Ask Maria: What’s Next After the Grey Trend?

Lately I have been getting many emails from readers asking questions like this:

Maria, what comes next??? If we are nearing the end of the gray and white “fresh” trend. What’s next!!??? I’m starting the process of updating a 1990 normal sized (1800sf) house – nothing touched since built in 1994. 

I don’t want to spend all this money and end up with a dated house in a year.

Thanks!!!

Again, if you have recently re-modeled or built a house and you aren’t in love with the result? Well, you should just skip this post because if you read it, you’ll understand why and sometimes I just think, ignorance is bliss.

I have been in the colour industry for 20 years. This means I started specifying colour at the end of the 90s when sage green was the ‘trendy neutral’ of choice.

Then in 2002,  chocolate brown and blue came along. The brown trend was over at the beginning of the 2000s but builders are still–as we speak–installing espresso kitchens because most builders are men and men perceive wood to be more valuable than a white kitchen.

I started talking about grey in 2009 when I started writing this blog. Grey is still going strong but it’s been 7-8 years now.

A trend has a shelf life of about 10 years which is quite different from a fad which is very short lived.

An example of a fad is backsplash tile.

Since I have started writing this blog, backsplash/accent tile fads have come and gone about 4 or 5 times. The current Encaustic tile trend will be just as short-lived as every other trendy tile that has arrived on the scene.

Last Fall when I attended Maison and Objet in Paris, black was everywhere.

I’m seeing more and more black bathrooms, black tile and black exteriors.

So let’s go back to the late 90s for a second.

Sage green was the sofa, tile and exterior default neutral.

Kitchen | Sofa| Sage green exterior

If you still have a sofa from the 90s, it’s most likely sage green. Many of you have bathrooms filled from top to bottom with sage green slate. If you have not painted your house since the 90s, it’s probably a shade of sage green.

And of course, fast forward to 2002 when the Tuscan brown trend arrived on the scene. I was looking for brown and blue fabric about two years before the fabric companies caught up to this trend.

Bathroom  | Brown exterior

Then in 2009, I started talking about the Grey (fresh, clean colours) trend, just a year into blogging.

When clients ask me to specify charcoal for their exterior or for a sofa, sometimes I’ve been known to say “But why aren’t you asking me for brown?”

“Because I don’t like brown”, they would reply.

That’s right, because that trend is OVER. Just a few short years ago, you would have wanted brown.

This is exactly why you shouldn’t paint your house charcoal or install a charcoal kitchen unless you have lots of money and can change it out as soon as you’re bored, which will happen as soon as the trend is REALLY over.

It’s on the fringe of being over already.

Bathroom | Charcoal exterior

Here’s the thing.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of sage green, I just got a new book from one of my designer fabric sources and it’s full of mossy green fabrics.

When was this decorated? Hard to know. It’s not brown from top to bottom (and it’s still pretty brown). Miles Redd

There’s nothing wrong with brown either (above). When the brown trend arrived, people said “I love it! Just like every room needs a hit of black, this is the same but warmer”.

In April, I mentioned that my fabric rep had arrived with some brown fabric books. Does this mean that brown is back? No, it’s a book full of brown and grey patterns so that if someone has a brown sofa, they can introduce grey with a fabric and tie it all together.

However, is the planet going to go back to installing brown kitchens and brown tile and painting their exterior brown anytime soon?

NO.

You’re still going to have brown tones in your case goods. If you go with the washed and distressed grey look it will also look dated very quickly. In addition to all the sleek and solid espresso brown furniture and brown leather parsons chairs that are now dated. A little of any of these trendy items works because your house won’t scream ‘Decorated in the ______trend’.

The reason the grey trend arrived is because colour was moving back to the 50s and 60s. Brighter and cleaner. Grey is the crisp backdrop to brighter colour as I’ve said time and time again.

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Nothing wrong with a little bit of grey. Paint your white or cream (or black and white) bathroom (below) or dining room charcoal (above) to get your grey fix, just don’t choose grey blindly, over and over again with each colour decision you have to make.


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Okay, are you depressed yet?

I’m not trying to upset those of you who feel you have too much of any of these neutrals, but the thing you should notice is that IF you are upset, it’s because what I’m saying rings close to the truth.

What do you do if you have missed all these trends and are renovating or building your new home now?

Does it help you to know that black is the new grey?

NO. Because the answer to colour decisions while renovating or building your new house is still not going to be BLACK.

Maria’s white kitchen | Maria’s living room | Exterior

All the classic and timeless colours I constantly talk about on this blog still apply just like they did 9 years ago when I started writing this blog:

1. Medium brown or pale wood hardwood floors.

2. White (or cream) kitchens (because you can change out your colours every 6 months if you want)

3. Cream (or white) bathrooms. (go back to number 2) and because the next homeowner then won’t have to rip our your very personal and trendy choices, immediately.

4. A sofa in your favourite colour. (my yellow sofa (above) is 7 years old and still awesome)

5. Silver (combined with easy to switch out items in gold like lighting and hardware)

6. One pattern in hard finishes like tile and countertops is the quota for each room.

7. Keep the patterns in your permanent finishes quiet.

8. Simple mantels in a modern or traditional style but without the usual trendy stacked stone (because the colour will surely dictate your palette forever.

I could go on and on of course but I think I’ve hit the most important areas for this post today! And hey, it’s just my opinion, doesn’t mean it’s right. Take whatever advice works for you and throw the rest out the window! A little styling goes a long way if you ended up with a space you don’t love.

I would have loved it if someone had told me that buying a leather forest green sofa and loveseat back when I was a newlywed in the 80s was totally trendy. Back then, I was convinced it was a totally classic and timeless decision.

My last advice is before you start making decisions on the most expensive purchases most people will make in their lives, hire a professional. Check out our eDesign services here or find someone local to hold your hand. Interview your designer to make sure you get someone who has a classic and timeless aesthetic, I don’t want this to happen to you.

If you are a design professional and are interested in learning about trends, colour and discovering how to design your clients homes from a classic and timeless aesthetic, spend three days with me this Fall in a workshop near you.

Related posts:

How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Designers

Bad Design Advice: Fall in Love With All Your Finishes

Is Black the new Grey? Trends from Maison & Objet

One more Reason you Should Skip Accent Tiles Altogether

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  1. You didn’t really answer her question….which was is the grey/white trend over? I can’t wait until it is. Soooooo sick of it.

    • Yes it’s over but it’ll take a while before the public catches on because there’s still tons of grey products out there. Maria

  2. I’m a real estate agent and see tons of white and grey. I’ll admit, from time to time, I get sucked into thinking it’s the greatest thing while I’m touring homes that have done it exceptionally well (I see a lot that have NOT done it well.) However, I find I am ALWAYS drawn to autumn tones in my own home. I don’t even set out to do it intentionally, necessarily, and that’s how it ends up. I live in a 1914 Craftsman that lends itself well to this palette, and my home is the epitome of cozy comfort. My living room walls are sort of a burnt cider color, deep brown leather furniture, and accents that are all earthy, autumnal colors. The level of satisfaction and “homey-ness” I feel in my home is exactly what I have always striven for. And you wouldn’t believe the compliments I get on my color and design choices – even though they are far from trendy. I think a lot more homeowners would be satisfied with their renovations and home projects if they borrowed a few ideas from the trends, but ultimately went with their instincts, rather than copying what Chip and Joanna are doing!

  3. And I thought gray was God forsaken ugly. I liked nothing about it. It is an indecisive color. Black is an awful dark mood color. Who picks these awful trends. I am leaving the rest and going with positive non-dominating colors.

    • Hi Paul, All of these neutrals should be used in moderation, it’s the OVERUSE of trendy neutrals that is the problem for sure! Thanks for your comment, Maria