With tones as varied as driftwood gray and creamy latte, neutrals are anything but boring. Browse our top neutral paint color picks to find the right hue for your rooms. Plus, learn the best tricks for decorating in neutrals.
Gray isn't just gray -- it comes in a wide variety of intensities and shades, with subtle nuances that add a designer approach to any decor. And the right shade is a matter of personal preference. "First find out what emotion you want your space to play into -- airy, earthbound, dramatic -- then proceed to choose your color from there," says designer and PPG Pittsburgh Paints color and design adviser Vicente Wolf.
Yes, there is such a thing as a warm gray, so don't dismiss this hot neutral as too cold. It's been called the new brown and the new black, but New York City designer Jenny Wolf considers gray the new white. "It's a nice alternative to white," she says. "It's neutral. It's timeless."
A beautiful neutral paint color can set the stage for decorating success. Watch and get the scoop on the colors that get it right.
Whites with golden undertones, like these yummy shades, are a step above basic white and offer a cozy vibe to boot. And the trick to making white not boring? "Layers of different whites and a variety of different textures are what make a room interesting," color expert Grant K. Gibson says.
Just like your favorite latte or coffee drink, these paint colors are comforting, yet energizing. Sometimes getting the right hue, like getting the right coffee drink, is a custom job. "I mix colors to get a perfect cream," Los Angeles Designer Mary McGee says. Her favorite "recipe": A 50:50 mix of Benjamin Moore's Marble White (OC-34)
with Grant Beige (HC-83). "It cuts the gold, and you end up with this incredible color."
It’s gray like you’ve never seen it -- friendly, warm, and (dare we say it?) lively. Talk to San Francisco designer Jonathan Rachman and it’s clear: Grayed colors are here to stay. “I’ve been in love with them forever,” he says.
It's a trend with staying power: here's the keys to pulling it off in your home.
White isn't just white. This neutral comes in almost as many varieties as its colorful counterparts, and it can be just as interesting and even refreshing. "Painting a room white is like giving it a big, tall glass of water. It's an instant cleansing of the palette," says designer Elaine Griffin.
Can't get enough neutrals? Watch and learn how to build the perfect neutral color scheme.
Always consider the room when you choose a white paint color. If your room is flooded with natural light, go with a darker white or ivory. If sunlight is lacking in a space, choose a brighter, lighter white.
Even if you want a white-on-white room -- with white trim and millwork -- contrast is still a must. Paint the trim and millwork a brighter white than the wall color, Elaine says.
Carry the same neutral from room to room -- via painted trim, patterned fabrics, and furniture finishes to forge cohesive connections. In this open living space, the paint color on the kitchen cabinets is the same shade used on the walls throughout the space, as well as the ceiling.
"To figure out if you're choosing a warm gray, put it against a taupe swatch and a blue swatch," Jenny says. "A warm gray will look closer to the taupe; a cool gray will veer toward blue."
If a lighter tone is your goal, watch out for green or gold undertones. Hold the colors you're considering against a true-white paint chip to look for a rich cream with a brown base, Mary says.
Identify the source of your gray obsession, Rachman says. Was it a trip to Portland? Your cashmere sweater? Once you identify it, compare the item (or a photo) to paint chips. Try to match both the color you like and the mood you’re going for.
Combine silver, charcoal gray, and white with misty mauve for understated elegance, or rev up that same neutral combo with navy blue and yellow.
Texture is key to giving neutrals a boost. Think beaded board and sisal for cottage style digs and lacquer and metal finishes for modern abodes.
Get samples of the paint color you think you want, plus samples of lighter, darker, more saturated, and less saturated shades. The range of samples will help refine your choice, Jonathan says.
If you're not looking to create a completely neutral look, think of neutrals as "uncolors" and the supporting players. Brown and beige range in intensity from soft latte to deep cocoa. Dark neutrals, including rich pewter gray, calm other colors and add sophistication. White enlivens colors, while black strengthens and stabilizes. In this room, colorful furniture and strong textures are tempered by deep charcoal walls. The white trimwork, ceiling, and fireplace surround give a crisp edge to the earthy room.
Take the plunge with a dark wall color, but avoid getting in over your head. Dark walls can create a warm cocoon-like effect, but they can also turn a room into a cave. The trick is to include a respite in your design with planes of white and a variety of surface finishes. In this bedroom, bold pops of color also keep the look fun.
If you're looking to add a little zing, but prefer to stay away from colors, try black. Mixed with other neutrals, black creates a dynamic look, while still sticking to a truly neutral color palette.
When using saturated neutrals, use materials and patterns to temper the strong hue. In this bathroom, gray-veined marble tile, wainscoting, and flooring unite the supple gray walls with the white fixtures. Chrome accents lend a sophisticated vibe.
Employ varying shades of one color to create layers of interest. More closely related shades, such as vanilla, cream, and pale yellow, fashion serene schemes that shift with the changing light.
Stay away from super whites. "Always look for something with a little gray or cream in it," Elaine says. "You'd be surprised how much color you can add to pure white and still have it read as white on the wall."