Nifty Shades of Gray

Publication: The Morning Call; Date: Mar 2, 2014; Section: Home Finder; Page: G1
Nifty Shades of Gray

Far from gloomy, the color adds sophistication to décor

Neutral in home decorating doesn’t mean you’re limited to white or beige. In fact, when it comes to picking a color pallet, the choices can enter a gray area of color. The thing about gray is it’s so colorful. It’s created not by mixing black and white, says Cheryl Brinker, an interior designer with Metro Design Center of Allentown, but with the marriage of two complementary colors, say orange and blue. That means gray can show many faces, with tones that can be masculine or feminine, charcoal dark or feather light, warm as toast or cool as ice.That makes it versatile around the house, and gray is being widely used in home decor. “Designers love it,” Brinker says.

Gray can have a bit of green or blue or lavender in it, says George Lanier co-owner of Glen Anthony Designs of Bethlehem.

That influential undertone of color “keeps it from being boring,” he says. But take care! Gray reacts to the colors around it, Brinker says. It can shift tone depending on its base and its partner colors.

It can be used for an effective highlight. Interior designer Carol Koenig, owner of an Allentown firm that bears her name, has a fabric that is of ivory, golden yellow and charcoal gray. “You never think about those colors together — yellow, black and white,” she says. “But it’s just gorgeous.”

It can be used with a broad brush, covering the walls of a whole room. Koenig says to make it extra special, gray needs something shiny with it, a little bling. She suggests silvery or white-tone metal finishes and crystal accents.

 “You can have a stunning, silvery-gray dining room with a crystal chandelier,” she says, “It’s a knockout.”

A gray kitchen floor can provide a striking contrast to white kitchen cabinets.

“We’ve seen a trending toward gray, for sure,” says Karen Kuranda, sales developer for Eastern Surfaces of Allentown. She says Carrara-style marble, creamy white with tones of gray swirling through it, is popular. And for countertops, she says, granite can incorporate gray and add pattern and a sense of movement and dimension.

Yet, gray is a neutral color that is content to be a backdrop for a dramatic piece of art, Lanier says.

It can also provide an unassuming background for a side chair upholstered in a vibrant fabric. Brinker offers this idea: Make that vibrant fabric blue against walls of white and light- and middle-shade grays.

And Koenig says that new contemporary wood furniture collections have ebony and black finishes that look beautiful against some of the gray tones.

Around the house, the color can pull together rooms with a dramatic flair. Lanier recommends deeper shades in the dining or powder room with a softer, lighter gray for the ceiling or trim.

Layers of gray can be used to good effect on the outside of a house, too, Koenig says. It plays on the color of mortar, architectural stone and the bark of some trees. She suggests using multiple values with soft gray trim, a tonier gray on the shutters and an even deeper gray on the front door.

“Gray never used to be one of my favorites,” says Koenig. “But the newer materials have more life to them. They are very sophisticated.”    For some people, gray is too neutral but they still want a more sophisticated decor.

For those, the classic black-and-white checkerboard floor can make a bolder statement. Shoshana Gosselin, interior decorator with Love Your Room of Breinigsville, visited a home recently that used such a floor in the foyer, “out where everybody can see it,” she says.

What made the design attractive was its pairing with smooth gray walls and lots of wood trim.

“To keep it chic and classic,” she says, “Keep the tiles large — 12 by 12.”