GRAY: THE NEW BEIGE

Gray is mystery. It’s kittens, it’s Wall Street, it’s London fog, it’s black pearls. Gray is, quite simply, magic. 

Gray has become the new beige, with landlords painting surfaces they used to coat in horrible semi-gloss putty color, now a stately, tasteful, very pale gray, echoing the “industrial” trend for unpainted plaster gray or cement walls. All these tricks were an effort by landlords to avoid the yellowing effect, over time, of pristine white walls. They don’t want to have to pay contractors to repaint frequently.  

But penny-pinching aside, gray possesses its own virtues as a “neutral”, the latter, a rather unattractive word.  We speak of “neutrals” as if they were non-colors, when in fact they are imbued with traces of other colors, which, in turn, give them highly distinctive tones that need to be respected as we juxtapose them with more vivid colors. 

Some grays are imbued with blue, others green, still others brown. If we choose, for example, a beautiful brownish mouse-gray, it will not do to then use gray-green accessories with it. Instead, rusty reds, deep lapis blues: yes! For gray is a color. 

 

One aspect of gray, alluded to above, is that its mystery and magic are best brought out when we don’t simply apply it with a flat blanket of paint. The charm of gray emerges most powerfully when we see it in the misty, slightly variegated, almost frescoed surface of an unpainted wall sheathed in gray plaster. Then there is gray cement, which, when polished, may constitute a floor every bit as elegant (and a lot more hip) than marble. 

Raw building materials, whether polished or rough, which are gray become markers  of a reverse chic, the 21st century veneration of and nostalgia for the Modernist world before plastics, those which early 20th century architects and builders--Walter Gropius, Frank Lloyd Wright-- employed to such plain yet striking effect. 

Gray is also, memorably, the half-tones of early to mid-20th century black and white photography, the middle ground between high contrast which lends such softness and intimacy to images. 

For the decorator, whether professional or DIY, gray has become a foundation color (a term I prefer to “neutral”) admired for its versatility, much as beige was during the last century. If one decides to “do” a gray room, just as with beige, the trick is to avoid the monotony of using a single tone. As mentioned above, grays are undertoned with other hues, and one may harmoniously layer these distinctive grays which will contrast subtly with one another.  

Gray expresses itself best when it is textured, whether with the softness of a delicious mouse-gray velvet, or the roughness of a charcoal jacquard. Nothing is more elegant than gray silk drapes. Experiment with such textiles, and for your walls, consider the distressed look of sponged paint or plain plaster; for your floors, the subtle gleam of polished concrete, or even linoleum waxed to a beautiful burnish.    

Should you grow tired of your all gray room, there is no need to repaint or reupholster. Transformation is just a few throw pillows away. Try a bright accent color like persimmon, or perhaps a deep jewel tone, like cobalt blue or teal. You will find that your gray interior, if achieved in the first place with attention to materials and textures, will be capable of many a visual renaissance during its lifetime.

Artfully mixed and matched, Indigo2ash’s wide selection of rugs, drapes and pillows are available in thirty subtle shades and myriad textures and patterns. At Indigo2ash, home is not only a place, but an experience, the setting most central to our families, friendships and visual adventures. Sign up to receive our newsletter with special offers!