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The gray badge of courage

Whether it’s a charcoal chaise lounge or a chrome-accented light fixture, this fall’s edgiest color proves that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

BY ANGIE JAIME Published: November 11, 2010
Cast aside images of murky London fogs – this season, gray is the new black; the softer, laidback and much more versatile cousin.

Gray has long been a favorite of design professionals, and its use as a chameleon neutral has infiltrated the fashion world one couture line at a time. Sonu Mathew, senior interior designer at Benjamin Moore & Co., says that the movement is a cultural one. Researching color trends shows the movement toward gray has continued for some time now, and is finally reaching the forefront of the mass market, she says.

“Now, we’ve reached a very unique point in history; we see influences from the 1920s in powder colors like gray, mixed with the influences of the 1950s and vibrant pops of color. It’s a great balance,” Mathew says.

It’s hot and it’s cold

The amount of warmth or coolness in a shade of gray can completely change its effect on a room. While warm grays are inviting and evoke a sense of comfort, cool grays can look industrial or even stark. Design expert and one half of the creative force behind interior design blog, Ottawa, Canada-based Kim Johnson says that first-timers should err on the side of caution when choosing a gray and opt for one without any undertones.

“I find gray is easier [to work with] than white but it, too, can have undertones of green, blue and purple,” Johnson says. She suggests using several slightly varied shades of gray in one room to add dimension. Once the perfect hue for a room is found, paint the trim and ceiling at half or quarter strength.

Jackie Jordan, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, says to be mindful of lighting when decorating with gray.

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