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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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…
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 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
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 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!
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.
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.
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…
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…
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
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.
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
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…
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!
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)…
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
Check out my affordable E-design and Online Colour Consulting packages!
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2016, COMPLETELY UPDATED IN 2021