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Gray is the New Black


The latest in home decorating and design trends and where to look for more

If the color gray brings to mind childhood memories of staring out a window on a dismal day waiting for the sun to return, dotty elders, bankers’ suits, or some vague, intermediate area, it may be time for a new appraisal. In home furnishings at least, gray has broken free of its dreary associations and shot to No. 1 with a bullet.

Gray—in all its shades—is hot! “Dark gray, mid-gray, light gray, if it’s gray, it’s topping the charts,” relates one color expert, a comment echoed by Contemporary Design Group members across the board. In upholstery, where trend forecasters report that rounded, curvy silhouettes are getting more attention than designs with sharp angles or square corners, gray is now considered the “new neutral.” In wood furnishings, where walnut is ruling the day, gray-toned woods appear to be gathering momentum. And, in metal finishes, the most in-demand looks span silvery gray shades like brushed chrome, steel and platinum.

We Gotcha Covered

Gray or not, neutral upholstery continues to hold sway in Contemporary Design Group member showrooms across the country. “Neutral fabric—gray, black, brown, khaki, beige, ivory and even some navy and greens—make the clean lines of a contemporary sofa or sectional frame stand out; you can really see the design. It’s just an easier read,” says one designer. “Then, we like to pop it with color.”

In fact, design experts suggest starting with a neutral base in an investment piece like a sofa or sectional and then layering in color with pillows, accessories, artwork and accent chairs, can be a smart and cost-effective way to remain on fashion’s leading edge. Then, as trends come and go, whether the “it” shade is purple (Pantone’s anointed color this year is Radiant Orchid), fuchsia, egg- plant, blue, turquoise, aqua, teal, green, red, yellow, orange or pink, or you are simply in the mood for a change, updating your look is quick and easy.

An even smarter move for many shoppers now is opting for something in the relatively new class of high-performance fabrics. With brand names like Sunbrella, Crypton, Brisa and Ultrasuede, and durable, high-tech constructions like microfiber, easy-care performance fabrics guard against stains and wear, look great and feel just as good. Accidents happen, and performance fabrics are a boon for open- plan spaces where food and drinks are consumed, and for those sharing spaces with children and pets.

Here’s Your Cue

Shoppers seeking inspiration and information about what may be trending in contemporary design have more sources than ever for great ideas and style cues.

Websites like Pinterest and Houzz, the Twitter feeds of celebrity and professional designers, as well as other home furnishings experts, home-related cable channels like HGTV, shelter magazines and publications, and of course, the imaginatively merchandised, trend-setting and ever-changing showrooms of Contemporary Design Group member stores. For those still unsure about what looks will suit them, experts suggest taking a good look in their closet.

In addition to the fashions in your closet, look around at the places you love most. The combinations of colors in nature are fantastic and places you gravitate to may hold clues to your favorite palettes.

Personal taste dictates what’s going to work well and what you will value in the long term. As one standout design talent notes, “You are the one who will live with it, so go with your gut instinct!”


Sklar Furnishings