By Kathryn Weber
A rich palette of grays is now available for everything from furniture to fireplace tiles, drapes, carpeting, paint and wallpaper
Colors can generate strong reactions. Some love red rooms, while others couldn't function if their rooms weren't bathed in white. But gray is the one shade that's a color chameleon, blending in wherever you use it.
Today, gray comes in many shades that show its depth and personality. What's more, gray may just be the un-color you've been looking for. More than just industrial, plain, cool and lacking interest, gray shades can be described as calming, soothing, relaxing, and sophisticated. Whatever your color tastes, gray is no longer the cold, austere hue it once was.
Gray has always been a color to be feared. The steely blue-gray popular in the '80s seems coldly institutional compared with the rich palette of grays available now. Today's grays range from light oyster to dark blue-grays that mimic the tones of an approaching thunderstorm. Some radiate a warm beige or brown. Gray shades can even be soft and elegant, such as a putty color that looks smashing paired with ivory and a soft accent color.
When it comes to selecting a gray shade, there are only two rules: warm and cool. If you're decorating a girl's room, for instance, a warm gray would be a good choice, while cool gray adds that industrial look to a boy's room. If you want to use gray in the living room, don't be afraid to mix warm and cool shades. Unlike its cousins, blue, green and red, grays can be mixed easily and look terrific.
Gray does a wonderful job of staying in the background and letting any accent color steal the stage, all while keeping the upper hand. Because gray is a strong neutral, it helps keep bright colors from becoming harsh or dominating the room. Besides propping up colors, gray also makes black and white seem more special, too. White looks whiter and black blacker against a gray background. White woodwork looks especially crisp against a gray wall. Gray also pumps up the glamour quotient of wood, making all wood stains look more elegant and sophisticated. Crystal and shiny metals sparkle and dance against a gray backdrop.
Another option for gray? Add some to your favorite colors. Steely blues, greens, violets and purples, even grayed browns all offer a sophisticated, unexpected, relaxing, soothing and, dare we say, sexy, break from the color norm. To really up the sophistication, try a gray that's almost black; it's got depth without feeling flat and overwhelming like plain black can appear.
If you've been undecided on color, maybe gray is the answer. Versatile and warm, gray can surprise you with its depth, sophistication and ability to make whatever's around it -- like a beautiful picture frame -- look better, too.
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