5 WAYS TO MAKE A COOL GRAY ROOM LOOK WARMER
While I won’t say that gray is entirely outdated, it sure as heck isn’t today’s trendy choice for walls or cabinets. Sure, some darker grays are still kickin’ around, as are warmer versions, but gray is no longer the go-to color for homeowners and Designers.
The challenge is that the gray trend had people committing REALLY HARD to gray. This means that I often have to look outside the paint can when it comes time to warm up a gray room…
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
The following rooms are the biggest challenges regarding WARMTH and BALANCE…
ROOMS WHERE MORE THAN ONE MAIN SURFACE ARE GRAY
It’s one thing to have a gray countertop. Add in gray carpet, tile, or maybe even cabinets, and your chances of transitioning to something warmer aren’t gray-t.
NORTH-FACING ROOMS THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY
A room with northern exposure already has a cool gray natural light. Painting the walls a gray paint color can further enhance the gloomy look rather than counteracting and complementing it.
Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray
A room like this next one could easily fall flat and cool. However, the homeowner made some smart choices…
DARK ROOMS THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY
You’ll have many shady-looking areas in a room with low light. Shadows are gray – ’nuff said.
Benjamin Moore Dior Gray
ROOMS WITH NO NATURAL LIGHT
It’s the same problem as the above room, except we don’t have ANY natural light to play.
ROOMS WITH NO WARM COLORS OR FINISHES
This goes back to the first point about rooms with more than one gray surface. And it’s SO PREVALENT that, like Britney Spears, I’m hitting this baby one more time…
The challenge with the gray trend of 2015 (give or take five years) is that it was SO overdone. It’s one thing to have gray countertops, but top that off with gray carpet, backsplash tile, and paint colors, and your home is stuck in 2015 for eternity.
A room with too much gray doesn’t have any warmth to balance out the cool colors. Add the previously mentioned north-facing light to that, and you may as well invite Elsa to move in with you (for all you Frozen fans).
See this WHOLE BATHROOM REMODEL
Now, you might have your own special situation with gray. But it doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with; these five ideas will surely get your creative juices flowing…
1. ADD WARMTH WITH TEXTURE
Texture is a fabulous way to add warmth to a cold-looking gray room. In this next dining room and bedroom, you’ll see a RANGE of textured finishes, adding interest and warmth to balance the cool gray paint on the walls…
Benjamin Moore Steel Wool
Benjamin Moore Dorian Gray
HOME DECOR IDEAS TO ADD TEXTURE TO YOUR COOL ROOM
- THROW BLANKET. A well-placed throw can be an invitation on a chair, couch, or end of the bed.
- BEDDING. Rather than choosing plain cotton, find something with a bit of texture; it doesn’t need to be patterned to add some visual warmth and interest!
- TOSS CUSHIONS — a mild obsession of mine, amongst many other things, including Cornuts, white wine, and Ryan Reynolds (in no particular order).
- HEADBOARD OR BED FRAME. An upholstered headboard instantly warms up a bedroom, regardless of the color/type of fabric.
- DRAPES. Draperies soften a room and warm up hard edges and are a great way to add texture or pattern (or both).
- LAMPSHADES. Avoid lampshades with a bit of sheen, and find some with a nice slub, linen, or lightly textured look.
- AREA RUG. As long as it’s a rug, it will add texture to a room, but don’t be afraid to ‘shag’ a little – particularly in the bedroom (wink wink)
- BRANCHES OR FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS. Curly twigs are softer looking than straight branches. Flowers are good as long as they look reasonably real and aren’t reminiscent of the local funeral parlor (NO 1990s FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS, LADIES!)
- WOVEN HOME DECOR SUCH AS BASKETS & TRAYS. Great for throws, books, plants, and more.
Texture can also come in the form of permanent finishes, not just home decor…
Believe it or not, this countertop is a laminate one by Formica– it’s not real marble!
The hexagon backsplash and countertop are both cool-toned. Still, the visual texture and variety of gray tones warm the room considerably – and a little greenery never hurts, either!
These next two photos show GREAT examples of adding balance to a gray-inspired space…
- brown leather bar stools add a grounded warmth
- the brown of the TV cabinet and sofa table add warmth and visually connects with the counter stools
- the wood pieces are considerably textured
- textured poufs under the sofa table
- the decor pieces have very visible texture
- a dog ALWAYS makes a home feel homier; if you asked this lil dog-lovin’ Ginger
- even the visual of unlit candles can soften a cold space
2. WARM UP A GRAY ROOM WITH GOOD LIGHT BULBS
Lighting is often underrated when, in fact, it’s one of the most important parts of decorating a room.
CREATE A TRIANGLE OF LIGHT
You can create this decorative triangle using two table lamps and a floor lamp or three table lamps. When you draw a line between the three (not literally), it should create a triangle. This way, most of your room has light, and there’s a connection between the sources.
USE THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE OF BULB FOR YOUR ROOM (KELVINS)
This subject is NEAR and dear to my heart (but so are the previously mentioned fetishes). Choosing the right KELVINS to suit your paint color is a great way to control a room’s visual temperature and ambiance.
USE THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF LIGHT FOR YOUR ROOM
You need to figure out how much wattage your room needs, especially if it has reduced natural lighting. A well-lit room can support a variety of colors and depths, regardless of whether the light is natural or artificial.
Learn about How Much Light Your Room Needs
3. ADD WARMTH TO A COOL GRAY ROOM WITH ACCENT COLORS
People often ask what COLORS warm up a cool gray room. Assuming your walls are already gray, adding accent colors is undoubtedly one of the BEST ways to add warmth to a cold, gray room.
COOL COLORS are blue, green, purple, and neutrals with these undertones.
WARM COLORS are yellow, orange, red, and neutrals with these undertones.
You can play around with ALL of these colors (maybe not all at once) to add warmth and interest to a cool gray room.
WARM ACCENT COLORS
Warm accent colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, help to offset the chill of gray, adding some balance to the visual temperature of the room.
In this next room, if you take that ONE ORANGE CUSHION away, the room’s vibe will be thrown off-balance…
COOL ACCENT COLORS
Accent colors don’t necessarily need to be WARM to add warmth to a room. While cool colors will always be cool, they can look a bit warmer when they have more depth and life to them (saturation).
Some of my favorite cool colors to accent a room are teal, navy blue, and dark green.
In this next foyer, the strong blue in the area rug and its texture add an inviting vibe to the space. The wood door is another important element in making this space look warmer and more balanced…
TONE-ON-TONE ACCENT COLORS
You can also help gray look more inviting via a tone-on-tone palette, taking your gray into the medium and dark charcoal depths. Depth often leads to warmth, so don’t underestimate the value of darker neutrals; just don’t expect them to work as well as the warmer end of things!
Benjamin Moore Silver Chain
In the above photo, while the linens and rug certainly add texture and offer a tone-on-tone approach, the warmth of the wood furniture and golden hue in the bedding does the REAL heavy lifting.
BTW – ALL of the photos on this blog post are from my client’s homes, local and online!
4. WOOD TONES WARM UP A COLD GRAY ROOM
When adding balance to a cool-looking room, NOTHING does the job better than wood.
- most wood stains are in the red, orange, or yellow family (our previously discussed ‘warm accent colors)
- the right wood stain not only adds WARMTH to a space, but it also adds TEXTURE
It doesn’t need to be a MAJOR piece of wood, as shown with the above bathroom vanity; there are many ways to add wood to your space…
- small piece of furniture like a stool or table
- picture frames
- decorative bowl or vase
- cutting boards leaning against the backsplash
We saw this next bathroom previously, looking icy cool, and unwelcoming. But look at how it shifts when we add a bit of wood and textured, colorful artwork to the scene…
I mean, I wouldn’t say it wraps me up in a warm blanket of coziness, but these small touches definitely soften the space. Here are a few more things that could help…
- a textured white bath mat hanging over the side of the tub
- staining the wood stump a slightly warmer hue
- add some textured sheers to the window, softening the edges of the space and adding texture
- put a candle on the stump, as even the visual cue of a candle is inviting
- put a different frame around the art, as the silver is quite cold
5. EXPAND YOUR COLOR PALETTE IN ADJOINING ROOMS
If you want to warm up the perception of a cool room, try painting an adjoining room a warm paint color, creating a balanced BACKDROP to your gray room.
In this next home, the cool of Gray Cashmere (eating nook) is balanced by the subtle warmth of Ballet White in the living area. And just LOOK at all of that gloooorious texture! COME TO MOMMA!
While Benjamin Moore Arctic Gray is a cool blue-green-gray blend, painting the dining room Silver Satin helps add a subtle warm balance to the overall space…
And it’s not just the dining room that warms up the above space; it’s the oak flooring, warm-toned furnishings, and the influx of warm natural light from the dining window!
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016, COMPLETELY UPDATED IN 2023