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Article posted: 6/23/2013 1:00 AM

This season's hot color is stylish and safe for years to come

Complicated prints stay impactful (but not too busy) in a neutral gray palette.

Complicated prints stay impactful (but not too busy) in a neutral gray palette.

 

Courtesy of Jason Ball Interiors

Dark, warm gray cabinets have a sleek finish and ground this traditional kitchen design. A black and white backsplash gives it extra pop.

Dark, warm gray cabinets have a sleek finish and ground this traditional kitchen design. A black and white backsplash gives it extra pop.

 

Courtesy of Jason Ball Interiors

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By Alice Oglethorpe

The title "Fifty Shades of Grey" may have been one of the most talked-about books in recent memory, but it also describes the latest trend to hit home decor. According to a survey by the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the color gray is now used in more than 50 percent of kitchens and baths -- that's up from about 10 percent in 2010.

Why the surge in popularity?

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"Gray is a great choice for a primary color because it makes any space look fresh, clean, inviting and contemporary all at the same time," says Carol Cheetham, owner of Design Works by Cheetham in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. "People seem to be spending more and more time in their homes, and they want to feel a sense of calm there -- something gray does."

Gray is also a softer way of following a design rule. "There is a saying in interior design that every room needs a touch of black in it," says Corey Klassen, owner of Corey Klassen Interior Design in Vancouver, B.C. "Gray can fill that void without the harshness of being pure black."

While the most basic gray is just a mixture of white and black, most color options for home decor are much more nuanced, and different people are drawn to different shades. "I find that grays that are too cool can feel harsh," Cheetham says. "But a gray with warm colors in it, like reds and yellows, can have an embracing, comfortable feeling to it."

Klassen recommends asking a salesperson about what type of undertone (yellow, blue or red) a shade of gray has before buying paint.

"Gray can be used on your walls, cabinets, countertops, flooring, enameled sinks and more," Cheetham says.

For color combinations, "One popular thing to do with gray is to mix it with white," Klassen says. "It has the same effect of an all-white kitchen or bath in that it's light and airy, but the combination gives you a nice, interesting backdrop for other hues."

A gray room does need additional hues and, luckily, all accent colors match well with gray. "Those pops of color balance out the room by pulling the eye away from the intensity of the gray," Klassen says. "And if you are insecure using bright colors like hot pinks and bright greens, you don't have to do anything permanent. You can bring in bursts of accent colors with interchangeable items like dishes or towels."

Gray is a very versatile color, and there is just one rule to follow -- don't mix different types of gray in the same room. Use lighter or darker versions of the same shade instead, Klassen says. "Otherwise, it will seem like the different grays are competing with each other in the room."

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