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How Can I Make a Cool Gray Room Look More Inviting & Warm?

Posted on May 22, 2021 by KylieMawdsley

4 Ways to Warm up a Cold Gray Room

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 of the paint can when it comes time to warm up a gray room…

Living room, staircase, white spindles. Sherwin High Reflective White, Stonington Gray paint color on walls, Gray sectional. Kylie M Interiors diy online paint color consultant

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 when it comes to WARMTH and BALANCE…

NORTH-FACING ROOMS THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY

A room with northern exposure already has a gray natural light coming in the windows. Painting the walls a gray paint colour can further enhance the gloomy look rather than counteracting and complementing it.

Bathroom, free standing tub with pebble tile floor and gray porcelain. Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray paint color. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, virtual, online paint colour expert

Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray

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.

Dark room, bathroom with the best paint colour Dior Gray, Benjamin Moore. Clawfoot tub, porcelain tile floor. Kylie M E-design, color expert

Benjamin Moore Dior Gray

ROOMS WITH NO NATURAL LIGHT THAT ARE PAINTED GRAY

Same problem as the above room except for this time we don’t have ANY natural light to play with.

Sherwin Williams Gauntlet Gray, dark grey paint colour in small bathroom with granite countertop, beige tile floor. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

Sherwin Williams Gauntlet Gray

ROOMS WITH NO WARM COLOURS OR FINISHES 

A room that has gray floor tile, white cabinets and gray paint on the walls doesn’t have any warmth to balance out the cool colours – it’s alllll cool. Add a north-facing light to that and you’re living in an ice palace.

Bathroom vanity painted Metropolis Benjamin Moore gray. Caesarstone Bianco Drift greige quartz countertop, Moen Glyde faucet and porcelain tile flooring by Kylie M Interiors

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 colour on the walls…

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

Benjamin Moore Steel Wool

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

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 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 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 parlour
  • WOVEN HOME DECOR SUCH AS BASKETS & TRAYS. Great for throws, books, plants and more

Sherwin Williams Colonnade Gray, Cambria Summerhill quartz countertop, similar to Alabaster painted cabinets

Texture can also come in the form of permanent finishes, not just home decor…

Formica 180FX Calacatta Marble laminate countertop with hexagon marble accent tile and Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray painted cabinet by Kylie M Interiors

Believe it or not, this countertop is a laminate one 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!

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.

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, silly), it should create a triangle. This way, the majority of your room has light and there’s a connection between the sources.

Pendant lighting over the island in the kitchen

USE THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE OF BULB FOR YOUR ROOM (KELVINS)

This is a subject NEAR and dear to my heart (but so are wine, Doritos and Ryan Reynolds). Choosing the right KELVINS to suit your paint colour is a great way to control the visual temperature and ambience of a room.

Sherwin Williams Colonnade Cambria Summerhill Quartz countertop, pendant lights, wicker counter stools. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, Karly Parker hard finishes

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’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

3. ADD WARMTH TO A COOL GRAY ROOM WITH ACCENT COLOURS

Adding accent colours 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.

In this next room, if you took that ONE ORANGE CUSHION away, the whole vibe of the room would be thrown off-balance…

Living room with high ceiling, Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray walls, greige taupe paint colour, oak floor, navy blue sofa. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, client photo

COOL ACCENT COLOURS

Accent colours don’t necessarily need to be WARM to add a feeling of warmth to a room. While cool colours will always be cool, they can look a bit warmer when they have more depth and life to them (saturation).

In this next foyer, the strong blue in the area rug, combined with the texture of it add an inviting vibe to the space. The wood door is another important element in making this space look warmer and more balanced…

Solid wood custom front door, Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray paint color on walls, oak floor, High Reflective White (Sherwin) trim and board and batten in foyer entryway. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

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 end of things. 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, best gray paint colour. Red cherry furniture wood. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consultant. Low ceiling bedroom

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 it comes to adding balance to a cool looking room, NOTHING does the job better than wood. Why? Well, the right wood stain not only adds WARMTH to a space, it adds TEXTURE.

Powder room small bathroom with concrete look quartz countertop, warm gray, taupe greige penny tile, white oak vanity. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, round mirror

And 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

Sherwin Williams High Reflective White in bedroom with Stonington Gray in hallway with wood sliding barn door to closet. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint color consulting

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, colourful artwork to the scene…

Bathroom, freestanding tub, pebble tile floor. Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray paint color. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online decorating blog and virtual design

I mean, I wouldn’t say it wraps me up in a warm blanket of cosiness, 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!

Best cream, beige neutral paint colours. Living room and kitchen, Benjamin Moore Ballet White and Gray Cashmere with White Dove trim and fireplace. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, online paint colour consulting and advice blog

This next dining room was looking a little chilly in Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, but the warmth of Buttermilk Yellow in the foyer adds a much-needed balance (although I wouldn’t mind seeing it a bit toned-down)…

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

A FEW MORE THINGS TO NOTICE…

  • textured area rug (tone-on-tone approach)
  • throw blanket in a warm yellow
  • toss cushions in warm colours and fun patterns
  • adjoining room painted a warm colour
  • wood furniture
  • I might just throw a slightly brighter teal cushion on the sofa as well, adding some contrast to the yellow

READ MORE

Are Gray Paint Colours Still Trendy on Walls, Cabinets & Exteriors?

How to Redecorate Your Living Room Without Leaving Your Home

The 12 Best Whole Home Gray & Greige Paint Colours

Can I Paint My North-Facing Room Gray?

How to Accessorize a Mantel

NEED HELP?

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)

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016, COMPLETELY UPDATED IN 2021



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Comments

  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!
      ~Kylie

      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
      Author
  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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