The Hot New Neutral Has Home Owners Feeling a Little Gray

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Gray kitchen_backsplashSo that reddish pink Honeysuckle hue may be stealing all of the glory as far as being the “color of the year,” but more home owners also are seeing gray.

Gray has become the hot new neutral, and a popular choice particularly in kitchens for backsplashes, countertops, flooring, and cabinetry, according to a recent article in Newsday by Kristin Taveira, “The Grays of Our Lives: Moody and Mod, It’s a Hot Color in the Kitchen.”

“The white kitchens never go out of style–you see them everywhere– but gray is the new white,” Jennifer Mabley of Mabley Handler Interior Design told Newsday. “Gray gives you dimension and depth, and helps to tie in the natural colors in the stone countertops. Sometimes, when you have a white kitchen and granite, there’s a disconnect. The gray helps tie in a natural color.”

Designers in the article note gray can:

  • be easily adaptable and paired with any shade for a pop of color, such as yellow, for more drama, or you can use it to help soften another hue.
  • enhance the look of stainless steel and granite.
  • create a sense of permanence. It can ground a long space, whereas white may make it appear that it goes on forever.

Other color trends for paint in 2011:

blue door

Photo Credit: Paint Quality Institute

So if gray doesn’t seem like the smart choice for your space, there are plenty of other colors catching on this year.

Play the blues. If you’re not feeling gray, maybe a little blue? Blues–from denim dark to blue-gray–are gaining steam as popular choices for walls and even ceilings.


Photo Credit: Paint Quality Institute

Join the neutral craze. So gray is hardly the only neutral choice. Warm whites, tawny tans, barely-there coral and greens are proving to be popular shades in bedrooms, baths, and kitchens, according to the Paint Quality Institute’s 2011 Color Trends report. More home owners are reaching for a variety of casual neutral and pastel hues to create warm, inviting living spaces.



Metallic painted gold ceiling

Metallic painted gold ceiling; Photo Credit: Paint Quality Institute

Give it some shimmer. Higher paint sheens and metallic finishes, such as gold–particularly in dining rooms, master bedrooms, and bathrooms–are also popular this year, according to the Paint Quality Institute. “More gloss means more reflectivity, which means more light,” according to its trend report. “Gloss can subtly create a brighter, more upbeat mood in a home, but at the same time, it adds style and pizzazz.”

So what are your favorite finds recently in paint colors for spicing up a home’s interior?

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Doug Payson

    Although gray painted, wide pine floors add a traditional touch in antique homes, whites and off-whites speak to the relaxed seaside lifestyle found in my marketplace on Cape Cod.

  2. Beautiful, livable and subtle colors are once again in vogue! Loved this article and can’t wait to try out these shades at home!

  3. Gray is the perfect color to tone down kitchen cabinets for floors that have an orange undertone.

  4. I used gray as a transition color on the wall in my master bathroom between my dark grey floor tiles, dark brown cabintets and the white ceiling. I tried out 3 different greys(didn’t know before that there were more then one grey available!) and found the right one.Look here

  5. Coral came to me to try in the guest bath & love the tip on gray as the “new Hot color” for this year! Going to try both here in Northeast Ohio!

  6. Even though the grays seem inviting, I still prefer the different shades of green. You can easily blend in more colors. Green makes the house feel like it has life; and not so artificial. I guess I am partial to tradition.

  7. Holly Schwartz

    I personally have slate floors in my kitchen and the grays are a complementary color. Some people like warmer kitchens so gray may not be appealing to them but it’s definitely an option to consider. Thanks for posting!

  8. Cherry Peebles

    I did greys in the early 90’s when they were popular back then. I’m surprised its back so soon. Been there, done that. Yawn.