5 Ways to Decorate With Charcoal Gray

Charcoal gray wall in center of decorated living space with potted plant on wood table and wooden seat in right corner

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

The standard neutral decor—beige, tan, white—can be so dull. Charcoal gray, however, is a sophisticated alternative to black and a dramatic option when compared to the lighter neutral hues.

Some charcoal grays appear to be completely neutral but have a hint of brown or green as an undertone. The best way to ensure that your charcoal color is free of a potentially clashing undertone is to hold it next to a pure black color. The most versatile charcoal is free of noticeable undertones. 

To avoid a charcoal gray overload, pick one or two elements for this neutral hue and then complement it with other colors. To keep with a cool color palette, go with blues, purples, white and some greens. However, you could also contrast the cool gray hues with warm colors, such as pink, yellow or orange. 

Whenever you decorate with charcoal gray, incorporate plenty of bright white into the decor, too. The contrast highlights and brightens up space.

  • 01 of 05

    Sofa Decor

    Brown and charcoal living room

    Room & Board

    Jump into charcoal gray with a sophisticated sofa. The visual weight of charcoal is the perfect match for a tailored sofa. Mid-century modern-style sofas are especially well-suited for charcoal gray, with a nod back to the menswear of that era.

    Choose a textured upholstery fabric, like tweed. The variations of color and light give the illusion of many different shades of color, making a slight mismatch unnoticeable. If you're not ready for a new sofa, charcoal accent chairs can easily refresh your living room style.

    Once you've picked a couple ​of accent colors, contrast the gray sofa with throw pillows and a blanket in those colors. A fun contrasting color scheme is yellow throw pillows with a white blanket. Colorful throw pillows bring life to a room but are inexpensive enough that you can change them when you tire of the current color scheme. 

  • 02 of 05

    Dramatic Wallpaper

    Gorgeous charcoal wallpaper
    Llewelyn-Bowen / Graham & Brown

    Wallpaper has fallen in and out of favor as trends have changed, but one thing remains the same: It works only when used correctly. Rather than papering all your walls in charcoal gray, use it thoughtfully. Choose a charcoal gray wallpaper that has an interesting texture, such as a woven pattern, or a fun design, like a geometric print. Use it sparingly, such as on just one dramatic accent wall or below a ​chair rail. 

    If you're unsure about the somewhat-permanent investment that charcoal wallpaper requires or if you're in a rental property, use peel-and-stick wallpaper that comes off easily.

  • 03 of 05

    Sleek Curtains

    Charcoal linen drapes

    Restoration Hardware

    Blinds and shutters serve their purposes, but a room does not look complete without window dressings. Skip padded valances and ruffled swags in favor of flowing draperies in a sumptuous charcoal gray color with an interesting texture.

    Window dressings can easily become the focal point of a room, particularly if they're in a bold color such as charcoal gray. When making this decor choice, furnish the room in colors other than charcoal gray, such as selecting a white couch, and use gray in the accent touches, such as throw pillows or artwork, to pull it all together.

  • 04 of 05

    Bold Paint

    Kendall Charcoal Benjamin Moore
    Benjamin Moore

    Using charcoal gray paint can be a bold choice with a big payoff. Like charcoal gray wallpaper, this dark-hued paint should be used sparingly. Try it as an accent wall, use it on a bookcase or cabinet, or paint a dramatic powder room.

    Dark colors like charcoal gray can be surprisingly versatile if you manage your lighting in the room effectively. Other than a small powder room, charcoal gray paint should only be used in a large room with a lot of windows. Small or dark rooms will only look smaller and darker if coated entirely with charcoal gray paint.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Elegant Bedding

    Velvet charcoal bedding

     Z Gallerie

    Bedding can be a difficult choice as it's easy to tire of prints and fussy patterns. Charcoal bedding can feel a bit masculine at first glance, but the secret is in the fabric you choose. A luxurious satin or velvet fabric can soften the serious nature of charcoal bedding.

    Layer crisp white sheets underneath the dark charcoal pillowcases and comforter. For a feminine look, replace the white sheets with pale pink or lavender sheets.