10 Tips for Using Silver to Create Serene Sophistication

You've seen so many spaces decorated with shades of gray: Gray has become the design-world's go-to neutral. But while there are plenty of all-gray rooms that look cool and creative, just as many come off as cold and downright dull. Not these ten spaces.

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Susan Gilmore Photography

Photo By: Simon Maxwell

Photo By: Merle Prosofsky

Shining Example

Texture: it’s perhaps the most important ingredient in a neutral, minimalist design—without it, the room may look impersonal and dull. In this Zen-like master bedroom, designer Mia Rao used texture to great effect, layering a range of sheens and tactile elements throughout the space. “This master bedroom was designed to evoke a modern comfort and create a refuge,” she says. “The luster and natural texture on the wall behind the bed anchor the room with an organic radiance. The room has a soft glow that is inviting with the up-lit headboard and statement chandelier.” The result, says Rao, is “a peaceful vibe that really resonates. After all, we all want to feel calm at the beginning and end of each day as we rise to greet the day or fall into night's slumber.”

Design by Mia Rao and team, Mia Rao Design; www.miaraodesign.com; Photography by Adam Jablonski

Details Count

For a master bathroom that’s awash with traditional elegance, architect Jeff DeGraw let the structure of the space speak for itself, facing the whirlpool tub with panels that tie it into the classic style of the home. A soft, silvery-gray wall color creates a serene look and helps keep the emphasis on the light and views admitted by the trio of windows above the tub. Decorative accents, from the gleaming marble floor tiles to the framed artwork to the lanterns play up the luxurious effect, without detracting from the soothing atmosphere.

Design by Jeff DeGraw, DeGraw & DeHaan Architects, LLP; www.degrawanddehaan.com; Photography by Laura Moss

Monochrome 101

Wondering how to keep a one-color space from looking blah? Consider this living room vignette. Working within a tight, all-gray color palette, designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher layered shades, textures, and geometric pattern to great effect. The result, as she says, is a study in Scandinavian-style chic and “an effortlessly relaxed space designed to calm and sooth the senses.”

Design by Shanade McAllister-Fisher, Shanade McAllister-Fisher Interior Design; www.shanademcallisterfisher.com; Photography by Nathalie Priem

Natural Addition

For a kitchen addition to a San Francisco Arts & Crafts-style home, designer Suzanne Childress had a simple directive: “to create a kitchen area that flowed with the traditional house yet felt fresh.” To achieve this goal, Childress opted for traditional, yet streamlined, design elements and a pale, silvery palette. Shaker-style cabinet doors are always classic,” she says. “We added interest with a mantel-style hood for the stove area and etched glass doors over the sink. We wanted the gray color to read with some depth but too not be too dark or heavy. The color we used is Graystone by Benjamin Moore.”

Design by Suzanne Childress, Suzanne Childress Design; www.suzannechildressdesign.com; Photography by Liz Daly Photography

Warm Thoughts

Rule of thumb when choosing grays for your space: Ask yourself what effect you hope to create. If you want a look that’s comforting and inviting, opt for shades with warm undertones, as designers Andrea Milward and Alison Teverini did in this master bedroom. “We used a light silver for the walls, but grounded the scheme with a luxurious velvet headboard in a darker gray with bronze studwork. To add warmth, we recommend using a mix of textures—for example, the printed paisley cushion, mixed with linen cushions, that we used on the bed. These elements complement the green-gray accent color of the side tables and bed throw, which add another dimension to the base silver and gray colors.”

Design by Andrea Milward and Alison Teverini, MIlward Teverini; www.milwardteverini.com; Photography by Paul Teverini

Soft Surroundings

What elevates a space from ordinary to extraordinary? Sometimes, it’s something as simple as choosing an unexpected wall finish—and carrying that finish all the way up to the ceiling, as the architects at Murphy & Co. Design and designers at Mint did in this luxurious master bedroom. “The mixed shades of gray and the use of both matte and luminous surfaces and fabrics make this space special,” say the architects. “The combination of the cool and calm grays with the subtle sheen of silver that gives this room a layered look which says cozy and peaceful, yet chic and elegant.”

Architecture by Murphy & Co. Design; www.murphycodesign.com; Interiors by Maureen Haggerty, ASID, Mint; www.mint-design.biz; Photography by Susan Gilmore

Light But Lively

​Most of us love sundrenched spaces, and white or pale-gray walls can emphasize that bright beauty—but the combination of large windows and light surfaces can also look washed-out. Designers Steve and Nicole Viola helped the owners of this relaxing living space avoid this fate by designing millwork that adds dimension and detail. “The key is to add elements such as wood and natural materials to balance out the cool colors and bring in warmth, otherwise it can feel cold and flat. We recommend a combination of stained and painted wood when doing a custom piece like this to break up the monotony and add interest to the piece. We used reclaimed pine for the shelves that we finished with a washed gray stain and white custom cabinets. The stained wood added the texture and warmth that the space needed and white cabinets were a fresh contrast against the blues and grays. The wall becomes an interesting focal point while the blues and grays fade into the background creating a sense of calm.”

Design by Steve and Nicole Viola, Ivory & Oak, www.Ivoryandoak.com; Photography by Anthony Acocella Photography

Reflect On This

Like many renovations, this project tasked designer Charmaine White with creating a sophisticated, updated look while maintaining the classic period architecture of the space. To that end, she reinstated the existing fireplace and retained existing original features such as the skirting boards and cornices. A pale, silvery palette with plenty of shine—an oversized mirror is the true focal point of the space—helps the room look larger and adds the “touch of luxuriousness” the client desired. Clever lighting solutions built into the bespoke joinery help highlight artwork and collections and add drama when the sun goes down.

Design by Charmaine White, The White House Interiors; www.thewhitehouseinteriors.com; Photography by Simon Maxwell Photography

Northern Exposure

Creating an open space for a family to cook, eat, and spend time together is a common directive for designers—but this project came with a tricky twist: a north-facing site. Designer Laura Butler-Madden met this challenge with a dual approach of architecture and style. “We designed the extension to include large windows (including skylights) and doors to maximize the space,” she says. A pale color palette—gray cabinets, off-white walls, and light wood floors in a subtle herringbone pattern—help bounce light around the space, making it seem both expansive and bright.

Design by Laura Butler-Madden, www.laurabutlermadden.com; Photography by Patrick Butler-Madden

Variety Act

Contemporary kitchens are by definition simple, lacking many of the architectural details that we expect in traditional designs. So the designer has to rely on subtle touches to introduce interest, as Rebecca Gagne did in this sleek space. Her strategies for success: “When you use neutral, hues try different shades to give the space more depth and interest. A gloss finish also adds to that effect, particularly when paired with matte for extra texture.” Unexpected contrast—in the form of a warm wood floor in this project—completes the look.

Design by Rebecca Gagne, Cucina Bella Ltd; www.cucinabella.net; Photography by Merle Prosofsky Photography