hue as the dominant color works best.   A color becomes dominant when it’s used on large chunks of visual real estate inside a home, such as carpeting, wall paint, sofas and sectionals, and cabinetry finishes. That neutral choice is typically supplemented by one or two bright accent colors repeated on area rugs, wall art, throw pillows and similar smaller pieces.

“Realtor beige” was the go-to neutral color in the 1990s when it was widely embraced for home staging.  A sandy beige allows potential buyers to visualize their belongings against a backdrop of a non-offensive, somewhat warm hue.

When choosing colors and finishes for flooring, tiles, built-in cabinetry and other enduring and expensive-to-change design elements, I caution my clients about the “10-Year Rule.”  Roughly every decade, interior spaces can begin to look outdated as trends change, including color preferences.   The biggest risk involves the kitchen.  On a per-square-foot basis, kitchens are often the most expensive room to outfit.

Of course, not all of my clients subscribe to the “let one neutral color dominate” rule.  I’ve had clients embrace vivid colors on their walls, and bright patterns on their sofas, loveseats, large area rugs and major window treatments.  But those customers  are the exception rather than the rule.

So what’s the next big neutral?  Black has been suggested, although I’ve found many clients  recoil when offered black for their kitchen cabinetry,  bedroom furniture, or master bath vanity, particularly when the property is a coastal home.

Other predictions indicate an icy blue or a muted olive green may usurp gray.  My vote goes toward a pale brown hue, although brown remains MIA from most clothing fashion.  And clothing is typically is a harbinger of home design trends.

Time will tell.  In the meantime, farewell to fifty shades of gray.  Mocha, anyone?