How to Decorate With the Ever-Stylish Warm Gray
Tired of tan? Getting gloomy from cool gray? Make warm gray your new go-to neutral.
Houzz Contributor, Jennifer Ott
You may have noticed that gray is everywhere these days when it comes to home design and decor. Just about every product and material supplier I talk with is rushing to bring more gray products to the market. I’m noticing a bit of pushback, however, from homeowners who either are growing tired of cool gray hues or find them too cold and somber.
For those folks, I’ve been recommending warm gray as an easy-to-use neutral. The best way to spot warm gray paint colors is to gather a selection of grays together and compare them. You’ll notice some veer cooler (with a blue cast) or warmer (with a hint of brown).
Shown here is a sampling of warm gray paint colors. From left to right: San Francisco Fog from Kelly-Moore, Dolphin Fin from Behr, Mindful Gray from Sherwin-Williams and Cape May Cobblestone from Benjamin Moore.
There’s nothing gloomy about this gray bedroom. The walls are painted a medium warm gray that adds just the right amount of contrast against the beautiful white trim. It’s a neutral palette, but because the colors are neither overly warm nor too cool, it’s a fresh, soothing space.
A warm gray wall color is a terrific alternative to pure white, which can sometimes feel too sterile, or a cool gray, which might register as chilly in a space with lots of hard surfaces, such as a bathroom. The color palette seen here is fairly restrained, but the different shades of warm grays play well together and add variety and visual interest.
Here’s a more modern bathroom with our featured color on the walls. The medium warm gray serves as a bridge between the dark tiles and the white elements in the room, softening the palette nicely. The wood elements add a good dose of warmth and also help soften the contrast between dark and light.
Warm grays play well with a variety of wood tones. Because our featured hue has a nice earthy quality to it, it adds an organic vibe to a room, especially when paired with natural materials such as wood and stone. This living room features a variety of different textures, but they are tied together well through the use of warm gray neutral hues.
If you prefer a softer palette, or your room lacks an abundance of natural light, go for light warm grays. The wall color seen here is almost an off-white, but that small hint of warm gray adds a cozy quality.
Oftentimes homeowners default to white walls throughout the house because they want to play it safe, or they are overwhelmed by the paint color options. If you don’t have the time or energy to audition a bunch of paint colors for your home, find a light warm gray and make that your default hue. You can always add punches of color here and there via accent walls, textiles and decorative accessories. Or keep the palette supersoft and neutral, as in this bedroom. You really can’t go wrong with light warm gray.
For those with interesting furniture, furnishings or artwork to show off, keep your walls a light neutral so they don’t compete for attention. A soft warm gray is a nicer, more inviting alternative to stark gallery-white walls.
One thing I love about warm grays is how they change color throughout the day. In warmer light — during sunrise and sunset — warm gray colors will appear taupe or brown. In the cooler light of dawn, midday or dusk, or in cool artificial light, the color turns a purer gray. That’s why I advise homeowners who are testing out paint colors to view the hues during various times of the day, in the changing light, before making the final selection.
Warm grays, like all good neutrals, work well with any design style. This transitional-style dining room looks super elegant clad in a light warm gray. Like the first example, the color provides just the right amount of contrast against the white painted woodwork, but it’s not an aggressive, in-your-face kind of color — it allows the woodwork to stand out. If you want more drama, go for a darker warm gray hue. If you want a soft and airy, barely-there wash of color, go for a lighter warm gray.
Tell us: Are you a fan of warm grays, or do they leave you cold?