Renovation & Design

CONNIE OLIVER: Forget beige -- grey is the new neutral

Grey is a popular choice for kitchens, which can be a warm or cool colour, depending on the undertone.

Builder beige is out and stylish grey is in as the new neutral. As you can see from our feature photo, courtesy of Kohler, grey can be a stunning neutral for decor.

Any room can be enhanced with the right shade of grey, but kitchens seem to be the popular choice these days. It's an unexpected colour in the kitchen, which makes it interesting, especially on cabinetry.

Warmer shades of grey that carry yellow undertones seem to be more popular than the cooler shades that carry blue undertones. The trick to easier success with grey is to keep the colour palette either all warm or all cool to help maintain visual flow.

Warm grey

Warm greys can appear somewhat brown, purple, yellow/green or slightly orange and work best with a contrast of warm whites. From the lightest dove grey to dark brown/grey there is something out there for every taste. Accent colours in furnishings, flooring, window coverings and accessories can bring in a splash of colour to keep a space visually stimulating. Warm grey works well with wood-toned flooring.

When using lighter shades of grey on the walls, dark flooring and furniture can really pop against the pale backdrops. For a softer look, in a bedroom for instance, lighter furnishings and linens can offer a restful, monochromatic space.

Medium- to dark-tone grey, like the ones in our feature photos, can be stunning in a kitchen, bathroom or living room that has architectural features like wainscoting and cove molding. To keep things feeling light, the white elements often found in these rooms balance the dark colour while offering it contrast.

These darker shades of grey can also work well as a focal wall. Be mindful of using darker shades because they will reflect less light. These darker shades might not be the best choice in a dim foyer, for instance.

Warm shades of grey can be accented with accessories that have vibrant colours like yellow, orange, turquoise, muted red, purple, pink and yellow-greens like lime. These accent colours can be strategically included through things like flowers, ceramics, toss cushions and artwork.

Cool grey

Cool grey can be sterile if you're not careful, but it does work well with crisp white and blue. The cooler greys are well suited to a modern, minimalist decor with black furniture and crisp white trimmings along with glass and steel components.

While you can mix warm and cool grey, you really have to know your colours to garner a positive outcome, so sticking to one or the other is more likely to give you success in your project. If you're not sure if a grey is warm or cool, ask your paint supplier for assistance or search online paint companies' websites for help. These sites can also help you choose co-ordinating colours to match your primary choice.

Grey can be as sophisticated as a tuxedo or as rustic as weathered barn board. It can be feminine or masculine or a balance of both. Grey can be youthful, as a soft dove grey in a nursery, or historic, as in a formal dining room, depending upon the shade of grey and application.

Along with wall colour, you can incorporate your favourite shade of grey into upholstery (I've always loved a tweed grey tailored sofa), window coverings (like shimmery grey silk), flooring (as in pickled wood floors), area rugs, lighting and of course accessories and artwork, including black and white photography.

If you're concerned a solid grey wall may be too boring, spice it up with grey tone-on-tone wallpaper. The softness of the pattern will give the room movement while still incorporating the desired grey. You can do this with fabric as well window coverings, small accent furniture (like an ottoman) or bedding. If you want to add just a bit of grey, consider a wide horizontal-striped shower curtain, draperies or bedding.

Grey really can be all things to all people. Whether you want to create an elegant formal dining room or a feminine little girl's room, there's a shade out there that can fill the bill.


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