Dos and Don'ts of Decorating With Gray

Gray color swatches and decor inspiration

The Spruce

You may have noticed that gray has become one of the top neutral colors in the interior design world. While beige, tan, and white will always be great picks, decorating with gray grants homeowners design options they might not get with other neutrals. Whether you opt for a cool gray or a warm greige (a trendy gray and beige hybrid), read on for tips for making the most of your chic color palette.

What Colors Go With Gray?

When choosing a specific gray shade for your room's color palette, you should start by choosing a tone of color. Warm grays are slightly tinted with either orange, yellow, or red, making them appear a bit cozier—they may even look almost beige. Cooler-toned grays have been cut with shades of blue, green, or purple. The resulting gray hue feels clean, crisp, and modern.

True to its "neutral" title, gray really goes with almost every other color. The key to a great match lies in coordinating the tones. Warm gray shades go well with other warm-toned colors, like taupe, blush pink, butter yellow, and burnt orange. On the other hand, you can pair cool gray with other chill tones like sage green, navy blue, and cool whites.

The Right Way to Use Gray

Incorporate gray into your room's color palette with these pro-worthy design tips.

  • Familiarize yourself with the wide range of gray: If the first image of gray that comes to mind is cold and industrial, then you're in for a treat. A wide variety of hues means there's a gray out there for every home—it just might take a little bit of trial and error to discover what shade suits your space the best.
  • Consider greige: This easy-to-use gray has a hint of beige or brown in it, making it warmer than your average gray hue. If you're concerned that gray would be too cold for your space, griege could be the answer.
  • Learn the basics of tone: If you're able to recognize the color temperature of the gray you're considering, it will make choosing a complementary color palette that much simpler. Temperature or undertone incompatibility is almost always the culprit when colors don’t look “right” together.
  • Consider charcoal gray as an alternative to black or dark blue: Charcoal gray can be the perfect dark color accent without being too deep or intense. It is also stunning as upholstered furniture or rugs.
  • Use it as an accent: If painting a whole room isn't your thing, try bringing gray into your decor's existing color palette through accessories. A beautiful gray throw blanket or sleek gray coffee table can be just what your room needs to feel fresh and new.
  • Have fun with gray: It’s been years since gray was considered bland or conservative. Even if you want a room packed with energy and personality, gray can be a great option. Funk it up with a lot of patterns and unique accents to add an extra dose of playfulness.

The Don'ts of Decorating With Gray

Like with any color, there are a few rules you should keep in mind when using gray in your home decor, either as an accent or as the star of the show.

  • Don't forget that gray is neutral: There are some color schemes that contain gray and beige together, but it is probably a good idea to base your palette on one or the other.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment: If you are inspired by a complex combination, try it out! Just because you're starting "safe" with gray doesn't mean you have to stick to an all-neutral palette.
  • Do not overlook gray that is already in a room: Gray doesn't have to appear in your palette as paint—it can also be found in a fireplace exterior, as carpeting, or on countertops. When you add gray to any room, be sure to consider any other gray that might already be in there.
  • Don't forget textures: Just like gray goes with a lot of different shades, it can also be successfully paired with different textures. Weathered wood, marble, and even concrete can all be great textural complements in a gray-driven color palette.