In decorating circles, gray is the new white—and has been for a while. It’s a more elegant neutral that gives depth to subtle colors and makes bold tones pop (rather than shout). But getting gray right is tricky: The “temperature” of a particular shade—cool or warm—can evoke very different feelings and have an enormous impact on the mood of a room.
3 Expert Tricks
1. Use flat paint, not semigloss or high-gloss, on walls. “Otherwise, any beautiful gray you choose will look like industrial metal—imagine a Dumpster,” says Mark Chamberlain, a New York City painter and a color columnist for apartmenttherapy.com. Although flat white wall paint is often avoided because it shows smudges and fingerprints, “gray actually hides flaws.”
2. With gray walls, opt for creamy trim, says Erica Islas, a designer in Culver City, California. Stark white can look too jarring. White Dove paint is a good woodwork choice with both light and dark gray walls (from $41 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores).
3. Introduce lots of light sources, like table lamps, sconces, and floor lamps. Says Jessica Becker, a Rhode Island interior designer: “Gray is already the color of shadow—you don’t want to cast more with an overhead fixture. Layered lighting keeps the room flattering.”
To buy: Revere Pewter HC-172 (similar to shown), from $41 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.
2 of 32Tria Giovan/My Home Ideas
Soft, Calm, Upscale
With its slightly greenish bent, the gray here pairs well with blues, white, and even a pop of citrus.
3 of 32Paul Raeside/ My Home Ideas
Two grays of varying hues on the walls give a room added depth.
4 of 32Paul Raeside/My Home Ideas
Serene and Soothing
Though at face value a palette of grays might seem bleak, it’s actually sophisticated, with a hint of luxury, even.
5 of 32Paul Raeside/ My Home Ideas
A Shade Beyond White
Where once white was the go-to, gray has the same go-with-everything nature but it’s far more interesting.
6 of 32Geofrey Sokol
Ethereal and breezy, these grays have undertones of blue. “Think of the darkening sky before a storm,” says New York City interior designer Jennifer Moore. In a sunny room (where some grays could look dull), cool grays hold their color. Zen and peaceful, these are also perfect for a crisp, clean feeling in a bathroom.
Cool Grays: Light
“Like a summer cloud,” says London designer Abigail Ahern. “Wonderful on ceilings as well as walls.”
The hints of yellow in warm grays telegraph earthiness, comfort, and coziness. When you test on walls, check colors morning, noon, and night, says Moore: “In some light, a yellowish gray can look taupe.” For rooms without much natural light, pick a warm shade; its slight golden hue will make a dark space less dreary.
Warm Grays: Light
“I often see this uplifting color in Parisian homes, "says Ahern. "To me, it conveys low-key luxury and contentment.”
To buy: Unfortunately, this item is no longer available, but find a similar style at lazysusanusa.com.
16 of 32Grant Cornett
Ivory piping makes a boxy silhouette more refined.
To buy:Unfortunately, this item is no longer available, but find other sofas atcrateandbarrel.com.
17 of 32Grant Cornett
Play down the pattern with solid gray sheets.
To buy: Peacock Dove cotton-sateen full-queen duvet set, $280 for a duvet and two shams, dwellstudio.com.
18 of 32Dan Duchars
Gray and Red
“Light gray and red can create a variety of moods—historic, nautical, French,” says Nan Kornfeld, an architectural color specialist based in San Francisco. “Darker gray and red is a strong, somewhat heavy combination with a solid, masculine feel.”
Deep gray walls create a cozy haven, making red accents even more dramatic. To buy: Gray Shower 2125-30 (similar to shown), from $41 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com for stores.
19 of 32Grant Cornett
A wow moment against a red entryway wall.
To buy: Unfortunately, this item is no longer available, but find a similar mirror at bungalow5.com.
20 of 32Grant Cornett
Leather Parlor Chair
Lipstick red invigorates a stately (but potentially stuffy) piece.