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How to Choose Your Room’s Best Shade of Gray

Posted on August 24, 2023 by KylieMawdsley

4 Tips for Choosing a Gray Paint Color (& why it’s so friggin’ hard!)

In the words of the great Leonard Bernstein, ‘I feel PRETTY and WITTY and GRAAAAAY!’. Okay, so maybe it was gay, not gray, but either way, I’m feeling pretty AND witty. And since I’m feeling so darn good, it’s a good time to do some deep-diving into the world of gray.

Spa style relaxing bathroom with Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray. Best gray paint color. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, online paint color consulting blog

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Other than white, gray is hands-down, one of the HARDEST paint colors to choose (to which many of you might say that ANY paint colour is hard to choose), but seriously, gray is a bugger.

Why is gray such a pita (pain in the…)? Because it’s a chameleon, and no matter WHICH gray you choose, it will shift itself on a wall-to-wall basis. That’s right, JUST when you think you’ve landed on THE gray of your dreams, it goes and changes colour.

So, without further ado, let’s get this color party started…



If you want to embark into the wild world of grays, these five tips should get you well on your way. If you’re stuck, I have a great Online Paint Color Consulting service (it’s also super fun).


Gray will have undertones of either blue, green, or purple. You might not want ANY undertones. Or maybe you like one or two of them, but not the others.

Well, guess what, Buttercup? What your room needs is MORE IMPORTANT than what you need. Or, you can prioritize your own tastes and potentially have a clashing hot mess of a space – you do you, boo.

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter wall, Cloud White painted wood cabinets, gray granite countertop. Kylie M Paint color blogger

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter with granite countertops

However, while SOME GRAYS commit pretty hard to one particular undertone, many grays will flex their color muscles depending on the following:

  • Time of day (position of the sun).
  • Your room’s exposure.
  • The temperature of your light bulbs.
  • Exterior factors, i.e., green grass/shrubs, a red brick wall close by, etc…
  • Interior finishings such as a warm wood floor or a forest green sofa.
  • The actual ‘recipe’ of the colour (what colors are blended together to create it).
  • Your PERCEPTION. While the colour itself is NOT subjective (it is what it is), how it’s PERCEIVED can vary from person to person!

Benjamin Moore Shoreline is a great example of a gray that CAN’T decide which undertones it wants to flash – purple, blue, green; it’s happy to show you ALL of them. It’s a GREAT example of gray and it’s (ahem) ‘flexibility’ (said slowly and painfully using air quotes).

How to pick the best gray paint colour. Showing Benajmin Moore Shoreline by Kylie M INteriors Edesign blog

You might even think those walls are three different colors, but they’re ALL Shoreline!

Sherwin Williams Repose Gray is equally as unpredictable, as shown in this foyer…

Undertones of Sherwin Williams Repose Gray, shown with orange toned oak wood flooring and railing. Kylie M Interiors Edesign

However, MANY grays are similar to Shoreline and Repose Gray in that their surrounding environment easily influences them.

But here’s the trick…

The more COMMITTED a color is to its undertone, the LESS LIKELY it is to grab the others. So, if you purposefully want to avoid blue or green, find a gray that commits to violet.

Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist. Warm gray, greige paint colour. Kylie M Interiors Online Color Consulting and E-decor services

A gray like Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist COMMITS to violet.

If you DESPISE violet undertones, choose a gray that heavily favors blue and green. Not that they won’t EVER flash the other undertone given the right circumstance, but they’re WAAAY less likely to, due to their particular undertone commitment.

Do your research and sample a range of grays. See which undertones coordinate with your bossiest finishes (i.e., countertop, tile, fireplace stone, etc…). And while you’ll want to consider your room’s exposure and your personal tastes as well, you should prioritize what your SPACE needs.



You’ll be greatly disappointed if you expect your gray to look the same on every wall. IT WILL CHANGE AND IT WILL HAVE UNDERTONES. I promise. As shown in the previous examples, gray will flex itself more than a 10-year-old gymnast, not just from home to home, but from WALL TO WALL!

Once we accept a paint color’s limitations and tendencies, we can let go of things a bit and breathe a little easier.

Sample and compare a minimum of three shades of gray. Move them to different walls at different times of the day (always place your samples next to either trim, tile, stone, etc… never just floating in the middle of the wall). The key is to find a gray that you ‘generally like on every wall, at least 75% of the time’ while trying to avoid the specific undertones that you don’t like.

Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray, popular grey paint colour, bedroom with gray blue linens, wood headboard. Kylie M Interiors client photos

Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray



Whether you love a light, fresh gray or a dark, moody one, your room will also have its preferences based on its existing finishes. The great thing is that unlike undertones, which need to cater HARD to your interior finishes, your personal tastes can also play a big part in your final choice.

Dining room with wainscoting in Sherwin Williams Creamy, walls Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray, ceiling Oakwood Manor. Round dark wood dining table and home decor

Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray

But before you dive in, you might want to learn about LRV. LRV stands for Light Reflectance Value. Every paint color has an LRV number on a scale of 0-100, with 0 being black and 100 being white.

Once you know the LRV range you want, finding colors within that range will be much easier!

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Paint Colors With LRV

Aside from each paint color’s LRV number, here are some other considerations…

Just keep in mind, based on current trends, gray is going OUT, and warm colors are IN. If you aren’t worried about trends, hit gray as hard as you want. However, if trends or RESALE are in your mind, you might want to paint gray in moderation or consider something warmer.



Of the colors you’ve already explored, you might have already FOUND your room’s perfect shade of gray – you just discarded it because you didn’t sample it the RIGHT WAY!

  • Your existing paint color WILL skew your perception of your new samples – you must separate old and new with white paper/posterboard between them.
  • You need LARGE SAMPLES and should never rely on the small paper chips from the paint store.
  • NEVER pick a sample based on how it looks at the paint store – look at it in your home.
  • Don’t just hang your sample in the middle of the wall and expect it to look perfect. Place it next to trim, backsplash, stone, etc… to see how it relates to its surrounding finishes.

In fact, read this… How to Sample Paint Colors the RIGHT WAY




Which gray paint color is the most popular can depend on which DEPTH you’re looking for and what you’re painting – walls, cabinets, or exteriors. However, these ten colors should get you started…

  1. Sherwin Williams Repose Gray
  2. Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter
  3. Benjamin Moore Classic Gray
  4. Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist
  5. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl
  6. Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray
  7. Sherwin Williams Light French Gray
  8. Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray
  9. Benjamin Moore Silver Satin
  10. Benjamin Moore Collingwood


The 12 Best WHOLE HOME Gray & Greige Paint Colors

The TOP 10 WARM Gray Paint Colors 

How to Update a Gray Room

The Best Warm Neutrals That AREN’T BEIGE! 


Check out my  E-design & Online Paint Color Consulting packages! 

edesign, virtual paint colour consulting. Kylie M Interiors Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams color expert. marketing (29)

Chat soon,

Kylie M Interiors, decorating blog, e-design, online colour consulting expert. signature



  1. My favorite light gray is Sherwin Williams ‘Passive’. I have it in my living room that faces south west and it is the most gorgeous true-to-proper-light-gray I’ve found. ( I had to paint over a Benjamin Moore shade that worked great in my foyer and hallway but drove me nuts with how blue it looked in my living room. )

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      Hiya Toni! You are the 2nd one to ask that! That is SW Ellie Gray with SW Big Chill. Ellie Gray can sometimes swing a weee (like super wee) wink blue-green!


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      Thank you for letting us know Janu, it’s comments like these that help other readers explore new colours! The last comment was about Knitting Needles, which is quite similar with it’s SUPER passive purple undertone!


  2. Have you ever used Sherwin Williams knitting needles? It is a beautiful shade of gray that doesn’t appear to have a blue, green, or purple undertone. I absolutely love it! Are used it in my master bedroom and master bath. You are correct though, it looks totally different in each room. 🙂
    I love the dark gray on the page you displayed that says “start painting stop guessing “. What color is that wall? It’s very rich looking.
    I really enjoy reading your articles. They are informative as well as being entertaining! You were very witty!

    1. Post

      Well, thank you Kelly! And yes, I have used Knitting Needles, it’s GORGEOUS (I just referred it to an E-design client today too!). And while it might look pretty darned gray to you, it does flex a bit into purple (just so you know ;). YOu might not even see it until you compare it to say, a gray-green or blue-green!

      As for that ‘Stop Guessing, Start Painting, that is SW Ellie Gray which is a soft moody gray with a VERY (very) VAGUE blue-green undertone. 🙂

  3. very informative info about grays. I have revere pewter and it does seem to look good with everything….I would like something fresher, but I just can’t stand the purple, blue, pink, or strong green undertones. Could you do a video on the Sherwin Williams paint color “On the Rocks” ? I’m really interested to hear how you would review it. Thank you!

  4. Hi Kylie;
    So what you are saying is that there are basically 50 shades of gray or is it grey? I love your blog it’s not only entertaining but very educational!I have a question for you Kylie, So if you had let say stonington gray and you wanted to transition into a more neutral color down the hall or adjacent room without having to paint over stonington,…what would be your choice? What is your go to neutral, what would compliment stonington without clashing with it? Would love to know your thoughts on your choice of neutrals, would it be gray, or not?


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      Ooo, to complement it, but get out of gray, I almost think you’d want to go to a warm off-white, slightly creamy, something like BM White Down, but the warmth of it will pop a bit more off of Stonington. And while it’s not entirely ‘warm’, I do like Classic Gray which is a slightly warm gray :), a bit of a transition perhaps.

      1. Thanks KYLIE, so from a LRV perspective that you cover so well in your videos (thank you)I I do prefer the LRV of such colors as;Tapestry beige, balboa mist, edgecomb gray and so on…Would any of these colors work alongside stonington gray??? I don’t mind gray tones that are a tad more neutral I am just trying to lean away from the blue hue that stonington brings, as my room is a shady one. Thanks

  5. I chose Collingwood for my southwest bedroom after failing with Anew Gray(too much green). MOST times of the day I’m happy with my choice but certain hours I still get a hint of green. Based on your blog, I attribute this to lots of green outside my window from our yard and open space behind us. I wish I’d gone a tad darker because of the light in the room.
    Kylie, your blog has been tremendously helpful! Thank you.

  6. Thanks for the drinking advice – that has been the most helpful tip during this process. I’m currently reading this posting (again) while sipping Rose. We are moving to a (mostly) North facing apartment in NYC with good windows. The other exposures are East and face a brick townhouse wall (aaaah, NYC). The whole apartment is currently painted Super White which is a little too stark for our tastes but we may just give up and use that! Yes, the bedroom looks pink in the morning.

    The living dining, foyer are one big room. The kitchen and bath are grey and white. We thought – easy-peasey we currently have Revere Pewter and love it in our south facing apt. WRONG – looked terrible. So tried foam boards with all the grays in your blog – Balboa (purple) , Edgecomb and Classic Gray (too beige), paper white (too blue), Gray Owl (too blue). We finally found BM Light Pewter, but I can’t find it reviewed anywhere to understand their possible undertones. They actually seems like a lighter, slightly grayer version of Revere Pewter , and we found Rodeo which seems like a lighter RP. Have you ever seen anyone use BM Light Pewter (or Rodeo)?

    1. Post

      Okay, so while they can flex around, Rodeo can favour a very (and I do mean VERY) mild green, not unlike Revere Pewter. Light Pewter is a warm gray that can pick up a weee faint purple, but fractional 🙂

  7. I don’t like grey AT ALL in any way, shape, form or hue (green-grey, purple-grey, its all screams grey to me). Grey just looks depressing. I’ve had several design “consults” with color experts and they all recommended grey hues – even when I told them I “hate” grey in any form. Unfortunately, I listened to them and now hate my living room – but I’m selling soon so it will look “trendy” by golly! It seems to me most designers/color experts have their “stock-trendy colors” and recommend them. I’m hoping that the “grey-trend” will end in 2020 (it started in 2010, at least on the US “coasts” which are quick to embrace the latest trend), having outlived it’s 10 year “run”.

    At any rate to each his own. I found the post interesting from the perspective of how light influences colors – even grey. I’ve learned a lot about color undertones and light from this blog (thanks Kylie!) and can’t wait to pick out colors in my new place.

    1. Post

      Oh Joyce, you know, you aren’t the only one! I’ve had a lot of demand lately for the warmer end of things and I think things are slowly swinging around. I don’t know that we’ll hit full-blown beige anytime soon (with regard to neutrals), but things they are a changin’!

  8. We recently used Gray Owl for a client/friend (I helped raise him, now I get to help him decorate as we’ve both moved to another state – how fun!). Gray Owl definitely went greener, which works as he has a green leather sectional and a green-grey brick fireplace. However, it got darker than we wanted in the areas that don’t have a lot of natural light.

  9. Hi Kylie! I a recently discovered your blog, and I love it! After four years in our home, we are finally getting around to redoing our laundry/mudroom. Hooray! My husband is doing all the work–all I have to do is pick the paint color. We chose pretty gray cabinets (to replace the old brown ones) and the floor is a lovely whitish gray faux-wood. Washer and dryer are white. It’s a north-facing room with a ton of sunlight from the one big window. I wanted to do a blue (my favorite color, and yet I have no blue paint anywhere in our house), but we worried about going too dark. So we finally chose Stonington Gray, based on some of your reviews. While I love the color, I think it’s too similar to the cabinet color. So should we go light, like maybe Silver Satin or an off-white (which seems boring to me) or pick a different color altogether? We put up some Revere Pewter (along with Gray Owl and several other blue/grays) but I’m just not sure with the gray cabinets. Any thoughts? Thank you!!

    1. Post
  10. Hi Kylie,
    Love your posts as you provide so much information. What is the difference between SW knitting needles and SW Silverplate? I painted my bedroom SW tinsmith but it turned out baby blue, so I’m looking for a colour that looks more gray.

    1. Post

      Oooo good question as there’s a big difference! Well, in my eyes anyway ;). Silverplate is a soft stormy gray that can grab a blue (or sometimes blue-green) undertone – but it is SOFTER AND MORE MUTED than the blue found in
      Tinsmith for sure.
      Knitting Needles is also that bit stormy (not icy cold) but leans into a soft PURPLE undertone. Of the 3, I would say Silverplate would SEEM the most neutral, although all grays have some undertones – it’s just about picking the ones that suit your room the best!

  11. Thank you for sharing your tips! Can you please tell me the colour of the walls in the photo of the white kitchen with wicker counter stools please? The photo just above your video. Thank you.

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