Gray is the new black when it comes to decorating. Here are ways to make this practical color work in every room

One of the most versatile colors in a decorator’s toolbox is gray. It’s the new black — and it’s one of the most popular neutrals to design and decorate with. Gray can be modern, sleek and sophisticated, or urban and casual chic. There are so many shades, ranging from dove to gun metal. That’s the beauty of gray: You always can find a tint that will work with any other color.


Gray is practical. It falls between black and white, so some call it indecisive. But gray evokes wisdom, intellect and professionalism, and for this reason I’ve used it in many offices and hallways, though always with eclectic mixes for punch, because gray also can be very still.

When working with gray, it’s super important to layer in darker tones of the same color to give your space more depth. You’ve seen me use gray many times in fun spaces and commercial settings, paired with pinks, silvers, reds and oranges — but always layered with other shades of gray.

If you want a bit of freshness, accent the gray with white. White trim in window frames, crown molding and baseboards works well, as do picture frames and ceramic accents. Or go in the opposite direction with punches of black for some drama and mystery.

Since gray is a neutral, it works well with almost any pop of color, as well as with other neutrals. I designed this relaxing, sophisticated master bedroom recently with varying shades of gray, white silver and bronze. In bedrooms, crystals and accents in champagne and taupe would give the room a romantic glow. This combination of luxe, sensuous and neutral would appeal to both men and women.


Living rooms and dining rooms? They look amazing in layers of gray. Bring in lighter or darker accent walls and furniture along with pops of your favorite color. A really great recipe for gray is to use wallpaper with a pattern of gray on one wall, paint another wall charcoal, bring in upholstery with a warm gray undertone, a gray-silver coffee table, patterned dove-gray accent pillows and some silvery candlesticks and light fixtures. Can you see it?

Gray can work in every room in the house — kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, dining or living room. It’s even fantastic for hallways because it is that transition color between white and black. Just keep in mind that shades of gray can make a space feel cold, which is why it’s important to add pops of warmer colors.

For a wall in reStyle Hawaii, I chose an icy gray with accents of Charcoal Flint from Benjamin Moore and pops of lime green for a fresh, interesting look. Paired with pops of color or some neutrals, you can’t go wrong with shades of gray. Just remember: Be decisive with this indecisive color!


Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. reStyle Hawaii, her new-concept furniture and home accents store, is open daily at 420 Keawe St. in Kakaako. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit