Picking the perfect gray paint color

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Gray is a super popular color right now, but it’s also a super tricky one to get right.  It can look cold, drab, and dark.  We recently went through picking the perfect gray to cover all of the yellow walls in our house.  There were literally paint swatches painted all over the place.

20130601-211727.jpgDifferent colors come out very differently in different homes.  The lighting, flooring, trim, windows, and furnishings all reflect the light differently.  Having picked paint colors for more homes that I can count, I’ve seen browns look green and greens come out “orange-ish” in different homes.  In our last house, I even custom-mixed a color because there wasn’t one that was just right on the cards.  Don’t worry, though, that is only the 2nd time I’ve done that in probably 100+ paint selections.

We found paint selection extra difficult because we were painting the ceilings the same color.  I’ve done this in 2 houses now, both had “architecturally unique” ceilings.  That means they annoyingly go every-which-way and there’s really no way to tell the wall from the ceiling.  When selecting a wall & ceiling color for a big space like ours, I like to keep it light.  Colors look much more intense in a large space than they do on a tiny card.  After a bunch of trial and error, including samples I borrowed from other homes we are working on, we ended up narrowing our search down to Benjamin Moore’s “Off-White Color Chart”.  The end product isn’t a white wall, but is the soft, warm gray that we wanted.

Here’s a link to Benjamin Moore’s Best Selling Grays


Benjamin Moore has my favorite colors.  Doing historic homes and period-influenced projects, I’ve always started with their Historic Color chart.  For the more soft, modern look that we were after, I was diving into grays for the first time in our own home.  I used several from the Best Sellers list including Edgecomb Gray, Ashley Gray, Revere Pewter, Stonlington Gray, Classic Gray, and Gray Owl.  We’ve used Revere Pewter, Classic Gray, and Gray Owl on homes recently.  Revere Pewter looked dark and brownish in our home, but I love it in most homes.  Most of these were just dark and cold next to our marble floors even though they are great on other settings.

20130601-211713.jpgWe ended up using something far from the Best Seller list, Fog Mist.  It’s a very light gray that has a little warmth.  It reflects the light, keeping the feel light and happy.  It’s the perfect backdrop for both or white and dark wood furniture and looks great with our predominantly blue & red decor, but also with the girl’s pink, orange, aqua, and lavender.  I was surprised to find that it can only be found on the “Off Whites” chart (which is why I’d never tried it before).

When you aren’t doing a whole-house color, you can create a bit more drama using something deeper and darker.  I’ve seen a lot of great darker grays lately and the Best Seller’s list is a great place to start.

20130601-211747.jpgI’m not exaggerating when I say we tried around 20 colors.  I started with colors that looked great in rooms with a similar feel and bought samples to put up on the wall.  I put samples in a few areas with different lighting and lived wit them a while.  Some choices were instantly out and some made a finalist list.  Those that were close, but not quite right, were too blue, too brown, too dark, etc.  I’d get the charts back out and find something that was less blue, less brown, or less dark and tried again.  That’s how we ended up completely on the smaller “Off Whites” fan deck and eventually narrowing our options down to the warm & light “Fog Mist”.  It felt like something that we could live with and that would compliment our decorating for years to come.

We are now picking the perfect gray for our kitchen island and plan to have a bit more drama there since it’s a smaller area.

Here’s how Benjamin Moore’s “Fog Mist” turned out in a few settings in our house:




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