For the second year in a row, gray is projected to be the most popular hue for home interiors, according to Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute, which issues an annual forecast on color trends.

“This is the first time any color has headlined our forecast in back-to-back years,” says Zimmer, “but gray, a near-perfect neutral color, has really caught on.”

What’s so special about gray? “It’s very easy on the eyes. It’s understated and sophisticated. And most tints and shades of gray are ‘chameleon’ colors that change appearance when the light changes, so they provide enormous visual interest,” says Zimmer.

Another reason for its popularity: Gray is a very versatile color that coordinates beautifully with a wide range of hues. As a result, it can be used in many different color schemes and with almost any style of décor.

“Pairing gray with one or more neutral colors – white, off-white, beige, taupe, soft blue, or black – can produce a tranquil color scheme capable of making an indoor space more relaxing,” says Zimmer. “That’s why we so often see these combinations in areas where we seek refuge and comfort, such as bedrooms and family rooms.

“But gray can also serve as an ideal foil for more adventurous color, ranging from saturated hues like purple, fuchsia, rust, and navy to softer tints like dusty pink and pale lavender. Color schemes employing these combinations can be used in virtually any room in the home,” she says.

Of course, “gray” refers not just to one color, but to many – running the gamut from delicate silver tints to powerful shades of gunmetal, charcoal, and slate. In each, black and white is present, but often, traces of other colors, too. According to Zimmer, these “trace colors” provide valuable clues as to what works best with a given gray.

“Grays that contain traces of warm hues like red, yellow, or brown seem cozier, and partner best with warm companion colors. On the other hand, grays that have hints of blue or green seem cooler and more austere, so they are inherently more compatible with colors on the cooler side of the spectrum,” she says.

Sometimes, it’s easy to identify the trace colors that appear in gray, but not always. Where paint color is concerned, you can simply ask the counterperson about the color formula to find out whether the gray contains warm or cool elements, and let that guide your selection of companion colors.

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