'Millennial Gray' Is the Color Trend an Entire Generation Can’t Get Enough Of

Move over “sad beige," this is the hottest (slightly more depressing) color scheme.

<p>John Keeble/Getty Images</p>

John Keeble/Getty Images

Color is (still) officially "out" for millennials, according to recent data from Google Trends, which revealed that searches for the phrases “millennial gray” and “millennial grey” spiked +5,000% in May and that “millennial grey house” is a top trending related search in the United States. Despite the promotion of colorful, eye-catching aesthetics like dopamine decor and maximalism on social media, the reality is that people are still clinging to their beloved neutral. 

In fact, Sherwin-Williams confirmed that in 2023, Agreeable Gray SW 7029 was their second best-selling interior shade, and three other gray hues took up spots in the top 20, making for a fairly significant chunk of the most popular colors.

Related: Dopamine Decor Is the New Design Trend You Should Try for a Happier Home

What Exactly is "Millennial Gray"?

At face value, millennial gray is exactly what it sounds like—gray. But if you search the hashtag on TikTok, which yields over 131 million results, you’ll soon discover that it’s so much more than a color. It’s an aesthetic that’s all about drenching homes in every shade of gray imaginable, resulting in a fairly monochromatic space. And the reason it’s called millennial is because only people in their 30s subscribe to this decorating philosophy... Or at least, according to some younger TikTokers.

The unflattering stereotype is that the dreary palette has millennials in a chokehold, with members of said generation drenching their entire home—from top to bottom, inside and out—in gray. TikTok is rife with examples of millennials showcasing their all-gray domiciles, like content creator @stephanie_villega who “cries in millennial gray” as she tours us through her colorless residence.

How "Millennial Gray" Started

Origin theories abound on forums like Reddit, but it’s hard to say for certain what sparked the (supposed) passion millennials have for the “bland” color scheme. Some say it’s a direct reaction to the decorating choices of boomer parents, which skewed more Mediterranean and rustic with warm golds, oranges, and terracottas.

Others speculate it’s a manifestation of millennial angst. But one of the most plausible theories is that gray design features—from flooring to paint to case goods—were rampant on decorating shows of the late aughts because they were touted for being modern, fresh, and versatile.

And while we thought gray peaked in design in the early 2010s, it seems many millennials can’t let the lackluster shade go despite other contenders popping up. Beige has been trending for a hot second and it likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, says Lisa Moon, a professional painter and the co-owner of Paper Moon Painting in Texas.

According to her, the equally neutral hue has been requested by clients just as often as, if not more than, gray. She says, “If anything, I’d say ‘millennium beige’ is a thing!” (Though, a few TikTok users prefer to call it “sad beige.”) While we fully agree with Moon that beige, and warmer colors in general, are trending, it can also still be true that many people, especially millennials, are continuously opting for 50-plus shades of grays in their homes

Related: Sick of Sad Beige? Here’s How to Add Color to a Neutral Home

A Designer's Perspective on "Millennial Gray"

Interior designer Gretchen Murdock of Modtage Design in San Francisco offered her takes on why millennials gravitate towards the color scheme time and time again. She explains, “One reason is that they are overwhelmed by all the options out there and feel that gray will be a safe color palette.”

Murdock points out that the real estate market may have had a big role, too. “I think it’s worth noting that gray has become the go-to choice for property flippers, often chosen for its neutrality and broad appeal to potential buyers. In my opinion, this gives the false impression that it is a successful palette to incorporate into your own home.”

Murdock adds that when clients come to her requesting a millennial gray theme, she gently steers them away, because the “limited palette can often create a look that lacks the warmth and vibrancy needed to make a space feel alive and welcoming. In many instances, this shade of gray can contribute to your psyche and subconscious in a negative way. We think a home should make you feel comforted.”

What To Do About All the Gray

If you think you’ve fallen victim to the millennial gray state of mind, you have options. You can own it, because there’s no shame in having a totally gray home. If it’s what you genuinely love and it makes you happy, then you should keep it!

However, if you’re feeling unsatisfied and uninspired by your design choices but don’t want to stray too far from your neutral aesthetic, Murdock recommends “a warmer-leaning monochromatic palette. Instead of leaning into the cooler, more gloomy shade of gray, we suggest warming it up and leaning to warmer grays and beige, layered with texture and various tints and shades, creating more depth and sophistication in a space.”

Related: How to Choose a Color Palette for Your Home

For more Real Simple news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Real Simple.