Even though we're officially emerging from the era of all-gray-everything, sofas that sport this versatile color will always remain a timeless staple. However, certain gray variants are nuanced neutrals with complex undertones. The colors, lines, and textures you put gray fabric next to can dramatically affect whether it reads modern or traditional but that also means the design opportunities are endless. Here, we offer some styling inspiration and a little color theory 101.
Opt for Throw Pillows That Play Well With Undertones
Your throw pillows are a great place to start when styling a picturesque sofa scene. Since these pieces will sit directly on your sofa, paying attention to the undertones will help you pick ones that complement rather than clash.
A true neutral gray looks great with pretty much any color. However, there's a good chance that your gray sofa isn't a true neutral gray. Some gray fabrics lean warm with yellow, orange, or beige undertones, and others give off a cool blue feel. Additionally, a gray with green undertones may fall somewhere between cool and warm since you have both blue and yellow at play. You can find the undertones by comparing the gray fabric to pure primary and secondary color swatches and then note which colors the gray enhances the most.
Once you know the undertones, you can look at the color wheel for help selecting your throw pillow color palette. An analogous color scheme uses colors that neighbor each other on the color wheel. For a complementary color palette, choose colors located across from your main undertone on the color wheel. For example, a cool-toned gray couch paired with blue and green pillows would be an analogous color scheme. Conversely, using orange throw pillows on that same couch would create a complementary color scheme.
Add a Throw Blanket That Pops Against the Gray
Throw blankets are great spots to add contrast. If you have a darker gray sofa, a white throw blanket draped along the edge of its seat can add a sense of depth. For lighter gray sofas, a black one will have the same effect. A throw blanket that shows off a more saturated color will also stand out against a gray sofa.
Play With Monochromatic, Complementary, or Analogous Colors
If you want to add just a small amount of color to a living room with a gray sofa, try picking one accent color that is complementary or analogous to the main undertone and use variants of it. For example, this design by Cathie Hong Interiors plays up the yellow undertones in this gray sofa with orange, rust, and pink tones found in the wood coffee table, wall art, and rug. Going back to undertones, orange is an ideal color to pair with gray since it contrasts with blue and green undertones and highlights warm undertones. So, it's an especially great choice if you aren't sure which undertones are present.
Contrast With Textures and Patterns in the Room
If you do decide to lean into a more neutral or monochromatic color palette, you can still play with contrast in other ways. Patterned throw pillows with varying fabric weights and patterns and a rustic antique chest add interest and warmth to a modern cool-toned sofa. Just like orange, blue is also a safe color to pair with pretty much any gray sofa because it will highlight cool undertones present but also contrast well with any warm ones.
When in Doubt, Go Neutral
Figuring out the undertones of gray can be a little tricky, and lighting can certainly have an impact. If it gets too complicated, using other neutrals in your design is always a safe bet. There's nothing wrong with draping gray throws over a gray couch, and adding in other neutrals like beige, brown, and black will keep the entire room from looking too cold or monochrome.
Opt for Muted Colors
To transform vivid colors into muted versions, you add gray. So, it's no wonder that subdued hues tend to look beautiful next to a gray sofa. You can play into this by adding nods to nature with earth-toned throw pillows and accent furniture and accessories made from organic materials like jute and straw.
Or, Use Primary Colors as a Focal Point
One of the best things about opting for a gray sofa is that it can easily blend into the canvas of a room and allow other colors to take center stage. One way to do this is to add colorful, large-scale art above your sofa. In this design by Alvin Wayne, the textured art commands your attention first, but the gray sofa gives your eyes a place to rest.