Op/Ed: Tired of gray? Me too. I’m telling my clients to opt for other colors in their home

Several years ago, I suggested a couple paint a few rooms of their house gray before they listed it to sell.

“You want my house to look like a prison?” Mr. Homeowner shot back.

I laughed, then realized he was not joking. I explained how yellow, beige and red walls made buyers feel the home was dated. Gray walls sent a message that the house was updated. There is a lot of psychology in real estate, and the color of walls, floors, cabinets and even accessories plays into that.

Gray has been king for years, but I’m starting to see a lot less of it, because like so many other home designs (think pallet walls and barn doors), we tend to overdo it.

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Case-in-point. Last week, I showed about a dozen new and nearly new houses to a couple looking for a house that wouldn’t require a lot of work. Nearly every house we saw had gray walls. About half the houses had gray cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, too. Some had gray floors, gray sofas, counter tops with gray swirls, dark gray trim. Gray. Gray. Gray.

You know what things are gray? Prisons, concrete, mice, grandpa’s Buick, skies on a rainy day. Yet, somehow gray has been the most popular interior paint color for the last decade, and like so many others, I painted nearly every wall in my house a shade of gray.

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I’m not sure how this gray obsession began, and even when I asked some experts, no one knew for sure. Someone mentioned the home-flipping reality TV duo Chip and Joanna. Someone else pointed a finger at the Kardashians. I don’t know who gets the credit for it, but it’s time we rethink our use of gray. We’ve overdone it.

Tik Tok says gray is on its way out, so it must be true. I see other signs, too. Homebuilders, who for years showcased Sherwin Williams’ Agreeable Gray in all their models, lightened up with Repose Gray, and lately I’m seeing a lot more whites and more contrasting colors, such as white cabinets with natural wood or white cabinets with contrasting dark colors or pops of color.

While some will tell you gray is going away, experts say there is a place for gray.

Take Indy architect Lora Teagarden who recently remodeled a historic home near downtown Indy. She chose light gray walls in living spaces and bright white in wet spaces (that’s design speak for places with sinks, tubs and showers) with bright white cabinets to match.

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“I chose these colors to draw light into the spaces and let the furniture and art be the focal point,” she said.

Yes, gray is trending less, and people are opting for warmer grays, as well as soft neutrals, beige, tan, soft greens and even soft burnt rose, Teagarden said. Wall color either serves as a palette of similar colors for a muted style, or it serves as a backdrop to accent vibrant, rich colors of rugs, artwork, furniture or accessories.

Before choosing a color for your walls, consider first colors that resonate with you and make you feel happy. It could be a rug you love, a pillow, furniture, even a piece of clothing, says Bryan Orthel, program director of interior design at the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design at Indiana University.

Orthel, who is redecorating his kitchen, taped several different colors to the wall to see which worked best.

“It’s not a simple thing. There are a lot of nuances involved,” he said.

He’s selected a toasty sesame color. It’s not just about picking a color, it’s about selecting a color that works with textures and patterns of the floors, furniture and anything else in the room. It’s also about how that color makes you feel.

“When embracing a trend, make it your own,” says Indianapolis decorator and color specialist Anne Bond.

She’s seen the gray movement shift, too. People are choosing neutral colors for the walls, such as Sherwin Williams’ Shoji White and White Duck or Benjamin Moore Wind’s Breath and Creamy White.

“Add color with tile, art, dishes and textiles,” she said.

Colors evoke emotions. We all want to feel relaxed, comfortable and even inspired in our homes, so if the color gray reminds you of a prison, then choose a color that has a more positive connection. Gray used to be my go-to, but it no longer brings me joy because it’s all been overdone.

I’m moving on from all the gray. And, when a client getting ready to sell said to me recently:

Laura Musall

“You’re going to tell me to paint my house gray, aren’t you?”

My response: “Gray is overdone. Let’s consider Shoji White.”

Laura Musall is a broker/realtor with F.C. Tucker in Fishers. You can learn more at LauraMusallHomes.com.

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