Ask any designer which colors are the most basic and adaptable to any decoration scheme, and you're likely to hear beige and gray. These colors are tried and true base colors that allow other colors to shine. In my years as a professional, I confess to having used over 50 shades of beige and gray -- some elegant shades of beige and some very cool shades of gray. While some may consider those colors drab, I like to think they are refined, quiet and sophisticated.
Why are these colors used so often? Aren't they middle-of-the-road, noncommittal colors? Well, sometimes. Beige is neither white nor brown, and gray is neither black nor white. Beige can convey dependable, conservative or neutral. Gray might mean business or mourning or a desire to be invisible and can sometimes signify weakness. Both colors are decoratively important and can feel dramatic or demure with the tweaking of a few details and accessories in the right accent color.
Beige had its heyday in the 1980s, when all beige rooms were considered elegant and chic. Guess what: They still are. But beige has been done, and while beige has been accepted as a viable color for decor, gray has not been so lucky. This is perhaps due to the many negative associations with gray: aging hair, dreary days, prison uniforms and institutions.
But not so fast.
Gray has become quite a commodity in the past couple of years. Right now, gray is hot -- hotter than ever. But rather than as a one-color scheme, gray is paired with vibrant colors such as fuchsia, chartreuse, orange or citron yellow. It is the perfect stand-in for almost any color scheme.
In its darker shades, gray usually is the perfect color for contemporary or transitional interiors. In its lighter shades, gray can be seamlessly introduced into traditional interiors to play off rich dark wood tones, painted furniture or aged brass. Think classic French and Swedish interiors.
Gray walls needn't mean cold interiors. Walls the color of driftwood create a sophisticated version of a beachy interior without the need for the expected ocean blue. Grays offer flexibility, bringing the opportunity to design interiors that satisfy both sexes. When paired with soft dusty pastel colors or the vibrancy of neon, gray can be quite feminine and appropriate for any age. On the other hand, when grays are paired with dark colors such as navy, green and brown, gray can be masculine and also appropriate for boys and men of all ages.
Dispel your fears of gray rooms. Don't torture yourself. They needn't be blah. You can inject your new rooms with a fresh color palette of gray and any color you like -- you name it. Set the trend in your corner of the world when you decorate, and you will enjoy many admiring wows from family and friends. They'll be green with envy.
• Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla.
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