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Gray Interior Decor, 50 Shades of Boring

Michelle Jackson has studied art and interior design since 1983. She attended design school and has worked as an artist/visual artist.

A Color for No Season

The world of Interior Design is a fickle creature. One minute you have the "in" decor and the next you are hunting down Pantone's color of the year in the hopes of salvaging your decorating dignity. The fads come and go. Who could forget 90's mauve and cornflower blue (both of which are making a comeback), or the tan wall craze of the early 2000's? Maybe you were heavy into the shabby chic that was eventually replaced with Industrial Farmhouse. There is always a neutral color on which to cling. Today that neutral color is Gray. Yes, the same gray tones that were once the thing of basements and office buildings has turned up everywhere. People have been conned into painting everything "50 shades of boring". How did this happen and why?

Home Depot Gray Kitchen


Why so Gray?

Gray caught on as part of a movement for people to do their own home decor without having to make difficult color decision. If everything in your house is gray and white then you don't have to worry that anything will clash. Gray takes the guesswork out of designing a room. Basically people just had to decide which things would be white and which things would be gray. Some very daring individuals actually threw in an accent color or black.

Gray appeals to a people who like an overwhelming sense of order in their lives. The minimalist movement added to the appeal of gray decor by allowing people to edit out colors that would have created a cluttered look. Through the use of gray many people felt they were creating order out of their chaos. In most cases I agree that gray has a cleaner look than other colors.

Fixer Upper

Who didn't love the show Fixer Upper? I've had people tell me that Joanna Gaines uses gray. Joanna does occasionally use gray, it's usually with a lot of wood and white. Anyone can decorate a room in black and white. Decorators who watch her show often cringe because one of the reasons her rooms look so clean is she rarely uses window treatments. Incidentally, window treatments are one of the toughest things to get right in Interior Design. If you go back through Johanna's designs you will see what I'm talking about. Gray should be use on an object you don't want anyone to see.



Prison Gray

Historically gray was used for prison walls and bars. When gray first came in the scene as the new go to color the first thing I thought was "why would anyone want to paint their house like a prison?". I hate to say it but the book 50 shades of gray was most likely responsible for this color disaster. Yet, here we are in 2020 where people put "warm shades of prison gray" on every wall of their home. It's a depressing mirror of society. If Pinterest's most pinned is any indication, gray is drifting out like the cloud that brought it. After being trapped in their homes for much of 2020, people are getting over their prison gray decor.

Life is not black and white; there is some gray nuance to it.

— Pilou Asbaek

The Gray Cloud

Many people have painted over perfectly beautiful wall colors in order to choose gray a non-color. Why do I call gray a non-color? All shades of gray are ignored by the human eye. The human eye passes over gray and focuses on anything with color in the room. If there isn't a color in the room it creates a lack of visual stimulation.

If you don't have anything but gray in the room then you have created a box of depression. Colors have an affect on your mood and brain. Seasonal Affective Disorder comes from constantly seeing gray skies. Ask yourself, what happens when you turn your house into a gray sky that you deal with everyday? In 2016 a study on children's learning withing rooms of certain color was conducted. From that study it was discovered that few schools use the color gray on their walls instead opting for lighter colors across the color whee (Duyan, F. 2016). According to the North American Mental Health Professional Advice Council (NAMHPAC) Gray is a moody sad color that creates feelings of loneliness and isolation(NAMHPAC, 2020).

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Five Color and Style Tips

What should you do instead of gray? Let us take a look at some easy fixes;

1. Gray walls- Instead of gray walls think about what colors look good on you and go with one of those colors.

2. Gray Kitchen Cabinets- try balancing out the gray by painting the walls a non neutral. If you painted the cabinets gray, you might want to consider a do-over.

3. Gray furniture- Gray couches are not horrible if the rest of the room has bright colors. Consider going bigger and bolder with your throw pillows.

4. Gray carpet/floor- rugs are a great option for covering up floors. here again if the rest of the room isn't a gray box you might be fine. (if you love it, leave it)

5. If you truly have 50 shades of Gray in your room, most accessories can be painted.

Hopefully this helps a little as you make decorating decisions.

Trials of Decorating

Your home should be a reflection of you. Your home should reflect your life and your personal journey. I've never met a person who reminded me of gray. Everything you use from the type of fabrics to the scent of your candles should be something you love. It can be difficult to coordinate colors and styles however, the internet offers tons of inspiration. In the end it is worth the journey to discover your personal style. Create a space that is uniquely you.

© 2020 MD Jackson MSIOP


Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 17, 2020:

I have never liked gray so I choose different colors for everything. I know this trend will also pass as they all do. Thanks for an interesting article.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 15, 2020:

This is a very interesting article. I have remarked in recent years on the number of branded hotels that are going for grey decor. A 5 star hotel review I wrote several years ago had 'shades of grey' in the title.

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