Like most neutral colors, 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.
Extend your love for neutral colors into the middle of the room via furniture, rugs, and home accents. Combine silver, charcoal gray, and white with misty mauve for understated elegance, or rev up that same neutral combo with navy blue and yellow. Small pops of color throughout the room don't overshadow the mood set by the gray walls.
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.
Yes, there is such a thing as a warm gray, so don't dismiss this hot neutral as too cold. Include it with a warm color palette, and you'll see what we're talking about. 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."
"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 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. Here, kitchen paint colors come together to create an unusual palette that's not too dark, thanks to the stark-white cabinets.
Whites with golden undertones, like these shades, are a step above basic white and offer a cozy vibe to boot. Consider painting ideas that use white in more than just the trim or crown molding. 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.
Carry the same neutral colors 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.
Texture is key to giving neutral colors a boost. Think beaded board and sisal for cottage style digs and lacquer and metal finishes for modern abodes. For a warm color palette like this, find wood furniture pieces that have darker, red tones.
Just like your favorite latte or coffee drink, these paint colors are comforting, yet energizing. Those qualities make them perfect for large gathering spaces in your home. Sometimes getting the right living room colors, 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."
Avoid beige boredom by using a variety of finishes and textures in a room. To start, determine if your neutral colors have a warm or cool tone, then plan around that hue. A white lacquer coffee table, leather chair, mirrored lamp, silk drapes, and a great sisal rug—McGee counts on all these materials to give a latte-color space richness.
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. These bedroom paint colors make you feel like you're sleeping on the clouds.
Never underestimate the power of pink. Used sparingly in a room of neutrals, a light blush shade brings life into a space. The hue can come in the form of coffee table flowers or a single throw pillow. When used correctly, you won't even notice the touch of color because it will blend in seamlessly with surrounding neutrals.
There are little tricks for choosing the right paint colors for your home. 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, McGee says.
It’s gray like you’ve never seen it—friendly, warm, and (dare we say it?) lively. This season's most popular paint colors are subtle with a matte finish. 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.
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. With these bedroom paint colors, bold pops of pink and gold also keep the look fun.
Inspiration for interior paint colors can come from anywhere. 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.
A collection of grays doesn't have to be gloomy. When used correctly, several shades of gray working together make a calm and collected space. Paired with natural elements with warm undertones, such as wood shelving or furniture, gray tones come to life. These gray paint colors include hints of cool blue and beige.
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, Rachman says.
As you test the neutral colors, notice how they change based on the time of day. The natural light coming in through window can change how a color looks, and may affect your decision.
When using saturated neutral colors, 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.
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. White paint colors also let your wall decor and statement furniture pieces stand out. "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.
White paint colors come in a lot of shades, but stay away from super whites. "Always look for something with a little gray or cream in it," Griffin says. "You'd be surprised how much color you can add to pure white and still have it read as white on the wall."
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, Griffin says. Consistent bedroom paint colors allow you to get creative with bedding and other textiles in the room.
Say hello to the new neutrals in town. Paints that have a pinch of color can be considered neutrals in the right setting. Get away with using a sage green or chalky yellow as a neutral by pairing the muted tones with other neutrals, like bright white, cream, or light gray.
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. Different shades of paint colors can affect the look and feel of a room, so always consider the mood you want to set before buying interior paint colors.