Choosing the right grey..

Before we dive into this post, I'd just like to say that the absolute best way to choose
color for your space is to have a professional come in and help you.
Every space is different, and each one requires careful consideration to achieve the best finished result.

That said, since grey is poised to take over for beige as the most commonly requested color from clients,
I thought a post about grey was in order.


First, I don't always recommend grey as a wall color.
If you have a north-facing space with little or no natural light,
 it would be better to bring grey in as an accent. 

The best greys usually don't appear quite as appealing on a color chip.
People tend to go directly to the flat, cool greys, and there are many more subtle and suitable choices.
I will show you some of my favourite picks at the end of the post.

When choosing grey the two important considerations are the undertones that it contains
 and the lightness/darkness of the shade.

Grey contains one of three undertones - purple, green or blue.

Green based blues generally appear the most neutral, 
and I recommend them frequently because they are easy to live with
 and complement a wide range of wood tones and other colors.

Blue based greys are the coolest, and most people go to these first.

To prevent the room from becoming too cold,
add warmth through natural woods, warm metals, additional (warm!) colors, etc..

Now, look at blue grey without the all the warm additions from above. 
It may not be for everyone, but the restful quality of cool grey is quite evident in this living room, isn't it?

Cool grey, camel, warm white and black - this is my personal favourite.
It's the color palette in my family room, which is not quite photo ready but I will share when it is :)

[kitchen mick de giulio[1].jpg]

Purple based greys are the ones I use the least.
The majority of my clients are working with some existing furnishings and finishes.
Most woods contain orange or red tones, and they clash with the purple.
Note the backsplash - do you think it has the same undertone as the cabinetry?

A dark purple-based grey coverlet is used here perfectly - 
framed by cool white walls and ebonized floors, 
warmed by a hit of yellow tones in the table and art.. 

This is a medley of different greys - but it works because of that one silver stripe in the wall treatment.

The most common way to classify grey is by cool and warm.

Cool greys work best in a room that receives direct sunlight during the period you will be using it.
This kitchen is definitely receiving cool light, 
and will require a lot of those wood tones to soften the effect elsewhere in the room. 

The orange tones provide great visual interest here, easily defining the bed as the focal point.

Dark, cool grey - without any warm tones to balance it.
It's dramatic - but could you live in this space?


Light cool greys are more forgiving.
This bathroom has an almost eretheal quality about it, grounded nicely by the dark ottoman.


Warm greys are quite liveable.
These are the paints that I often steer clients toward who are moving uncertainly
 from warm walls for the first time.

On the colour chips, these may not appear to be particularly attractive choices, 
but once you see them on the wall - magic!

Moleskin. Almost brown, but still grey. A very warm and enveloping color.

Would you have thought that grey could warm up white?


Warm grey and warm white effortlessly mixies with black -
 this space is unconventional, but oh so beautiful.
 *Three matching carpets side-by-side - what do you think of that as a flooring solution for large spaces?



I have a few BM favourites..

Coastal Fog - a soft warm grey.

Pearl Gray - a light cool blue grey.

bedrooms - Benjamin Moore Pearl Gray - Hickory blue bench nailhead trim black iron Oscar De La Renta canopy bed turquoise blue lamp linen lamp shade blue gray walls paint color roman shade chandelier

Winds Breath - a lovely "griege"

and for outdoors, Behr's paint and primer in one can't be beat.
I used Intellectual on my own railing and banisters, it's a beautiful dark warm grey.

The interior of my home was painted almost entirely in a dark steel grey when we moved here.
With dark, blue-based grey ceramic tile and ebonized hardwood floors, it was just too cold for me.
I have been moving through the house, repainting room-by-room.
Grey remains as an accent in our entry, family room and kitchen.

Have any of you embraced grey? Are you considering it?
I'd love to hear which greys you have used, and if you are enjoying them.

til next time..

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Sally@DivineDistractions said...

Great primer on using grey, AnneMarie. I've not been a grey fan, but the warm shades are growing on me. You gave some great information for choosing the right hue and shade for one of the more difficult colors to work with. I love the moleskin colors best.

Jen @ RamblingRenovators said...

Great post on my favourite colour. I love, as you said, how grey can be both warm and cool. No other colour is as versatile.

lululoves said...

Thank you for this post! Some much information and I am actually taking notes over here!

Kim said...

I'm picking out a grey for my living room right now and this post was really helpful. Thanks!

Layerstoo said...

very informative post...grey is very popular on the west coast and you have defined how to choose the perfect grey!

Nicole said...

This was helpful to me. Our great room has a high ceiling paneled in pine, a timberframe, and yellow light from stained glass windows (formerly a church sanctuary). We are paneling the walls and thinking of painting a shade of grey. Considering going with gloss as it is a somewhat dark space and there are young children running amok. Thanks for the great selection of photos.

Erin said...

I love gray, but have found it so challenging! It never looks like the swatch. Thanks for including your favorites--I'll be keeping several of those in mind!

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of using a warm grey on the walls but want to use a darker grey as the carpet. Is that too much grey for a master bedroom? Do you have any suggestions? My other thought is to use grey with a light/ice blue color?

Anonymous said...

Great post about the range of grey colors! I'm looking for the perfect neutral-undertoned grey to paint throughout a south-facing apartment that will complement white marble with grey veins, oversized white base boards and crown molding, and a distressed cigar brown leather couch. Would love any feedback on the best BEHR paint color? I just swatched BEHR Natural Grey and I like it, just worried that it may have a purple undertone like you mentioned in your post.

voulalalala said...

Hello! Where are you located ? Love your ideas and could use a hand here in Chicago!

Keriann said...

Love this post! I have a rectangle shaped living room with a picture window that faces east. It gets decent natural light but it doesn't reach the whole room. I am stuck with cheap tan carpet, a camel orangish tan couch, very orange tan piano, black entertainment center and white/light wood butcher top farmhouse style dinning table. I thought with my mix of neutral stuff a pale cool grey wall would be a good ground. Then eventually paint the piano black. And the table with colorful cushions. I am going crazy staring at paint chips! Help! I will be using behr as I have been given home depot gift cards. Suggestions?!

Unknown said...

Love this post! I'm in the process of painting the interior of my home, which I just bought. I have two rooms (sitting area and dining room) that faces the East. These rooms don't get the extreme bright light in the morning since there are trees that block some of the light. I've tried a Behr grey color called Manhattan Mist. I noticed that during the day the color has a purple hue. I was surprised because it's in the blue neutrals family on the Behr website. What color grey would you suggest for these rooms?

QP said...

I have chocolate brown furniture and want to paint Grey or Greige In our main living space, we have lots of natural light and windows throughout. SHould I be going for more of a warm undertone or a cool one? I would think warm because of the brown furniture but I am not sure because wouldnt a cool shade help balance the room more?

Anonymous said...

Thank you,I really get what you are saying,especially the way the sample versus the reality looks I now get from my own choices,I did grey with purple tones,ok but not happy with 100%, will listen to your advice,thanks,ivyn

mothersin2ition said...

Thank you for the great posts! I currently have 8+ variations of gray samples on my living room wall. None of them looked good. Now I have a better understanding of why :-)

Anonymous said...

Repainting the entire house with grays!
Our choices are all Ben Moore
Gray Owl
Coventry Gray
Stoning ton Gray
Balboa mist
Winds breath
Classic gray

Unknown said...

Hi, Love your website!! I just came across it, very informative :-)

Could you do an article on greys & reds?

Marta Tryshak said...

Glad to have found your site on StumbleUpon!

I have been decorating my first condo and terrified of adding color to the walls.

Unknown said...

I'm trying to select a grey color for my living room too!...I initially chose BM called Grey Shower, and I didn't like it one bit! It made the wall look blue or dark purple..not what I was looking for. I'm looking for a full warm/earth tones gray as an accent wall and that will compliment a lime green accent wall...yes I know it could be too much, but I'm hoping i can find the right balance.

Jen said...

Just bought my first house and finding choosing how I want to decorate it very challenging! I know I want grey based neutrals and your post very helpful in understanding what grey to choose. I hope this isn't a silly question but what is BM paint? I've googled it and just want to confirm it is Benjamin Moore & Co?? Not sure I'll be able to buy that as I am in Scotland. I was planning on using Dulux. Could you recommend any of their shades?

Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

How do we find the responses to the comments? I have read this and many other gray instructional posts. I have about 10 samples painted on my walls. I am still lost. I am moving from brown tone walls and furniture to light gray furniture and area carpets. Dark floors and likely dark gray accent chairs. I want light to medium gray walls. I am more lost on the undertones now. I have BM coventry (appears warm with green under ?) and BM san antonio grey (blue under?). I like their Smoke Ember for kitchen so far (? undertone?) thanks

MGross said...

I have a 2 shades of cool gray in my house on almost every wall with the exception of the wainscoting that is approx. 6 ft. up the walls in white. I pick accent walls to use darker grays and the rest are the lighter grays. I love it! I've paired it up with teal in the living room and formal dining room. But in the kitchen more just grays and whites with dark cherry cabinets. I just can't find the right gray for my bedroom. I had painted it with that horrible silver metallic paint of Martha Stewart's and it's so streaky and drives me crazy. I want the colors to flow into my bedroom but I am not sure if it should be a more bluish gray or silver. But if someone is afraid of using the gray, don't be. I am usually one that loves color, but you can put so much with gray. It is like a warmer version of white. Which my whole house was white.

Wayes Home Accessory Superstore said...

Your absolutely right! Grey is a fabulous substitute for beige which i love! Grey makes a good backdrop for multiple colors in your decor!

morgan said...

I love your picture of cool gray, camel, warm white and black! You mentioned above the photo that you had done your living room in these colors? Do you have more pictures yet? I would love to see more examples of these great colors. Thanks!

Painting my Home said...

Great post! Been reading a lot about painting my home. Thanks for the info here!

Anonymous said...

I just got new carpet installed and it ends up being a purple based grey...the swatch looked like brown based, but once done I'm left with purple. Now I definitely need to paint my walls so looking for color suggestions...HELP - right now I'm hating my brand new carpet!

bonobos marcos said...

Wow these rooms are great! each one pops with its own character. Now when choosing the flooring for a room like this what would be the deciding factor between wood and carpet? is it just a personal choice ?


Anonymous said...

This is so interesting and beautiful! I notice that most of your rooms feature some black furniture. I have some soft black furniture too but far more dark, warm timber items. Which grey colours would be good for walls, window treatments, upholstery with these?

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