By Sophie Warren-Smith published
Decorating with grey has become de rigueur in interior design. Undeniably the new but enduring neutral, this cool color adds a sophisticated edge, elegance and a refinement to a room, and is a go-to for anyone who wants an easy-to-live with tone that's easy to color scheme and redecorate around.
Whether you are searching for grey living room ideas or some simple styling tips, here we investigate decorating with grey – with help from the experts.
As Ruth Mottershead, Creative Director at Little Greene explains, ‘Greys, neutrals and white are a decorating staple, and are combined in both classical and contemporary decoration style to present a backdrop upon which to decorate; but, this is not the end of the story, as the use of stronger neutrals leads us to a more exciting vision.’
Also known for being a somewhat unwelcoming color – a paler shade can feel cold on its own – grey is best when teamed with other greys on the comprehensive spectrum that it occupies or, of course, combined with other colors to create a striking, warmer, more layered look. Texture plays an important part in grey rooms, too. But where to start?
Decorating with grey
Below, we've listed expert advice on decorating with grey, so you can pick just the right shade for the right place, whatever your project.
1. Consider your room's orientation
'Decorating with grey successfully really depends on you choosing a color that suits the natural light in the room,' says H&G's Editor in Chief Lucy Searle. 'A warm light, which you'll find in south- and west-facing rooms will soften a cool grey, making it a great choice for a restful feel, or you can choose a dark grey to great effect; an east- or -north-facing room will naturally receive colder light, so a warmer grey with yellow tones will work better.
'Then you might want to think about the effect you want to create: narrow spaces – perhaps grey hallways will feel bigger with lighter greys, while grey bathroom ideas and grey dining rooms in warm greys will feel more welcoming.'
2. Choose the right grey for a kitchen
But which shade to pick? Again, the question of natural light is pertinent, as is the size of your kitchen: the smaller and darker it is, the lighter the shade of grey you should use to enhance it. Still love dark greys? Put light grey on the base units, and a darker on a kitchen island.
3. Discover what colors work well with grey
Due to its versatility, most colors go with grey – it is a neutral after all, which means it acts like a blank canvas on which you can put your mark. However, before you consider a color scheme with grey as a base, it's worth considering the effect you want to create.
Judy Smith, Color Consultant at Crown confirms our thoughts: ‘Pale and mid greys like Linen Cupboard and Tin Bath can offset the hottest and most vibrant tones of orange and deep yellow to add balance and a calming foil, they can also blend with soft and watery turquoises, purples, glass and metallics for a hazy look.'
This, of course, is perfect for when you want a warm, contemporary contrast. However, if you prefer a softer effect, like in the room above, you will want to choose greys and complementary colors that don't jar as much.
'Natural tones of pebble and stone mix with other natural colors like sand and chalk, as well as materials like linen and pale wood also make for a laid back and restful scheme.’
You can use the color wheel to get your choice just right.
4. Work out what color goes best in a grey living room
As we said above, most colors go well in a grey living room. You can team it with other shades of grey, sage, deep magenta, inky blues, jet black, tumeric… the list is endless.
However, when asking yourself this question, it's important first to talk about how much natural light your living room gets. Is it north-facing or south-facing? If the former, choose warming shades a warm grey with warm accent colors. If, however, the sun streams into your living room all day long, you can afford to choose a deeper tone, such as the one above.
The second question to consider: what effect do you want to create? This is largely going to be down to when in the day you use the room – if it's at night, a dark color, accessorized with warm shades and lit well can feel incredibly cozy. If, however, you want the room to feel light and bright, going for paler colors both for the grey and the accent shades will be more successful.
5. Consider an accent wall to go with grey
What color accent ideas go with grey? The answer is that most accent wall colors will go with grey – the key is in creating a cohesive feel so getting your tones right is vital.
Here, the golden color of the accent wall in the background – and curtains in the foreground – is exactly the same tone as the grey. This means that they work together from a visual point of view. Picking a wall color that tones with the flooring, too, creates a feeling of calm – perfect for a busy space, such as an entry.
6. Work out what color furniture looks best with grey walls
This is very much dependent on what shade of grey you have on your walls. For example, if your walls are slate or charcoal then opt for paler furniture in taupes, blush, coral and a paler grey. They will add a wonderful contrast to the dark walls and the result will be striking.
You can use the reverse methodology if you have pale walls – so choose darker furniture like a slate or deep terracotta sofa and accessorize with taupe cushions and a textured throw or two.
Antique furniture works well in both scenarios, the color of the wood will warm up the scheme and it will add character too.
7. Find out what color grey paint Joanna Gaines uses
We couldn’t resist asking TV interior star, Joanna Gaines what her favorite grey shade is, and interestingly, she used it in Fixer Upper: Welcome Home - Episode 2 of her fabulous new show that you can watch on Magnolia Network.
The color is Prairie Smoke – you can see the beautiful depth it has when you see it used in the primary bedroom and how Joanne has used it on the wood cabinetry and trims. It contrasts beautifully against the warm tones of the bed and side table. It's very like the stunning grey kitchen dining room wall color used above.
8. Add warmth to a grey room with layering
Renowned British designer Louise Bradley founded her interior architecture and product design studio over 28 years ago and creates stunning sophisticated interiors for those who love bespoke and beautifully designed homes.
Below, she shares her advice on how to add warmth to grey rooms as depending on which tone you choose, can sometimes feel on the cool side – this is really important if you are researching grey bedroom ideas.
‘To avoid a gray color scheme feeling cold in an interior, you can add warmth through textured fabrics and the layering of patterns.
'Softening the light using tailored window treatments provides both privacy and intimacy within the space. Introducing hints of color through accessories dressed with greenery and foliage injects energy and lifts the space during the dull winter months.’
9. Investigate how you decorate a living room with a grey couch
Vancouver based design practice Sophie Burke Design is known for its creativity, subtle sophistication and warmth. This loft in downtown Vancouver was given a much needed revamp which included turning this space into this stylish living area that honors the industrial elements.
Sophie explains how the use of grey sofa living room ideas can really focus your design project, ‘We love using grey – to us it's the perfect neutral. It adds depth to a room and always feels calming. Grey is a sophisticated color with so many amazing subtle tones to choose from, whether it is a warm grey or cooler, softer dove grey like this sofa.’
In this space the grey sofa is the main focal point and it’s visually anchored by the fabulous knitted style darker grey rug. By keeping the rest of the room neutral you allow the seating area to be zoned – it’s the main source of grey and this is why it works from a design point of view.
10. Find out what color furniture goes with grey walls and grey floors
Joa Studholme, Color Curator at Farrow & Ball has painted her fabulous office (above) window space in two shades of grey. The walls are Dimpse No.277 in Estate Emulsion and the floor is Downpipe No.26 in Modern Eggshell.
The furniture you choose needs to complement your paint colors, black works really well with all shades of grey and glass table tops act as a light reflector. Vintage furniture gives a space meaning and character, look out for one-off finds as they add a warmth to a space.
11. Factor in what color furniture goes with light grey floors
Warming shades like taupe or mushroom upholstered furniture with rusty-colored armchairs look great with light grey floors; they will create a welcoming and cozier feel against a cooler, pale floor (above).
And don't forget you can add pops of color – like the contemporary red stool shown here. On paper it may feel like it shouldn’t work, but actually it does though is helped by the patchwork style rug. Rugs are a great option if you feel your floor feels too expansive.
Mid-Century style furniture and retro lighting in copper and brass (above) look great with tactile chunky style slubby carpet in shades of pale and mid grey.
12. Discover which color walls go with a grey floor
Every color of the spectrum will go with a grey floor, and again, the one you choose will largely be down to the effect you want to create: elegant and cool or warm and cozy. Black, white, cream and shades from the cooler end of the color palette will work best on walls for sunny rooms with cool grey floors; spice shades and more welcoming tones of green and blue on walls will work with warmer grey floors.
If you are looking for a middle ground, we particularly love this plummy shade that warms up a potentially cold room. While light and bright spaces are appealing, they can be sterile if you don’t add some cozier colors. This living room has been turned into a cozy welcoming space when teamed with various plum tones, patterned grey carpet, sky blue cushions and brass accessories.
Which colors do not go with grey?
Most colors go with grey but some look harsher against the steely tones of grey. If you are decorating with primary colors, for example, grey can jar. Equally, pastel colors are a poor match for grey: the pastels will look muddier and the grey will look out of place. The only exception is a pastel grey that matches your pastels tonally and exactly.
Can you go wrong decorating with grey?
Yes, you can go wrong when decorating with grey. For example, a one-grey scheme will look flat and uninviting, so ensure you introduce other greys, neutrals and warmer shades with accent colors, layering and texture. Equally, decorating with grey and primary colors or pastel colors will look wrong – the best matches are earthy, natural shades that add an element of warmth to your scheme.
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