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Using gray the right way

Gray seems to be one of the most versatile colors in home decor these days, but what are the right ways to use this color without it feeling drab and gloomy? Any dos and don'ts?

You are correct! Gray is one of the most versatile colors in home decor these days and shows no signs of slowing down or disappearing. Chances are you are already using gray in some form in your home. With stainless steel and slate appliances, gray painted cabinets and cut stone backsplashes, the use of gray in kitchen design is the latest trend. All rooms and all styles of design lend themselves to the use of gray – traditional, contemporary, eclectic, industrial and Alaskan can use gray in wall color, flooring, furnishings, lighting and accessories to create comfortable and personal spaces.

In nature, we see gray in the waters of our rivers and our oceans, in the sky, the mountains and in our wildlife. Gray can impart restful and calming home interiors by bringing nature inside. Or, if drama and high-energy are needed, the color gray can deliver. Sophisticated, chic, timeless, casual – the color gray really can do it all. Gray combines well with other colors; complementary to yellow or any color that is muted or has a gray undertone.

It's a given that our Alaskan winters are dark and long, so when considering painting walls gray, light and medium tints of gray will make an impact without turning rooms into caves. If you find a deep and saturated gray paint that you think you can't live without – use it on an accent wall to highlight an architectural detail or to create one. Also keep in mind most grays will have an undertone of another color like blue, green, purple and brown. If one shade of gray doesn't seem to work to create the effect you are looking for, try another. Don't be tempted to skip testing samples in your room. A paint chip in the paint department can look entirely different when painted on four walls in your home.

When using the color gray in home decor, especially the medium and darker tones, it is important to have ample lighting from natural sources, ambient and task lighting. Don't forget the accessories – they are the finishing touches to every great room. Texture and shine in limited doses prevent rooms from becoming drab and gloomy.

Kim Herning has operated a successful design business in Alaska and Texas for the last 10 years, and also worked as a kitchen designer with Home Depot in Fairbanks.