SW Design Concepts, LLC

Turning Ideas Into Reality


Color Consult: Working with Gray

Posted by Suzanne on June 14, 2012 at 8:45 AM

Charcoal gray may be a neutral, but it's also a statement. It's bolder than its lighter brethren; more modern than its neutral cousins, the beiges; and less dramatic than black.



True gray (or achromatic gray) is a mixture of black and white. It has equal values of red, green and blue (RGB), and thus no hue. Off-grays — what we most often use in decorating — have very subtle but important differences in the values of red, green and blue. Cool grays are noticeably blue, green or violet. Warm grays are noticeably pinkish or brown and may have yellow tones.


Charcoal off-grays have very subtle differences in the RGB values but remain true neutrals, making them the perfect complement for most colors, especially bright whites, warm citrus hues and pinks.

Because it appears so often in nature — think stones, storm clouds and the North Atlantic — gray also works well in with natural materials like wood, marble and greenery.

Cool charcoal pairs well with bright white trim and works with most wood floors. In a house like this, with period details and nice bones, it highlights the architecture while modernizing the room. An otherwise traditional home, takes on a contemporary flare by adding fuscia chair backs and a modern Roman shade.

In this dining room, using warm charcoal above the bright white wainscoting adds a lot of drama. People often inadvertantly select cool grays for the walls and they dislike the results. Choosing a gray with brown undertones will warm up a room and create an inviting space.

In this living room, a bold yellow sofa is paired with a cool gray, creating a modern and energetic room. Grays can--and should--be paired with primary colors. You can also tweak the primary-gray combination and select a bold orange or pink to give the room a pop.

How do you create interest when using all neutrals? Vary the tone and texture, of course! In this lovely kitchen, the gray cabinets are interrupted by the textured glass doors and the gorgeous patterned wallpaper backsplash. Adding the distressed cream table to function as an island gives the contemporary gray an eclectic feel. Add a splash of orange, and viola! Magic.

Gray can add a subtle softness to a room, or create a bold and dramatic accent. Whatever your purpose, consider using gray as your go-to color in design.

Categories: Decor, Trends, Walls

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