gray family room

The Gray-ing of America

Here are do-it-yourself pointers on how to use gray from picking the right shade, right upholstery, and furniture finish

Dann Foley Interior Design 0 Comments

gray family room

No, I am not talking about the aging population! I am referring to the current love affair with every shade of gray in interior design, an affair that is bordering on stalking.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am loving gray along with everyone else, so I want to help you to get it right. From picking the right shade of gray to making sure you don’t end up living in a house with the appeal of a cellblock, getting it right takes some finesse and expertise.

That's where I come in. I have some pointers to help you do-it-yourself.

This room uses pure white and gloss black to emphasize the warmth and style of the gray grass cloth wall covering.

Choosing the Right Color

• When choosing paint colors, I like to consider every shade possible through swatches, then quickly narrow my choices down to three possibilities.

• A trick of mine is when I select the color I wish to sample, I also select the shade one or two spaces down on the swatch card because the color is more saturated.

• Decide if you want to contrast your new neutral with white or ivory…a perfect choice for any shade of gray.  The look can be contemporary or traditional.

• For a truly designer-style choice, try black or charcoal for the trim and doors. The moody effect is stylish and sophisticated.

In this double-sided gray living room I did for NBC’s American Dream Builders, I used shading, texture, and neutrals to enliven the all the gray.

Choosing the Right Upholstery

• I prefer to use gray upholstery sparingly because it is not always the most flattering color against the skin. Choose occasional chairs and bed fabrics in gray, then the larger pieces like the sofa or sectional in another color.

• Brighten gray upholstery pieces with accent color in throws and decorative pillows. Some of my favorite colors to use with gray are yellow, lavender and turquoise (almost any shade of blue!).

• With gray upholstery, shades of charcoal are more flattering and maintainable than lighter shades, such as silver. 

• Gray is a terrific mixed with other neutrals! Try shades of taupe, sand, and oatmeal.

Turquoise and yellow are the perfect accent colors for this cool gray room.

Choosing the Right Furniture Finish

• Gray is almost the only finish on furniture that manufacturers seemed to show at the design markets this past year. That means you, the consumer, is going to see lots more of it as well.

• Reclaimed wood pieces with a gray wash or stain is very popular and the variation of woods used in a single piece can really add some pop and personality to furniture and to your room.

• Gray finish can also be found on luxury furniture and woods. Gray stain on mahogany, ash, and walnut are quite luxurious and can be rather pricey. But, an investment piece is something you should have to anchor every room of your home.

As with any room in any color or style, it takes more than just a single color or shade of color to pull it all together. Accessories, accent pieces, art, rugs and lighting are paramount to a completed look.

Gray done right is chic, fresh, modern and sophisticated. Like any room in your home, it is key to remember that ultimately it is you who creates the personality, fun, and sense of intimacy that makes the space memorable and welcoming to those you invite into your world.

Live Well!

Dann Foley, Allied ASID, has been a Palm Springs interior designer for more than 20 years. Dann has been featured on NBC's American Dream Builders. His monthly column will focus on trends, what's hot, and design specific to the desert lifestyle. Visit for more information.

Find Dann Foley on Twitter: @DesignerDann

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This porch I created for clients in Charleston, SC, uses multiple shades of gray to create a fresh approach to traditional sophistication.

Acid shades of chartreuse green and black lacquer table add the wow to this neutral gray room.

The Gray-ing of America was last modified: May 25th, 2016 by Dann Foley

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