How to Decorate With Gray Walls


Gray turns up on so many walls these days it's almost the new white. The neutral ranges from the palest wisp of smoke to the inky richness of charcoal -- with every smudge of gray color in-between. There's a reason for gray's popularity that goes beyond trendy. The hue is both star and specter, as comfortable on center stage as it is performing quietly in the background.

Go-To Gray

  • Understand how to use gray, and you'll never create a gloomy room. Evaluate the light and the other colors in the space to determine whether they are "warm" or "cool." Gray can be sunny or blue-toned, and its personality should match the tone of the rest of the room. Flat paint is key; gloss makes the color look metallic and cheap. Slightly creamy trim trumps raw white. Even a dark gray has a soft edge to it, and creamy shades like ivory and bone blend more elegantly with gray walls. Don't limit gray to obvious spaces. The color works as well in the nursery as it does in the living room.

Cooking With Charcoal

  • Paint your dining room walls a velvet-gray in a shade between gunmetal and charcoal, and hang coal-black ceiling-to-floor velvet drapes, even if the windows themselves don't go that high. Cover the floor in large black and white tiles or a black-and-white hexagonal design carpet that conceals most of the polished hardwood. The wood you want to showcase is the rich burl table, gleaming under a cream and chrome contemporary pendant lamp. Dining chairs upholstered in emerald-green leather and a bright green potted tree against the thundercloud walls brighten the room without detracting from its dramatic appeal. You don't need red to stimulate appetites and conversation in this dining room.

Stone Soup

  • Medium blue-gray cabinets completely cover three walls in a warm gray kitchen. The final wall is either cream to match the ceiling or a wallpaper pattern of gray and cream that matches the cabinets. Walls in the small pantry, visible from the kitchen, are painted a paler shade of the stony blue-gray. Choose slate or sealed limestone tiles for the floor -- terra cotta competes with the austere beauty of the neutral color scheme. Go ahead and indulge in marble countertops and brushed stainless appliances and protect the counters with thick butcher-block cutting boards. Let all bright color in this kitchen come from fruits and vegetables; even the mixer and coffeemaker should be brushed metal or a deep gray finish. Supplement good natural light with plenty of overhead and task lighting to bring out all the blue-gray cabinetry detail.

Gray Water

  • A gray marble wet-floor bathroom could be part of a monastery if it weren't so luxurious. The walls, floor and ceiling that enclose the claw-foot tub and rain-shower head are huge tiles and panels of gray marble. A drain in the floor handles the shower run-off; the tub is gleaming white porcelain inside and matte cetacean-gray on the outside, with chromed claw feet. The wall opposite the tub and shower is painted to match the tub. Large windows are uncurtained and frosted to let in maximum light while providing privacy. Add a pillar candle, a slate tub of bamboo and a pile of fluffy gray towels, and hang a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.

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