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Design*Sponge Online Black Book: Grey Paint

by Grace Bonney

I have been dying to write this post ever since we decided to create an online resource book this year. Why? Because I wish I could live in a world where every wall was a perfect warm grey. Every time I hear someone say they think grey is a depressing wall color I think to myself, ‘They just haven’t found the right grey’. From the first moment I painted an over-loaded roller full of Benjamin Moore’s Chelsea Gray onto my apartment walls in 2004 to the last coat of Valspar’s Stratus that we used on our windowsills in the kitchen, I’ve been a diehard fan. Greys, much like black and white paint, can be tricky because the base color can read as a bit green, blue, purple or even more tan than grey. I highly recommend painting a test patch to see how it looks in the light. In general, I prefer a darker gray with a green or brown base- I think it feels rich and warm and never ever cold and concrete-y. xo, grace

*We also have a roundup of our favorite grey rooms and walls in homes. Click here to check it out for more grey inspiration.

Click through for our favorite picks after the jump!

*Please note, though the majority of my favorite grey paints ended up being from Benjamin Moore, they had no input or sponsorship of this post. They just seem to have a great selection of greys that both our team and the homeowners we’ve featured here love the most.

Chelsea Grey by Benjamin Moore: This is my favorite grey paint ever, period. I used it in my second apartment in New York and it’s what probably got the most comments of any room I’ve ever lived in. It’s funny because it photographs as quite blue sometimes, but it’s actually a VERY rich green base. I think green bases are my favorite because they’re warm and smooth and so velvety, but they also have that classic historic feel I love, too. If you’re ready for something dark and different that makes any artwork or photograph pop, this is your paint. (Really, this is your paint any time. It’s just perfect.)

Chelsea Gray in Leslie’s Home

Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore: This is the grey I hear most people try or have suggested by a designer. I’ve worked with in in my own home and find it is more of a greige than a true grey, but people love it so much (I liked it too) that I couldn’t leave it out. In some light this feels very neutral and taupe (like a safe pair of khaki pants) but in cooler lights it feels like a pale soft grey. I think this, along with the Martha paint below, is a great place to start if you’re nervous about the grey feeling too dark.

Revere Pewter, via the Nest

Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball: Probably my favorite truly DARK grey in the market. It’s got a blue undertone (which normally I dislike), but it’s a true charcoal color that feels dark and strong in all the right ways. Talk about a classic color and a good pair for something turquoise or coral-colored.

Down Pipe in AB Chao’s Bedroom

Dolphin by Benjamin Moore: Dolphin reminds me of a lighter, browner version of Chelsea Gray. It’s still rich and dark, but it isn’t quite as enveloping of a color as the darker hues here. I love this color against a rich red.

Dolphin in Jennifer Sarkilahti’s home

Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore: Hellooooo, dark grey. I love this color and think it’s fantastic, but it is a darker grey than most people feel comfortable trying. It’s got a warm brown/green base and I think it acts as the best backdrop for art and other wall hangings.

Kendall Charcoal in Jess Lively’s home

Nimbus Cloud by Martha Stewart: Martha knows a good neutral. This soft light grey is a true grey with very little of an underlying color that dominates (not too much green, blue, etc.). If grey scares you, I’d highly suggest starting with this super safe light grey.

martha nimbus
Nimbus Cloud via A Place 2 Call Home

Bear Creek by Benjamin Moore: As the name would suggest, this paint has a bit of a brown base to it. I’ve found it’s the one of the warmest greys I’ve ever worked with, and it has such a rich chocolatey feel to it- all while still being a definite grey.

bear creek
Bear Creek via Gardenista

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  • Dear Grace,

    I’ve been toying with painting my room grey for awhile now. Which shade of grey do you reckon will work best with marble tiled floors? Or should i stick to white? I love all the benjamin moore shades in this post but they aren’t available in my country :(

  • When I asked my landlord if I could paint my bedroom gray, I didn’t think about the creamy off-white color of the moldings and trim. A crisper, true white would have looked much better with it. Wondering if it’s just the shade I chose or if all grays might look better with white trim?

  • not to hit you with another question – but i’m getting a nursery ready and would love to paint one wall either a minty grey or a bluish grey (nothing too dark). any recommendations? a million merci’s!

  • love these! the best decision we’ve made for our house so far was benjamin moore’s “moonshine” upstairs and sherwin williams’ “first star” downstairs. very light whitish greys on the sample cards, but they read on the walls as the softest french greys. the greenish blue undertones shift beautifully with the light throughout the day.

  • I really love the Chelsea grey. I want to paint our living room a dark color and I love grey but I’m a little nervous as it is North facing? I used Grey Owl in several other rooms that are south facing but it looked completely different in the living room. I guess I will have to try a sample of the Chelsea.

  • How timely; we’re having most of our home’s interior painted with Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl next week! We painted our office/guest room that color a year or so ago, and I just love it. It is lovely as the light changes throughout the day. We also have Chelsea Gray in our bathrooms (the playground for the paint-timid?).

  • I have been searching for the perfect Grey for our small home. The walls of the kitchen, dining and living room are all connected so it’s hard to do separate colors. Thanks for a great list to get started.

  • Any Sherwin Williams recs? We’ve got an open layout and need to use Sherwin Williams for our kitchen/dining room renovation–I’m thinking very light gray with a little blue because our fireplace and counters are marble with blue-gray veining.

  • I used two shades of gray for my apartment–Iced Cube Silver and Silver Dollar. Both by Benjamin Moore. They have a cooler cast and look slightly blue during the day and neutral at night. I used the Iced Cube Silver to paint the trim instead of white. I dithered for a long time about which grays to use but a combination of a trip to the hardware store, forgetting my swatches, and the company of a nice but very no-nonsense friend made my mind up in a hurry! I’m happy with my choices. :-)

  • We just painted our hallway BM Gray Owl (love it – my favorite; a nice neutral grey), bedroom BM Revere Pewter (sometimes looks gray, sometimes beige), office BM Tundra (light gray with blue/purple undertones), living room BM Bunny Gray (blue undertones), all with BM White Dove trim (nice complement to all of the grays!)

  • Love grey paint! When we moved into our mostly light-filled house a year ago I wanted a very open and airy feeling, so I painted every room except the bathrooms in Benjamin Moore Iced Cube Silver. Agree that at certain times of day it can look a bit blue (and in one room, it actually looks a bit purple sometimes) but most of the time it is a lovely soothing cool grey. For trim I went with Chantilly Lace, which is a cool white. We have Carrera marble counter tops and back splash in the kitchen and these colors look great with the marble. Love this series, please keep ’em coming!

  • The Martha gray would be perfect for our tiny vintage Seattle home. LOVE the dark grays, but would be way too much for our gloomy climate. Though – could be perfect in a bedroom. Thanks so much for this feature!!!

  • I really like this series! I’m not planning to do any painting soon, but it’s really helpful to have these tried and true lists and photos for reference. I’m sure every designer has their go-to’s from experience (which is why it’s obviously helpful to hire one!), but it’s nice to have a cheat sheet to do on your own.

  • Maria Killam who is a ‘colour expert’ has wonderful and useful tips about selecting colors, including paying a lot of attention to the undertones in your furniture, fabrics and floor color and how they relate to the paint sample, rather than randomly selecting a paint from a chip. In other words, it usually pays to buy a sample and try it out!

  • I used a Behr Light French Gray in a bedroom recently because I’m afriad of a dark paint color. I like how it looks against white trim but with all the natural light in the room it looks almost baby blue most of the time which I did not want! Thanks for the feature–it has inspired me to rethink my grays and greys!

  • After 4 tries at finding the perfect grey for an accent wall in my south-facing living room, I recommend that one should pay attention to the quality of light during the course of the day. A color that looks great in the early morning may appear different in the afternoon light. I finally settled on BM Coventry Gray (HC 169)–not too blue, not too dark for my living room.

  • We painted our open-concept kitchen/family room and adjoining mud room in Benjamin Moore’s Gray Cashmere (2138-60). It reads gray-green on the paint chip, seemed light blue when it first went up. After living with it and adding furnishings, etc. it is the most wonderful misty, color-shifting, bright and relaxing gray. Our trim and cabinetry is all BM’s White Dove. I am considering painting the inside of the mud room door a darker gray. Anyone had any luck coordinating different shades of gray? Would love to hear!

  • Hi Grace! So glad I found your article about grey paint! I came to your site while searching for info re: BM Revere Rewter. I have already chosen the Chelsea grey for my dining room, and I’m looking for a bit lighter shade for the great room and entry way. It will extend upstairs since the wall angles up over a balcony that runs the width of the living room. Any suggestions on a lighter shade that will go with the Chelsea grey and cover a fairly large area? Thanks!

  • Hi, I appreciate your article on grey paint. I’m really struggling with finding a deep rich dark brown/gray. I painted one wall in Ben Moore Indian River. I love that, but want a very dark brown/grey. I tried BM Woodcliff Lake, but would like it to be a bit more brown, and deeper/darker. My wood trim is dark walnut. There’s a wall with two doors on it that I’d like to make “disappear”. Hope this makes sense. I’d really appreciate your input. Is Bear Creek darker than Woodcliff Lake ? SW Urbane bronze ? I’m trying to steer clear of green, purple, blue or maroon undertones. Everything in the room is warmly neutral.
    I hope you can suggest something. I’ve been through 11 samples already. Thanks, Peggie

  • Love, Love, Love this post! In the process of painting our new house. Found you by looking up Nimbus Cloud paint. This will be the color of the great room and kitchen. Chelsea Gray for the dining room. It is so nice to read something to confirm what Ive been thinking! So want to be a color expert. Any suggestions?

  • Den- SW Dorian Gray, Kitchen-SW Dovetail, Dining Room-Gray Owl w/blue undertone. My foyer is small & wanted a pop of color since the other rooms are gray. You see all these rooms from foyer. Any suggestion? Thank you

  • Hi what exterior door colour should i pick for kendell charcoal exterior colour with black trim on windows and door. Thanks

  • Thank you for this piece on grays!!! I am gong to paint the wainscoting in our back entryway Chelsea. What color would you recommend to paint the upper walls?

  • I just painted hall/mudroom wainscoting Chelsea gray and need a color above it-?gray owl? Revere pewter? Wickham gray?

  • Hi, I have an open space very light exposed home. I have started to paint my pantry cupboards in BM chesley grey ( over oak ), love it so far. I was planning on painting the remaining cupboards in cloud white also BM. I have a large Mahogany Hutch that is a dominant feature in the kitchen. I was wondering if you may have any suggestions as to a wall color that would carry from kitchen to living area.

  • I’m trying to choose a gray paint for a beach house. It’s nestled in with live oak trees. I love Chelsea Gray. Do you think this would be a good choice for an exterior? Thanks!!

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