But look at any lifestyle or shelter magazine and you’ll see that gray is hot and seemingly here to stay. Though white remains the best selling color for most categories of home furnishings, gray is catching up.
Gray has even gone global, influencing traditional crafts that most of us assume to be impervious to fashion and trends. For example, carpet weavers in Tibet, Nepal and Northern India are still producing patterns that are hundreds of years old, but now the colors are contrasting shades of gray.
These same weavers also produce contemporary designs with a strong gray presence, said Salesh Adhikhary of Globalcraft Rugs, a carpeting wholesaler based in Houston. All this has obvious advantages: As London-based interiors blogger Kate Watson-Smyth pointed out, “You don’t have to worry about redecorating every time you change a piece of furniture.”
“Switch out a soft, calming blue for bright colors like red, yellow or orange and you add pop and action.” Gray began to appear in fashion and hospitality settings (hotels and restaurants) and eventually in the editorial pages of magazines that more closely mirror the preferences and aspirations of the average homeowner.
A desire to connect with nature and bring the colors of the outdoors inside and timing also account for gray’s increasing popularity, said Lita Dirks, an interior designer based in Greenwood, Colo. “As we got through the recession, people wanted to ‘open the window’ and make a more efficient cleaner look that went in another color direction. An indication of gray’s increasing acceptance with the general public is their purchase of gray “investment pieces” like sofas, said Jill Waage, executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens Brand and a keen observer of American interior trends for more than 20 years. Melanie McGeehan of Forbo, the top selling linoleum brand in the United States, said that beige colors are still their “strongest sellers,” but grays are a “strong number two.” Because consumers expect to use “hardscape” items like cabinets and bathroom fixtures for two or three decades, manufacturers do not make the decision to offer gray lightly, said Nancy Yusko, a design manager for kitchen and bathroom fixtures at Kohler.
“When we actually look across industries and reflect on historical data, we find a lot of indications on what is penetrating culture and what’s on the surface.” Kohler currently offers five shades of gray in its lines of plumbing fixtures for both bathrooms and kitchens.
Yusko also pointed out that, in a bathroom, the color of the fixture itself can enhance the relaxation that comes with a long soak in the tub or a few minutes under the pounding jets of a multi-showerhead shower. Most people assume that the benefits of the “spa experience” come from their contact with water, but when you reduce contrast by replacing standard white fixtures with ones in a softer color like gray, you will feel calmer whether you are in the tub or not, she said.