So you’ve decided to paint your living room gray. Now all you have to do is decide which gray is best for the living room. If only it were that easy… Are you going dark or pale? Warm or cool? A shade or a mix everywhere? And what about accent colors?
Kate Watson-Smyth, author of the UK’s number one interior design blog Mad About The House (opens in new tab) understands better than anyone the dilemma of choosing the right tone. She has even written a book on the subject: Shades of Grey: Decorating with the most elegant of neutrals (opens in new tab) .
“The key is to understand when you use your sitting room the most,” Kate begins. ‘When it’s evening – under electric light – the classic Down Pipe
(opens in new tab) will always be a winner for me.’
She explains that this popular Farrow & Ball shade is one of the best gray paints for walls because it’s a warm gray that looks good under both daylight and lamplight. Sure, it’s darker than you originally planned, but don’t rule it out right away. “If you’re worried the room might be too dark, keep the ceiling pale and add light rugs and mirrors to reflect the light,” Kate advises.
Credit: Farrow & Ball
Best in daylight
If you spend a lot of time in your living room during the day, you should think about the natural light in the room. ‘A sunny room might look best with a strong, warm grey,’ says Helen Shaw, UK Director at Benjamin Moore
(opens in new tab). ‘Balboa Mist 1549’ (opens in new tab)is one such paint and works beautifully with white for a light and bright south-facing living room.’
Helen believes that north-facing living rooms are better suited to a cool gray, such as Kendall Charcoal HC-166
(opens in new tab) (pictured below), which is a dramatic tone that definitely adds atmosphere. However, if you’re concerned that a cool gray will make your north-facing room feel chilly and unappealing, try grays with a warm undertone, such as pink or lilac, or something more earthy. To create texture and a more industrial feel, use gray concrete effect paint available from Craig & Rose (opens in new tab). Credit: Benjamin Moore
Best with other colors
Are you considering yellow and gray living room ideas to brighten up your space? Combining color with gray is a great way to add a pop of color and break up the space.
But how do you make sure they don’t clash when you use gray with other colors? Because shades of gray have different undertones, you can use a shade of gray as a starting point to bring color into your living room. Tash Bradley, Lick’s
(opens in new tab)Director of interior design and color Psychology, says a great way to bring out the undertones in gray is to pair it with the same or similar color.
For example, a gray with a green undertone, decorated with green upholstery, artwork, or decor pieces, will make the undertone more dominant. “A gray with a pink undertone goes beautifully with lilac or even red,” adds Tash. “This is because we never see colors in isolation, we incorporate them as a pair, so you need them to harmonize and work together.”
Credit: Benjamin Moore
Whether you go dark or pale comes down to personal preference. From my experience, I would say that I should not shy away from a shade that looks a bit on the dark side. Even the totally innocent Chic Shadow
(opens in new tab) from Dulux looked dark on my walls when I painted a sample, but I’m so glad I didn’t go lighter. These days I would be much bolder and chubby for Down Pipe, as Kate Watson-Smyth suggests. Credit: Future Publishing Ltd/Jo Henderson
So, which gray to choose? Based on when you use it, the natural light situation, and the side of your room, you can immediately start excluding a number of options. Once you’ve decided you don’t want cool or pale, you can buy sample jars or Lick’s adhesive samples and see how the gray looks at different times of the day, in different parts of the room. Paint charts can be overwhelming but use your intuition. Which shades were you immediately drawn to?
Is gray a good color for a living room?
The living room is a space where we want to kick back and relax after a long day. A gray palette can be very soothing, like putting on a comfy marl gray hoody, so it definitely lends itself to rooms where we want to relax. Gray has been a dominant trend for the past decade and we think it’s a safe bet when it comes to living room paint ideas. Add natural materials such as wood, rattan, wicker, and marble to be visually interesting.
Credit: Future Publishing Ltd/Chris Snook
What is the most popular color for a living room?
Heather Young points out that the most popular colors in Ideal Home’s Emotions of Color paint collection featuring Albany
(opens in new tab) are pale neutral colors. “While we love the trend here at Ideal Home for bold hues like dark greens, blues, and almost black grays, we know that much softer light grays (like Ceramic Glaze) are actually more commonly used to decorate our living rooms,” says the editor. from Ideal Home.
Likewise, the most sought-after colors on the Dulux website are grays, warm neutrals, and dark blues, all of which are popular living room color schemes that we see on our Instagram feeds. Polished Pebble Gray is number one, followed by Egyptian Cotton and Sapphire Salute.
Aaron Markwell, Color Lead at Coat Paints tells us Margot
(opens in new tab)Good intentions (opens in new tab), and Sunday Soul (opens in new tab) are the most popular living room gray colors in the COAT palette, but there is also a growing demand for warmer beige tones. For the best of both worlds, you could try a stony neutral like Ambrose (opens in a new tab).
How do you use gray in a living room?
Nadia McCowan Hill, Wayfair
(opens in new tab)‘s house style advisor says that for a subtle, calming environment, choose a soft gray velvet sofa and a textured rug. Then style your space with plenty of textural finds in cool creams and warm neutrals.
If you’re looking for gray sofa ideas to work with existing furniture, you can use multiple shades of gray or expand your color palette with accent colors. Helen Shaw of Benjamin Moore says you should opt for a few different tonal grays if you’re not sure you want to dip every wall in one solid gray. Or use it more sparingly on a striking wall.