How to Use the Color Gray in Your Home

Gray Living Room

A recent visit to a Designer Show House opened my eyes to the popularity of the color…or lack of color…“gray”! Some of the rooms were designed with gray as the main color but done in varying shades as you see in this lovely contemporary living room setting.  The clean, curvilinear lines and geometric shapes are expected in contemporary style, and the cool gray gives this room extra sophistication.

Although most think of gray as a lack of color, even gray can have subtle nuances of colors from the rainbow.  They can have blue or violet undertones and be considered cool gray, while a yellow or red undertone would make a gray much warmer. Deciphering the undertone can be tricky, and it’s easiest when you have several grays to compare side by side. The cooler tones versus warmer tones will pop out at you much more easily.

What is so nice about neutrals is that they are very compatible with each other and they can also show off the brightest and boldest colors of the rainbow. Gray tends to be a bit bland without another color to jazz it up and can project a feeling of loneliness or even depression if there aren’t other colors added to help perk it up.

Gray Chair Accented with Orange Pillow One choice, as you see in the living room, is to accent a gray with colors similar to its undertone.  The gray on the sofa has a violet undertone, thus the plum pillows look wonderful. In the gray chair with the deep blue undertone, blues compliment – orange, is the perfect choice for an accent.

Light Gray Media RoomWhen you take a look at the color psychology of gray, it is somewhat indecisive.  It is neither white nor black, but sits right in the middle.  If it is deeper, like a charcoal, it looks mysterious and dramatic, like black.  As it approaches white and becomes more silver it does get a bit livelier and bright. In this room the light sofas are the perfect background for rich deep grey pillows.  Gray can be a dignified and classic color for accents in a room where too much could make the room look a bit lifeless.

You’ve heard of being in “a gray area”, or in the middle of two differing ideas, maybe indecisive or uncertain.  And, when the skies become gray we tend to curl up and prepare to hide from the elements.  This can be interpreted in interiors as well.  If gray is used extensively it might indicate the need for someone to hide or perhaps they lack self confidence and are using the gray to disappear.

Gray Metal Top Picnic Table So, the best way to use gray is in rooms that you want to feel reserved and elegant. Mix deep dramatic tones with light silver tints to balance the shadows with the light. You can battle boredom by adding a splash of color in accessories and artwork. Living rooms, home offices, and master bedrooms are candidates for gray color schemes because there can be a serious quality to those spaces and a need to project stability and calm which gray can afford you. Or, use it outside where the sun can lighten and brighten it, and in the winter you won’t even know it’s there!

Just a quick note to end, gray can be spelled both with an “a” which is the American version and an “e” which is thought of as the British version!



  1. Laura says

    This article is right on time for me! I’ve been adding some gray to my home a little at a time this past year. In fact I bought a shower curtain, sheers for the bedroom just today. I was thinking about repainting the bedroom walls a shade of gray since I have to do a wall repair and probably won’t be able to match the current color(a green with a slight gray undertone). Since that painting project is a ways off I’m going to put some more thought to that and really consider keeping a “color” there. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Shari says

    I’ve always been fearful of gray because it seems so cold, however, the more you see it in photos and in stores, it becomes familiar and actually kind of restful and nice! Just be careful with the tone and how much you use! For me, I think accents would be best.

  3. Eve P says

    My bathroom/powder room is gray with bright white molding. I added a silver mirror and black and white photos of snow scenes. And though the room is small, the dark gray walls don’t seem to close it on with the white and silver accents. I love my little gray room and eventually would love to bring it into the bedroom using more silver shimmer tones. Eve P

  4. Colleen says

    My bathroom has cream & black tiles on the wall. To tone it down, I bought a strip rug with black & gray. The gray has to tones, dark & med. Also bought some towels to match along with some solid gray towels. Looks so much better. Warmer too.

    • Shari Hiller says

      Colleen, thank you for adding your comments about using the color gray! I guess we are all a little braver out there than I thought!!

  5. Kanupriya says


    This is for me… I added grey sofas to my living room just to make it feel elegant and reserved. Have added some silver antics like a silver buddha shape stool, silver frame glass coffee table to it. Now having tough time to find art and decor for it. What color schemes should I use here. …pls suggest

    • Shari Hiller says

      Look around the rest of your home for colors that you tend to use. It’s always best if your home is tied together through color and style. Pick up oneor more of the colors you are using elsewhere and find accessories that pull those colors into your living room. Gray is neutral and will blend nicely with many colors.

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