DESIGN CORNER: Gray, Everything You Need To Know

November 26 2021

Tones, shades, and patterns of colors go in and out of style. Sometimes quickly and other times a color will stay in style for years. Staying up to date on what color tones are in and which are out can often be as easy as driving down your neighborhood or reading a simple blog. But knowing how to style your home with those in-style color tones can be much harder. Here, we will address everything you need to know about the working with the color gray.

Credit: @southalabamashanna
Brick: Rushmore (cool gray)

History of Gray

Gray was an unpopular color for many years. It was associated with dreariness and sadness. Because of these negative emotions associate with gray, it was often left out of people’s design choices.

Starting in the early 2000’s beige hit the scene. With it, colors like soft blues and latte tones were all the rage. This transformation to soft toned colors gave gray a new platform. By around 2010, gray was starting to be used more and more. According to Sherwin Williams, “The graying of America begins in full force. Stainless steel appliances are the norm and we now opt for gray on our walls rather than beige.”


The exciting part of the “graying of America” is the idea gray can be paired with just about anything. It’s a very versatile tone for any home, both inside and out. But the versatility of grays can also make them very hard for anyone not experienced with interior design. In the next section, we’ll help you identify the different grays and how to use them in a design palette.

Get to Know Your Grays

There are thousands gray shades. You may feel overwhelmed while standing in front of the color swatches at Home Depot or looking through Sherwin Williams selections online. Don’t worry. Grays can essentially be broken down into four main groups.

Warm Grays: Warm grays have a distinct brown, yellow, or orange undertone to them. They are the closest thing to a beige in the gray family. A lot of people, when referring to warm grays, will often use the nickname “greige”, highlighting the close similarity to beige.

Cool Grays: Cool grays use a variety of bluish undertones. Cool grays can range in shade from light to dark, but the key feature to all cool grays is the hint of blue. Sometimes people can perceive even a soft purple when describing cool grays.

Neutral Grays: Neutral gray is exactly what is sounds like. It’s a simple, flat, even gray tone. More scientifically, neutral grays are simply the combination of white and black. There are no other colors or undertones to neutral grays. The lighter the gray, the more white is added. The darker the gray, the more black.

Dark Grays: Dark grays are similar to neutral grays in the sense that they are comprised of white and black tones only. The difference between the two is dark grays rely much more heavily on black shades. Dark grays are often described as dramatic and bold.

Where to Use Each Type of Gray

Being able to identify the four categories of gray is just the first step. Knowing where to use each one and with which colors to pair it is the next step. Knowing how to use a gray will make decorating and redesigning your home a breeze.

Warm Grays: Warm grays are very inviting colors. They pair very well with wood tones and natural stone. You should want to use other warm colors such a taupe. Think organic and natural colors when pairing with warm grays.

Cool Grays: Cool grays are used very often in modern style designs. They pair well with pure whites. Cool grays are also often used with other shades of blue. They create a moodier feel than warm grays, but that doesn’t mean your home won’t be inviting.

Neutral Grays/Dark Grays: Because these two gray categories are similar, we’ve combined them. Neutral grays will most often be paired with lighter and warmer tones. Think smooth and bright. The dark grays will be matched with more moodier, contrasting shades. Think dramatic and sharp.

Brick: Monument (cool gray)

One Thing to Watch Out For

You should be aware, anytime you use gray in any capacity, it most likely change on you. Depending on how you use it, and what other colors you pair it with, the color of your gray will probably change slightly. This is one of the best and worst side effects of using gray in your color scheme. If you’ve ever painted a wall without furniture and then put your furniture back in, you know what I’m talking about.

Above are two photos using the same brick. They both showcase our Kokkini Beach brick color. But because they are paired with different color tones, the one on the left a blue and the one on the right a brown, the brick gives off a different shade in each photo.

            The building material, brick, seems to accentuate this aspect of gray. Combined with the fact most of your wall or floor is grout, your gray brick will change color. You should be aware of how your brick will change color depending on your grout and the other colors it will be paired with in the room. For more information on how grout color will affect your brick color go check out our blog:

Recommendations When Using Gray

Coordinate Your Tones
Brick: Rushmore
  • Coordinate Your Tones: Be sure you have all the tones you want to use in your room. Lay them out so you can see how they pair with each other.
  • Get a Sample: Getting a sample of your brick is one of the best things you can do to make sure you are getting the color you want. You can purchase samples from our website, Home Depot’s website or from Floor & Décor.
  • Do Your Research: The more images you look at and blogs you read, the better prepared you will be when working with grays. Use Instagram and other social media sites. Pinterest and Houzz are ideal sources for interior design ideas and recommendations.  
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