A good friend was asking me about using gray for interiors, and it gave me a great reason to do a blog post about it!

According to a Zillow survey: “…dark gray may attract more prospective buyers — and higher offers — when you’re getting ready to sell.”

True, there seems to be a big flutter about the color called “Gray” for interiors. But actually, as with many “trendy sound/news bytes” about color, it’s not as simplistic as it’s made to be. It’s more than one color, that’s for sure. And, what if you’re not selling? Creating and updating your nest at home will be the focus and goal.

But questions arise to me. Like: Whats the appeal, beyond “Trends?” Where does that interest come from: social, emotional, and/or other things in the marketplace? What are benefits of using those colors in living spaces? In work spaces? What are negatives? This post will address those issues, for interiors. Exterior colors post will be forthcoming.

Example of a gray wall color supporting artwork.
Example of a gray wall color supporting artwork. Artwork can be enhanced by using a deep color behind it.
Shown on fireplace: China Camp Shapes, Archival print of original photograph by Barbara Jacobs

So, more questions arise, like: Where to apply it? What paint finishes are best for maximum quality effects? And from a deeper, more specific design perspective…what actual color gray are you going to use, to create your new environment.

That’s where creative color — and what I like to call “color discernment” — comes in!

Is “gray” considered “Cheerful?”
Not usually, and in fact that is not a word I would ever associate with a gray-toned color. However, here’s another way to look at it. It’s about the language of describing color and the psychology and emotions that come with various colors. For example, a more high-vibration color like “yellow,” for example, is typically considered Happy or Cheerful. That’s understandable, when you look at where we usually see that kind of color…flowers, nature, sunlight associations, greeting cards, etc. Then on the other hand, do you want a really bright yellow color in your surroundings? Depending on the actual color formulation, and lighting in the space, the color can be desirable or could also be uncomfortable, making one agitated. That’s just quick example of the kind of things we need to consider in selecting colors.

Deep gray wall color

See the difference. Two version of the same room, as examples of using variants of deeper gray. The top image is more blue and the Lower image is towards more purple.

Deep gray, warm tint towards purple.

Many colors can be up-beat and still comfortable and homey. That will be a great topic for a future post. In interiors, the more low-keyed versions of these colors are the way to go for this kind of result. So, it could be a blue, a red, a green, a purple…even an orange or a yellow!

But in the realm of Gray, I like to consider various tones in that field, so a gray can be warm, cool, light and soft, dark and deep…you get the picture.
Following are a few examples of colors I’d not call Gray, per se (as in black + white = gray), but toned-down colors that are beautiful, comfortable, and great options when you look for something in the wide world of beautiful grays for walls, ceilings and even cabinets–which can offer a beautiful color field as important as walls or entire rooms.

Traditional Style Living Room.
Two forms of warm gray are a good complement to the style and furnishings of this historic home

Artwork below by Barbara Jacobs

Warm, earthy gray creates a cozy nest.
Warm earthy gray type color in a bedroom can help create a cozy nest
Warm deep gray on window casings.Interior.
2 photos of the same room shows a warm gray on the wood trim in this Arts and Crafts home The combination of colors is a good fit for this space in particular and the house in general
Warm gray trim with gold tone walls: Arts and Crafts home.

Above: 3 examples of the same room shown with various color options.

Finally, one important thing to consider is to not be swept away by the latest trends, especially if you have more long-range plans. But one way to use this kind of social and product-influenced color is that even typically smaller areas like trim can offer distinguished and sophisticated options.

Below: 4 views of the same room, same color except…what is different?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments,
and to see your own pictures of how you have used Grays, in any form.
In fact, I welcome your suggestions for future posts on topics of interest to you.

One thought on “Glorious Gray…Better Think Before Painting!

  1. I find this topic (of using gray) to come up a lot in my profession as an upholsterer and interior fabricator. Many people think neutrals will make life simple and easy. In many ways they do, but they always look best if those colors are toned to benefit the environment and the people who reside in it. I think Barbara has chosen really good examples to demonstrate that.

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