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Design Dilemma: How to Take the Blah Out of Gray

scandinavian living room how to tips advice

It’s been a few years that gray has been all the rage in home decorating. It’s the go-to neutral for decorators who have moved beyond beige and white, but who want to stay within the realm of neutrals easy to pair with other colors. The problem is, we’ve seen so many gray interiors that one tends to blend in with another. And when anything becomes ubiquitous (think granite countertops) it becomes boring.

We don’t want to be boring. So here’s a look at interiors that have managed to keep gray interesting.

1. Keep it warmed up by using lots of wood.
In the interior above and below, bare wooden floors and an eclectic, unstudied mix of wooden finishes gives gray a warm, clean feeling that feels very natural and spontaneous — not “designer-y.” Imagine how the feeling would change with gray walls paired with wall to wall-carpeting and painted or metal furniture of one type.

scandinavian living room how to tips advice

And also here:

scandinavian dining room how to tips advice

2. Nothing banishes the blah of gray better than colorful, eyecatching art work.

The painting over the mantle in the room immediately steals the show, and gray immediately becomes an appropriate backdrop rather than just a safe color choice that isn’t white.

traditional living room how to tips advice

The same can be said of the hallway before, where a colorful red rocket steals the show.

modern hall how to tips advice

And here:

contemporary living room how to tips advice

3. Bright color accents and pattern always lift gray to a new level.

contemporary living room how to tips advice

4. Below, colorful cabinets in an apple green provide a lift.

modern kids how to tips advice

Below, patterned floors give oompf to a gray palette.

industrial kitchen how to tips advice

And below, a bright red Smeg refrigerator is set off against gray cabinets.

traditional kitchen how to tips advice

So you see, it is possible to take gray beyond blah. Inject warmth using warm woods, pattern and color and you’re good!

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Design Dilemma: Touches of Pink

scandinavian dining room how to tips advice

We’ve been noticing more and more interiors adding an offbeat color to their palette: pale, pale pink. The color, usually relegated to babies’ knit booties or cuddly blankets, comes off as unusual, risky, and because of this, also extremely sophisticated. We thought we’d take a look at a few interiors that use the barest blush of pink to make an urbane, unexpected statement.

 

One of the coolest, most polished looks is to pair pale, pale pink with black or deep chocolate walls with a touch of gray as an accent. The intense dark color helps keep the pink from seeming too girlish and sweet, while the pink helps take the edge and darkness off black. A touch of gray, here and there seems to bridge the two worlds. It’s a combination that really works.

scandinavian dining room how to tips advice

But pale pink need not be relegated to walls alone. Below, in the same Danish home as the pink used above, a pale pink chaise lounge seems oh-so-urbane, especially as it is set off by a black fireplace just behind.

scandinavian living room how to tips advice

In a different tiny studio, a pink couch manages to make a bold statement without overwhelming the space the way a brighter color might…

home design how to tips advice

Below, a townhouse uses a pale pink as a backdrop to a gallery wall of art, all using black frames. The emerald green couch and mint green doors are a natural color combination.

transitional living room how to tips advice

We’ve seen pink in plenty of 1950’s era bathrooms, but few of us have seen a pink clawfoot tub. The effect here is quirky and feminine.

home design how to tips advice

In the Scandinavian living room below, pink looks spectacular with soft gray and black accents.

scandinavian living room how to tips advice

And here, fabulously comfy pink walls that provide a soft glow…

traditional living room how to tips advice

Sometimes all you need is a pillow…

contemporary kitchen how to tips advice

Or a towel…

contemporary bathroom how to tips advice

What’s the secret to working with pink?

  • Pale pink is a strange hybrid of a color. It can act as a neutral, but it makes a powerful statement in and of its own. Because of that, you have to decide which it’s going to be in your own interior. Do you want it to be a neutral, or a standout color?
  • If you’re opting to treat it as a statement color, let pink standout against black and gray for a sophisticated urbane look that will not feel too feminine.
  • If you’d like to treat pink as more of a neutral, pair it with bright or bold colors, like hot pink or red, or emerald green.
  • If you want to keep your space feeling contemporary and polished, opt for paler pink over deeper pinks.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of pink. As you can see from the simple pink pillow and pink towels, it does not necessarily take a lot to stand out!

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Design Dilemma: Straight-Laced in DC? Not Necessarily!

transitional living room interiors

It used to be that Washington DC decorating was classic, conservative, colonial. Not many designers ventured beyond safe and serious, which is perhaps the decorating style that best projects power. But there’s a whole new generation of designers in the District these days catering to a younger crowd who feel freer and more open to express themselves in design. Safe and serious has been tossed out the window.

Take the home of Kerra Michele Huerta, a D.C. designer who did up her own 600 square foot Dupont Circle rental in a fun, eclectic, boho style that does not call to mind preppy paneled dens or chintz-splashed  living rooms that were once standard around the city. Huerta’s home mixes periods, style, pattern, texture, and lots of artwork for a vibrant, funky feel.

transitional living room interiors

In the living room above and below, Huerta indulges in lush textures, from the furry, sheepskin carpet to the plush, emerald green sofa — a recovered vintage sofa. Huerta found the artwork above the fireplace at a thrift shop and used the emerald and teal palette accented with pinks throughout her entire home. She bought a pair of bergère chairs from eBay and, cleverly,  reupholstered them in an ikat-dot fabric on the front, and white leather on the sides and back, for a glam, graphic feel.

transitional living room interiors

Here’s a closer view of the reupholstered chair:

transitional living room interiors

Color and texture is used in interesting ways throughout. The front door, below to the right, is painted a light blue and opens onto the dining room. Huerta swapped the cheap flush-mounted ceiling lamp that came with her rental for a dramatic bohemian chandelier recalling lustrous pearls, and used a round table to create the feeling of a foyer.

transitional living room interiors

Huerta’s kitchen is as rich, homey and vibrant as the rest of her home, and this despite the fact that it is a rental kitchen where no permanent changes could be made. She used temporary wallpaper on the appliances to jazz things up. She also painted the kitchen’s back wall with chalkboard paint with permission from her landlord.

transitional kitchen interiors

Also in the kitchen, Huerta brought eclectic energy by removing cabinet doors, installing patterned paper on the backsplash, and  by painting the inside of cabinets a sweet aqua color. The mix of colors and patterns has a slight Latin or Caribbean feel

transitional kitchen interiors

In the bedroom, Huerta splurged on an Indonesian bed that she says helps make the room feel more expensive than it is. She says her general rule of thumb is to splurge on one item in every room to help imbue rooms with the feeling of quality. The colors in the bedroom were influenced by a trip she took to India. The many feminine touches throughout the apartment she says are just a part of her style.

transitional living room interiors

Here’s a unique paint treatment in Huerta’s colorful home office:

transitional living room interiors

Huerta says she spent about $15,000 to decorate her rental, which she views as a feat. In projects for clients, she easily dedicates that much to just one room alone. By relying on thrift shop finds and repurposing furniture, Huerta has proven that it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a lot of style!