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Ask Kylie: How Can I Make Gray Feel Warmer?

Posted on May 22, 2016 by KylieMawdsley

4 Ways to Make a Cold Gray Room Feel Warm

Just because gray is THE most popular paint colour doesn’t mean that it’s the BEST colour for every home and room. And while some grays are warmer than others, often I have to look outside of the paint can to come up with ways to warm up a gray – particularly in rooms such as these…

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray farmhouse style dining room with decor Kylie M E-design

  • North facing rooms. A room with northern exposure already has a blue/gray natural light. Painting the walls a gray colour can further enhance the gloomy grays, rather than counteracting and complementing them
  • Rooms with very little natural light. In a room with low-light, you will have a lot of shadows. Shadows are gray – ’nuff said
  • Rooms with NO natural light. Same problem as the above room
  • Rooms with no warm colours or texture. For example, a room with smooth gray tile, white cabinets and gray paint doesn’t have any warmth to balance out the cool colours

And while I try to guide my north facing clients toward softer, warmer options, often they are set on gray – regardless of natural lighting and products. This means that we pick the best gray possible and then start looking elsewhere for our warm fuzzies – elsewhere being a bottle of red wine, warms me up every time! Oh, and these ideas too…

Partner post:  The 4 Best Warm Gray Paint Colours – Sherwin Williams


Idea #1    Add Warmth to a Gray Room with Texture

Texture is a fabulous way to add warmth to a gray room. For example…

Large farmhouse wood sign in dining room. UPholstered bench, wood table. Kylie M E-design

Wood flooring and furniture. Satin finish, wire brushed and hand-scraped wood flooring are popular these days as the reduced sheen can really show off the texture of the wood – without being overpowered by a lacquered, high-gloss sheen. You’ll also want to consider a wood flooring that is not 100% gray toned. Make sure there is some brown in there, not just to visually warm it up, but also for longevity as the gray wood flooring (or laminate) is a pretty big trend that will eventually disappear.

Fabric. Along with the gray paint trend, there are a lot of muslin and canvas style fabrics that add the perfect texture to a space when used on toss cushions, bedding, furnishings or draperies.

Sherwin Williams Ellie Gray in a master bedroom with white furniture and cathedral ceiling. Kylie M Interiors e-design

Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray, linen headboard. Kylie M E-design, online paint colour, decorating consultant

Examples of Texture

  • Throw blanket. A well-placed throw can be an invitation on a chair, couch or end of the bed (wait, do we really need to encourage them?)
  • Bedding. Rather than choosing a plain cotton, find something with a bit of texture to it, 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
  • Headboard. An upholstered headboard instantly warms up a bedroom, regardless of the colour/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. Stay away from lampshades that have a bit of sheen to them 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 and 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 parlour
  • Woven products such as baskets and containers. Great for throws, books, plants and more

Texture can also be in the form of permanent products – not just ‘decor’…

Formica 180FX Calacatta Marble laminate countertop with hexagon marble accent tile and Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray painted cabinet by Kylie M InteriorsBelieve it or not, this countertop is by Formica– it’s not real marble!

The hexagon backsplash and countertop are both completely cool-toned, but the visual texture and variety of gray tones warm the room up considerably – and a little touch of greenery never hurts either!


Idea #2    Add Warmth to a Gray Room With Lighting

Lighting is SOOO underrated when it comes time to decorate/design a room and it is UNDOUBTEDLY one of the most important parts – particularly in a gray or low-light room!

Here are a few things to think about…

Create a triangle of light. A triangle of light means that the majority of your space is well-lit and there is also some relative balance from one side of the room to the other. This can be 2 table lamps and a floor lamp or 3 table lamps. When you draw a line between the 3 (not literally silly), it should create a triangle.

Pendant lighting over the island in the kitchen

The right amount of light. You need to figure out how much wattage your room needs, especially if it’s a room with reduced natural lighting. A well-lit room can support a variety of colours and depths, regardless of whether the light is natural or artificial.

Learn about How Much Light Your Room Needs


Idea #3    Add Warmth to a Gray Room With Accent Colours

This is undoubtedly one of the BEST ways to add warmth to a cool, gray feeling room. Cool colours are blue, green purple and neutrals with those undertones. Warm colours are yellow, orange, red and neutrals with those undertones. You can actually play around with ALL of these colours (maybe not all at once) when you want to add warmth and interest to a cool gray room.

Warm Accent Colours

Warm accent colours help to offset the chill of gray, adding some balance to the visual temperature of the room.

How to warm up a gray room. Guest bedroom in Sherwin Williams Collonade Gray with yellow and white accents. By Kylie M Interiors Color Consultant and E-DesignShown here, Sherwin Williams Collonade Gray

This room was for a Home Stage, so the decor was kept simple and we stuck to one dominant accent colour.

Beautiful farmhouse country style living room with Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray and built ins by Kylie M INteriorsShown here, Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

While Edgecomb Gray is one of the warmer gray paint colours on the market, it still needs the added touch of texture, pattern and accent colours to jazz things up!

E-design, virtual interior design, decorating, paint colour consultant and expert. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams. circle ad (9)

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Cool Accent Colours

Accent colours don’t necessarily need to be WARM to add the feeling of warmth to a room. While cool colours will always be cool, they feel warmer when they are saturated and in the medium to dark range.

How to warm up a room painted gray with warm accents and home decor. Shown with Benjamin Moore Gray Owl by Kylie M InteriorsShown here, Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

Tone-on-Tone Accents

You can also help gray feel warmer and inviting via a tone-on-tone palette, taking your gray into the medium and dark charcoal end of things. Depth often leads to warmth, so don’t underestimate the value of darker neutrals!

Benjamin Moore Gray Owl with gray sectional and toss cushionsShown here, Benjamin Moore Gray Owl

While there are indigo and yellow to jazz things up, notice that the drapes, couch, coffee table and most of the toss cushions are versions of gray!

BTW – ALL of the photos on this blog post are from my client’s homes, local and online! (and I snuck my dining room in too…)


Idea #4    Add Warmth to a Gray Room by Expanding Your Palette

Paint an adjoining room in a warm paint colour so that it’s a beautiful and balanced backdrop to your gray room.

E-design. Farmhouse country style paint palette, Benjamin Moore Buttermilk yellow and Revere Pewter gray. Oak flooring and furnishings. Kylie M Interiors blog

How to make a gray paint colour feel warm. Shown in living room with Revere Pewter, gray sectional and yellow and blue accents and home decor by Kylie M Interiors

Read more:  A More Colourful Farmhouse Palette

  1. The textured area rug
  2. The throw blanket in a warm yellow
  3. Toss cushions in warm colours and fun patterns
  4. An adjoining room painted a warm colour
  5. Warm wood toned furniture
  6. Decorative branches on the accent table (you’ll see them in the background)

Need some personalized colour ideas for YOUR home?

Check out my affordable E-design and Online Colour Consulting packages!

E-design, virtual online colour consulting expert. Kylie M Interiors. Paint color ideas. Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams circle (14)

Kylie M Interiors      E-Design, Color Consultant and Online Decorating and E-Design Services     Based in Nanaimo BC, Vancouver Island



  1. wine, shagging, cobweb… you made me laugh on a particular dreary workday. thank you! And thanks for the fantastic tips.

  2. I think the “Ask Kylie” posts are going to be a great new addition! And thanks for the feature…,man I have a nice living room. 😉

    1. Hi! That is an excellent question and could be a blog post all on it’s own – but seeing as I just did one like it, I’ll throw some thoughts at you here…
      1. Adding green to blue helps it feel a bit warmer. Both colours are cold, but a blue with purple in it feels colder than a blue with a bit of green in it.
      2. Adding yellow to green helps to make it feel warmer because yellow is a warm colour – even just a dab can get you on the right track!
      3. Depth. The more rich cool colours are, the warmer they can feel simply due to the ‘depth’. So a medium/darker toned blue or green can feel warmer than a light or off-white blue or green

      So, to SPECIFICALLY answer your question after that blabbing, yes. Find a blue with some green in it (like Palladian Blue, Wythe Blue, Gray Cashmere) or a green with some yellow in it (Camouflage, Brookside Moss).

      HOpe that helps!

      1. THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I LOVE YOUR POSTS !! I have learned so much and I love how easy to follow your advice is not to technical (for those of us that are color challenged :))
        Thank you!!

  3. Hello Kylie, I am so glad I found your blog…I’d like to introduce a grey color. Since we have an open floor plan, I thought in the dinning room to paint 2 walls on either side of our dinning table with a warm grey with undertones of yellow/brown.
    All the other walls are painted in rich dark chocolate brown. The ceiling, trims, fireplace mantel and window treatments in clean crisp white. The wood floors and dinning table and chairs are in dark walnut, the upholstered furniture fabric has brown/golden yellow/red tones. I have tried the Benjamin Moore, Himalayan Trek, too “muddy”, so then I tried the Spring in Aspen, but too yellow. The Collingwood color seams to be right in the middle, but I’d like another suggestions in the Benjamin Moore line?

    1. Post
  4. Kylie, New home, blank slate and I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong color (non-color) decisions. My daughter is a fan of white walls and pale greige trim. I like the idea, but getting the right ones is scary. Looking at BM Dove White for the walls and BM Ashwood for the trim, doors, upper cabinets, etc. Have looked at SW Thunder Gray, Rock Bottom and Iron Ore for the lowers. Any suggestions?

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