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 decorating. Beige and tan will probably always be the top neutrals, but decorating with gray gives you options you will not get with other neutrals. Whether your palette includes a cool gray or a warm greige (gray and beige hybrid), you will want to learn the secrets to making the most out of gray.

The Right Way to Use Gray

These dos are some of the secrets of room decorating that professionals use for designing color schemes.

  • Familiarize yourself with the wide range of gray: If the first image of gray that comes to mind is cold and industrial, then you will want to acquaint yourself with the new grays in decorating.
  • Check out greige: This is an easy-to-use gray that has a hint of beige or brown. If you're concerned that gray would be too cold for your space, griege could be the answer to finding the right gray.
  • Learn the basics of cool versus warm colors: If you are able to recognize the color temperature of the gray you are considering, then it will make choosing a palette much simpler. Color temperature or undertone incompatibility is almost always the culprit when colors don’t look “quite right” together.
  • Consider charcoal gray as an alternative to black or dark blue: Charcoal gray can be the perfect dark accent without being too dark or too drab. Charcoal gray is stunning as upholstered furniture or rugs.
  • Do watch your undertones: Some grays can be perfectly color-neutral with no obvious undertones. Most grays have an undertone that will either help or hinder your color palette. Knowing the difference between a gray with a blue or brown undertone, or even a green undertone can help you match colors like a pro.
  • Have fun with gray: It’s been years since gray was considered stodgy and conservative. With the growing popularity of gray, paint and home decor companies are offering expansive color options. If you have a color combination in mind, there will be a gray that is a perfect complement.

The Don'ts of Decorating With Gray

Most of these don'ts are actually good, positive helpful things for decorating with gray. For example, don't forget the versatility of gray.

  • 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.
  • Do not be afraid to experiment with gray and beige: If you are inspired by a complex, yet subdued, look, go with it. A warm gray or greige might just be the perfect complement to the right beige.
  • Don't hesitate to use gray in a natural color scheme: Gray is a beautiful addition to beach-style, zen, or southwestern motifs. Warm grays are most compatible with other natural colors, evoking images of stones and weathered wood.
  • Do not overlook gray that is already in a room: Gray can be found as a fireplace, carpeting, and countertops. If you live in an area with perpetually gray skies, a white wall can often appear gray and should be taken into consideration. When you add gray to any room, be sure to consider any other gray that might already be in there.
  • Don't overlook creative color combinations using gray: The right gray can be gorgeous with the newest muted candy colors, such as gray and pink, yellow, or blue. Gray can also be paired with black and white to soften the palette.