Working with Grays: 5 Rules of Thumb
Recently, I read an article that suggested gray was only the hot colour-of-the-moment for 2012. Not true, trends last a minimum of 10 years. Brown arrived on the scene in the West Coast in 2002 and gray its cooler sister came to stay in 2009/2010.
I’m currently sourcing lighting for the exterior and interior of my new house and I was shocked at how much was still only available in oil-rubbed bronze. Very little is available in black.
The reason gray is here to stay is because it’s a fabulous background for all the pops of colour that are quickly replacing the earth tones we've been living with for too long already.
Here are my top 5 rules for choosing the right gray for a project:
1. Decide whether you want your gray to have a green, purple or blue undertone, it will make it much easier to choose.
A gray that you would consider to be putty has a green undertone. If you want blue walls, that's a blue gray and some grays that fall into the category of a purple undertone can even look the most neutral.
2. Consider your fixed elements when choosing a gray undertone.
If you're working with a dated stone or brick fireplace with colours you don't like, the grout is usually a putty colour which would still tie in with a gray like SW 7043 Worldly Gray.
However, if you want a blue gray and you don't have any blue in your fixed elements, it may not be the right choice.
3. Work with the light in the room.
If you have lots of light, go with a paler gray, it will change with the sunlight throughout the day and fill you with happiness. If you have a dark or north facing room, choose a gray with some more depth as you will need lighting to bring this room to life and a richer shade will be required.
4. If the house is empty at the start of a project, do not fill the walls with 10 samples of gray paint colours.
Without any furniture or fabrics to coordinate, the chances of one of them jumping out and saying 'pick me, pick me!' will be slim.
5. Choose your fabrics first.
Before I painted any room in my house, I selected the furniture or drapery fabric. When you don't have the luxury of choosing decor first, work with the fixed elements such as your countertops, existing carpet or fireplace stone to choose the correct gray undertone.
And if all else fails and you don't know what to do, I would suggest a putty gray like SW 7029 Agreeable Gray if you plan to incorporate white or linen into your decor.
Photo credit: Maria Killam
Maria Killam is a blogger, decorator, stylist, author and internationally sought after Colour Expert. Her no-nonsense colour advice, friendly and inspiring writing style quickly turned Colour Me Happy into one of the top 10 colour blogs in North America with readers in over 150 countries around the world. Maria's experience conducting thousands of consultations in every style of home created the foundation for her system of distinguishing undertones that she teaches to designers and homeowners in her ebook: How to Choose Paint Colours – It's All in the Undertones and her True Colour Expert Workshops. Her blog has been featured in The Washington Post five times.