5 WAYS TO MAKE A COOL GRAY ROOM LOOK WARMER
Just because gray is a popular colour doesn’t mean it’s the BEST colour for every home and homeowner. And while some grays are warmer than others, I often have to look outside the paint can when it comes time to warm up a gray room…
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
And while this topic can be open to perception depending on your personal tastes, the following rooms are the biggest challenges regarding WARMTH and BALANCE…
NORTH-FACING ROOMS THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY
A room with northern exposure already has a cool gray natural light affecting it. Painting the walls a gray paint colour 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…
- brown leather bar stools add a grounded warmth
- the brown of the tv cabinet and sofa table add warmth and visually connect 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
ROOMS THAT ARE DARK & PAINTED GRAY
In a room with low light, you’ll have a lot of shady-looking areas. Shadows are gray – ’nuff said.
Benjamin Moore Dior Gray
ROOMS WITH NO NATURAL LIGHT THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY
Same problem as the above room, except this time, we don’t have ANY natural light to play with.
Sherwin Williams Gauntlet Gray
ROOMS WITH NO WARM COLOURS OR FINISHES
The challenge with the gray trend 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.
The challenge is that a room with too much gray doesn’t have any warmth to balance out the cool colors. Add a north-facing light to that, and you’re living in an ice palace.
See this WHOLE BATHROOM REMODEL
And while I try to guide my north-facing clients toward softer, warmer options, they’re often set on gray – regardless of natural lighting and surrounding finishes. This means that we pick the best gray possible and then start looking elsewhere for our warm fuzzies – ‘elsewhere,’ being a bottle of wine, warms me up every time! Oh, and these ideas too…
The 4 Best Warm Gray Paint Colours – Sherwin Williams
1. ADD WARMTH TO A COOL GRAY ROOM WITH TEXTURE
Texture is a fabulous way to add warmth to a 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 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 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 up considerably – and a little touch of greenery never hurts, either!
Budget-Friendly Bathroom Update Ideas
2. ADD WARMTH TO A COOL GRAY ROOM WITH LIGHTING
Lighting is often underrated when, in fact, it’s one of the most important parts of decorating a room.
Is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter the Best Cabinet Color For Your Home?
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 colour is a great way to control the visual temperature and ambiance of a room.
How KELVINS & Light Bulbs Affect Paint Colours
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. And 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 COLOURS are blue, green, purple, and neutrals with these undertones.
WARM COLOURS are yellow, orange, red, and neutrals with these undertones.
You can actually play around with ALL of these colors (maybe not all at once) when you want 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 COLOURS
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, combined with its texture, adds an inviting vibe to the space. The wood door is another important element in making this space look warmer and more balanced…
Are Gray Paint Colours Still Trendy on Walls, Cabinets & Exteriors?
TONE-ON-TONE ACCENT COLOURS
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, it’s actually the warmth of the wood furniture and golden hue in the bedding that does the REAL heavy lifting.
BTW – ALL of the photos on this blog post are from my client’s homes, local and online!
4. ADD WOOD TO A COOL 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. ADD WARMTH TO A COOL ROOM BY EXPANDING YOUR PALETTE
If you want to warm up the perception of a cool room, try painting an adjoining room a warm paint colour, 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!
Are Gray Paint Colors Still Trendy on Walls, Cabinets & Exteriors?
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Can I Paint My North-Facing Room Gray?
Check out my E-design & Online Color Consulting packages!
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016, COMPLETELY UPDATED IN 2023
wine, shagging, cobweb… you made me laugh on a particular dreary workday. thank you! And thanks for the fantastic tips.
Well I’m glad to hear that I gave you a good giggle – thanks for letting me know!
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. 😉
Is there a way to find “warm” blue or green?
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!
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 :))
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?
Hi Maggie! When it comes to personal questions with some important details, it’s really best that I spend time with your home, otherwise I’m totally just guessing. If you’d like to try out my E-design, I have some affordable and fun packages and this way I can look at photos of your space and come up with ideas that will work! https://www.kylieminteriors.ca/online-decorating-design-services/
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?