How to Pick the Perfect Shade of Gray

The design world has gone way beyond the 50 Shades of Gray from the notable book of the same name.  In fact, if you look at Benjamin Moore paints alone, you’ll find over 150 shades of gray.  Gray is the new beige. Truth is, gray took over from the browns and beiges a few years back and is all the rage now. I don’t know about you, but  I am happy to get away from the years of tuscan yellows and browns and welcome the new gray trend.

So, with so many color choices, how to choose the right gray is the question.

Here are a few tips for making the right choice.

1. Look at the fixed elements in your room.

Are you working with a dated colored stone fireplace in the room? What is the base color of any marble or tile material in the room? Are your floors a light or dark wood?

It’s important to try to coordinate the neutrals in the same room. If you have a mixed marble countertop with beiges, browns and flecks of black with a medium wood floor, you’re more likely to want to use a complex gray like:


edgecombe gray


edgecomb rray 2

 Edgecomb Gray in above two images



revere pewter


revere pewter and white dove

Revere Pewter BM in the two images above

Both of these grays both have a green undertone and will read like a neutral, putty shade on your walls


If you’re looking for a a neutral-feeling gray, Collingwood might be a good choice. It falls right between green-gray and blue-gray so it reads neutral. But I must caution you to test it in your room to see how it reads with the light in the room.


collingwood gray

Collingwood BM

Many of us are drawn to the beautiful blue-grays out there right now. Those are those grays that are very “Parisian” and “Swedish” in their tones, evoking a soft, romantic look in a room, very popular in bedrooms now.

gray owl in bedroom

Gray Owl BM

Just remember: with the slight blue undertone, your walls will look bluer than the “putty” look of Edgecomb Gray or Sandy Hook Gray. So again look at your fixed hard surfaces (floors, countertops and tile) to see whether you want the warmer grays (Edgecomb) of the cooler grays (Gray Owl, Stonington Gray).


2. Work with the light in the room.

If you have a room that doesn’t see a lot of light throughout the day, you will want to choose a medium or deeper shed of gray, because it is mostly artificial light that will bring the color to life. A darker north-facing room will never get the reflected light you need and a deeper shade will work better there.

A room that does get a lot of natural light can look beautiful with a pale gray that will change in its tones as the light changes in the room over the course of the day, like the one below:

gray in a room with lots of light Gray in a room with plenty of natural light

gray paint midtone in room with less natural light

gray paint in a mid-tone in room with less natural light


3.Coordinate with Fabrics

If at all possible, have at least one of your fabric choices available to look at when looking at paint colors. Personally, I always pick paint colors last because it is the easiest and cheapest thing to change.

Fabrics and hard surfaces cost a lot of money and therefore you’re less likely to want to change them. And you can always find a paint color to coordinate with the choices out there now.

paint color and fabrics

If you have to work without fabric choices made, stick to the hard surfaces as your guide and choose a gray that coordinates with their undertones.

4.Figure out the Undertone

One of my favorite “go to” bloggers for color advice is Maria Killam here. She taught me that gray has one of three undertones, green, blue or mauve and that as long as you match the undertones of the surfaces and fabrics in your to the undertones of the gray color you choose, you can’t go far wrong.

5.Renting, Moving or Downsizing – Try light gray walls

In a recent article in Realtor’s Magazine, gray was named as the color to use because it’s the “color buyers crave”. It’s true that the right shade of gray is a good neutral color that will appeal to many buyers.

It’s also a great choice if you want to expand the space in a small room, so downsizers love it.

It’s also just a great sophisticated color that can be used in almost any decor style and it instantly upgrades the most basic furnishings.

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