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HOW TO DECORATE WITH BEIGE & GRAY (OR WARM & COOL)

Posted on April 27, 2023 by KylieMawdsley
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DO BEIGE & GRAY GO TOGETHER? The warm vs. cool trick

Do you have gray walls and want to warm things up a little? Or maybe you have a BEIGE-ON-BEIGE home (hellloooo, Tuscan trend) and want to add some cool balance with gray, greige, or taupe. Either way, pairing warm and cool colors together is tricky business.

WHY?

There’s ONE BIG REASON. And once you understand the ‘WHY’ of it all…

  • you’ll save yourself a LOT of pain, suffering, and marriage counseling bills
  • it will be SO much easier to coordinate beige and gray in your room/home
  • you’ll be able to find shades of gray and beige that actually go together

The above doesn’t mean you’ll LOVE what I have to say, but just because it hurts doesn’t mean it isn’t true (just like when Tim says wine isn’t a breakfast beverage). So here it is…

how to coordinate beige carpet, countertop, tile paint with gray, greige or taupe, Kylie Mawdsley, Kylie M Interiors

 

HOW TO MIX BEIGE WITH GRAY, TAUPE, OR GREIGE

First, when I say BEIGE, you can also assume I’m talking about cream paint colors. It’s easier to say this than to say ‘beige and cream’ every single time – although I DO love to hear myself talk.

Benjamin Moore Navajo White, modern farmhouse style dining room. Best cream paint colour, Cloud White trim. Kylie M Interiors

Second, when I say ‘cool colors,’ I’m not just talking about gray; I’m talking about any color that’s COOLER THAN beige (or cream) – and that’s a lot of colors when it comes to the wild world of neutrals. And trust me when I tell you this next part…

When partnering cool colors with warm colors (or finishes), the cool colour should be DARKER than the warm one (or at LEAST the same depth).

Why?

Let’s flip things around (which is also Tim’s favorite Friday night saying)…

When partnering warm colors with cooler colors (or finishes), the warm color should be LIGHTER than the cool one (or at LEAST the same depth).

I want you to reread the above and sit with it for a bit – think about how it relates to what you’ve been trying to do. Does this explain a WHOLE LOT? While some same-depth, cool-warm partnerships can work, you need to tread carefully, which many of us aren’t inclined to do when we have a vision of what we WANT.

Check out the combo in this next photo. Why does this palette BARELY make the cut?

cozy living room, shiplap in Sherwin Williams Chelsea Gray, walls unknown, beige sofa, navy blue accents

PRO: the gray shiplap wall is darker than the creamy-beige wall (as it should be) = the cooler colour is darker than the lighter, warmer color.

BORDERLINE: the gray shiplap wall is the same depth as the beige sofa. However, if the gray shiplap were any lighter, the palette would look off-balance as the WARM colour would be the STRONGER of the two.

The above demonstrates the SECRET TIP we’re learning that…

Warm neutrals are fussy with neutrals that are cooler AND lighter than them.

Cool neutrals are fussy with neutrals that are warmer AND darker than them.

Why does the palette in this next home work so well?

Benjamin Moore Stratton Blue, Edgecomb Gray lightened 25, hallway and dining room, vintage wood furniture. Kylie M Edesign, beige tile

The cool color (Benjamin Moore Stratton Blue) is DARKER THAN the warm color (Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray) and the beige tile.

Remember, even though Edgecomb Gray isn’t a beige or cream, it’s WARMER THAN the blue-green it’s being partnered with, so the blue-green needs to be darker than it.

In this next photo, the cooler color (walls) is a wink darker than the warm color (the carpet)…

Best green paint color, Benjamin MOore Spanish Olive, south facing light, beige tan carpet. White trim. Before photo Kylie M Edesign

Now, here’s where it gets a BIT tricky. While I nodded toward the following general guideline earlier, I want to hammer it home a bit more. And seriously, once you understand this general guideline, it will make your paint-pickin’ life a WHOLE LOT EASIER!

Here we go…

The above info doesn’t necessarily mean literal WARM and COOL colors (i.e., beige or gray) – it also applies to colors that are ‘COOLER OR WARMER THAN‘ the colour you’re trying to coordinate with.

What does this mean?

Let’s look at a few examples where the above guideline applies…

  • taupe is a warm paint color, but it’s COOLER THAN beige
  • cool gray is COOLER THAN warm gray
  • a dark beige is WARMER THAN a light taupe or greige (although all are WARM colors)

That’s right; the above doesn’t apply to traditionally ‘warm or cool paint colors’; it also applies to ANY neutral, including gray, beige, greige, taupe, cream, tan, or white. The idea is that…

ANY colour or finish (no matter which neutral it is) can be sensitive to a colour that’s cooler & lighter OR warmer & darker than it*.

*Remember, there are ALWAYS exceptions, so don’t get your knickers in a knot if your home is one of them.

This next photo shows an exception with Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and a warm-toned stone fireplace…

Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice gray paint colour with warm beige cream stone fireplace, Pure White trim and mantel. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, warm exposure.

Crushed Ice BARELY makes the cut in the above room. In fact, it’s lucky that it’s the same depth as the beige stone; if it were any lighter, the combo would be off. Sure, this room would PREFER a warmer off-white beige, but sometimes, there’s a happy medium between what suits a home and what a homeowner wants!

NEED HELP? Check out my ONLINE PAINT COLOR PACKAGES – let me make it easy for you! 

Check out this next space – do you think the palette between the dining room and the foyer is well-balanced?

Sherwin Williams North Star in dining room with wood trim, beige walls in entryway. Decorate with warm and cool paint colors, combo is not right

Notice how the darker beige in the foyer looks dingy and heavy compared to the lighter, cool tone in the dining room – they aren’t happy together. Truth be told, even the dining chairs are a bit uneasy with the wall color.

There are occasions where a ‘same depth warm-cool combo’ works. There are FAR FEWER situations where a color that’s ‘lighter AND cooler than its warmer partner‘ works. If I had photos of them, I’d show them to you (as I only use photos from my Online Color Consulting clients).

As for actual ‘COLOURS,’ you have much more flexibility when partnering neutrals with COLORS. Even then, the reason this next room sings is that the blue-green paint colour is DARKER THAN the beige chairs – the cooler colour is darker than the warmer neutral.

Best blue paint color, Benjamin Moore Courtland Blue, dining room, traditional and eclectic home decor

I know it’s a lot to process. But the dots should come together once you sit and consider how this advice relates to your space.

Think about the colors you’ve been trying to put together. Are they not working? Does something seem ‘off’? There could be a few reasons for this…

1. You might not have chosen the right undertone for your room’s finishes (a blog post unto itself).

2. You don’t have the decor and furnishings to support the color direction you’re going in (another blog post).

3. While YOU might be ready for a color change, the finishes in your home might disagree. Some homes can’t HANDLE a warmer/cooler shift, or at least not one that YOU’RE also happy with.

OR, if your room can handle a change AND you have the right undertones and furnishings for visual support…

…maybe you need to adjust the DEPTH of color you’re looking at – it could be that easy.

That’s right. The gray, greige, or taupe you’re TRYING to partner with your beige or cream might work if it’s a bit darker! This applies whether you’re creating a paint palette or partnering paint colors with fabrics or other finishes.

In this next family room, if the sofa were one tone darker, it would be MUCH happier with the Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream walls. As it is, they’re fighting each other as they’re too similar in depth. Alternatively, the walls could be a lighter tone, more like Benjamin Moore’s Navajo White or White Dove.

Making a palette with warm and cool colors, shown here Benjamin MOore Gentle Cream with gray sofa

Are you still with me?

5 Ideas: How To De-Beige Your Home

 

HOW TO CHOOSE GRAY, GREIGE, OR TAUPE COLORS TO GO WITH BEIGE FINISHES

I get it if the above info didn’t quite seal the deal – it’s a tricky topic. Let’s do things step-by-step.

While you can’t put a number (as it relates to depth) on beige carpet, countertop, tile, or furniture (whereas you can with paint), it’s about LOOKING at the finish you’re coordinating with and figuring out its general depth. Is it light depth, medium, dark, or somewhere in the middle?

Benjamin Moore Imperial Gray in living room, neutral sofas, home decor, best blue green gray blend paint color. Kylie M Edesign client photo

The cool gray-blue-green walls are DARKER THAN the off-white warm sofas – PERFECT! 

Let’s say you have a beige carpet, tile, or countertop (or all three)…

1. LOOK AT SHADES OF GRAY, GREIGE, OR TAUPE THAT ARE LIGHTER THAN YOUR BEIGE/CREAM FINISH

  • Do your paint samples seem a bit disconnected from the surfaces around them?
  • Do the colors seem a bit uncomfortable with each other?

This could be because of the above information regarding warm colors preferring cooler colors that AREN’T lighter than them.

 

2. LOOK AT SHADES OF GRAY, GREIGE, OR TAUPE THAT ARE THE SAME DEPTH AS YOUR BEIGE/CREAM FINISH

  • Does it seem like your room breathes a sigh of relief compared to the lighter versions?
  • But have you REALLY hit your home’s happy place? You won’t know until you do STEP 3.

You might have started your journey by looking at LIGHTER colors. But having seen that they don’t always work, shifting a bit darker could be your best move – even if darker isn’t what you have in mind.

Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige with Benjamin Moore Storm in formal dining room. Blue area rug, orange hue wood floor. Kylie M Interiors, best diy update ideas

The gray in the dining room is darker than the beige in the foyer.

It’s not always about what YOU want; it’s more often about your home and what it NEEDS.

In this next photo, the palette works because the light walls (Benjamin Moore Light Pewter) are lighter AND warmer than the gray in the dining area (Sherwin Williams Ellie Gray)…

Sherwin Williams Ellie Gray, gray blue green paint color on walls. Gray carpet, wood floor. Kylie M Interiors

Also note, the gray in the dining room is cooler AND darker than the area rug – PERFECT. If this were reversed, the rug wouldn’t look good.

 

3. LOOK AT A FEW COLORS THAT ARE A GOOD SHADE DARKER THAN YOUR WARM FINISH.

  • Do the finishes in your room seem to respond better to this increase in depth?
  • This doesn’t mean the ‘same depth’ colors don’t work – they might, but going that step darker could get you closer to your perfect palette.

If things STILL aren’t working…

a) You might be looking at the wrong undertones for your finishes. For example, SOME beiges don’t look great with some blue hues, whereas others do. Some beiges don’t suit green undertones, whereas some do! There are MANY factors at play.

b) Your room might not look good with ANY paint colour that’s cooler than its current finishes; the original design of it wasn’t meant to accommodate cooler hues.

Did you know that Samplize offers peel-and-stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER, and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots?

KYLIE M INTERIORS ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING, SAMPLIZE PEEL AND STICK ON THE WALL, REVIEW

  • Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on the location.
  • They’re more affordable than the sample pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed for traditional paint sampling.

Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE

Beige tile with warm beige paint colour on the walls, off-white by Sherwin Williams. Kylie M Interiors Edesign, diy decorating and update ideas

Sometimes going WITH your finish rather than against it, is the best choice.

Cream cabinets and trim are the PERFECT examples of finishes that don’t love colors that are cooler AND lighter than them. I’ve had dozens of Online Colour Consulting clients wanting to update their cream-inspired homes with cooler hues, and we bump up against the same challenge every time – they want something lighter and cooler than their home can handle.

And sometimes, they must undergo the process of SEEING what doesn’t work to believe it, as shown in this next photo…

Benjamin Moore Sweet Bluette with cream cabinets, looks BAD.

Not only is this particular shade of blue LIGHTER THAN the cream cabinets, but it’s also too CLEAN looking.

Shifting a bit darker certainly helps…

Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray to go with cream cabinets and trim in kitchen with granite countertop. Kylie M INteriors Edesign, best update ideas

The above combo is better than the previous one. However, if you ask me, the cool color contrasts too much with the warmth of the cabinets, making them look EVEN WARMER/creamier (which isn’t usually the goal). However, I’m often happy to humor clients if they want to explore a certain color, even if I don’t advise it – sometimes, they have to see it to believe it!

The 16 Best Paint Colours to Update Cream Cabinets & Trim

Remember, this is all general guidance – there are exceptions and anomalies. HOWEVER, if the colors you’re looking at aren’t working – the above reasons could be why.

 

QUICK QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

CAN GRAY & BEIGE GO TOGETHER?

Yes, you can mix warm and cool colors in a home, as long as the gray (cooler color) is darker than the beige (warmer color) it’s being partnered with.

WHAT COLOR BEIGE MIXES WELL WITH GRAY?

The beige paint color should be LIGHTER than the gray it’s partnered with. I’ll be covering this in an upcoming blog post.

CAN GRAY & BEIGE BE IN THE SAME ROOM IN DECOR OR PAINT?

Yes, they can, but be sure both are repeated MORE than once (three times is ideal).

DOES CLASSIC GRAY GO WITH BEIGE?

Unless the beige paint color of finishes (i.e., tile, carpet, or furniture) you have is VERY LIGHT – (lighter than Classic Gray), generally speaking, no. these two don’t go together. Bump down to Benjamin Moore Collingwood and see if it fits better, but you may need to go even darker.

CAN YOU MIX GRAY & CREAM PAINT?

Yes, as long as the gray is darker than the cream and the undertones of the gray suit the space and the type of cream you have (yellow-orange, yellow-pink, or yellow-green).

Of course, I could keep on typing. I have a LOT more to say about some more CLOSELY RELATED topics. But for brevity and sanity (both in short supply around here), they get their OWN BLOG POSTS!

READ MORE

5 Ideas: How To De-Beige Your Home

The 12 Best Gray & Greige Paint Colors

Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige Paint Color Review

The Best Warm Neutrals that AREN’T BEIGE! 

NEED HELP?

CHECK OUT MY ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING

Chat soon,

The best neutral paint colours. Edesign, edecor with Kylie M Interiors diy decorating and design advice. Market

 



Comments

  1. This article is awesome! I never knew about this design secret. One question though. As I’m decorating my living room I’ve started thinking about every item: couch, rug, walls, ottoman, etc. Where does this rule end? Is it mostly geared toward larger items (ie. walls, flooring, rugs, couches)? Or is it a rule to follow even down to throw pillows and flower pots? I started to feel a bit overwhelmed!

  2. OMG Kylie!!! I get it. AND just walked my husband through our house and pointed out EVERYTHING that is wrong with it. I think I made this mistake in almost every room. I kept repeating cool color darker than warm. LOL…. But honestly I can now see how the beige couch is darker than the Edgecomb Grey walls and looks hideous and why the dining room chairs that are a warm mid depth fight with the beautiful teal blue wall color also mid depth. New couch and chairs pronto! 🙂

  3. Kylie this was so helpful! I always wondered why my porch walls painted Smoke Embers looked good with golden wicker furniture and light berber carpet. It made no sense until now! You are amazing!!! Thanks so much!!!
    Heather

  4. I’m wondering if you would consider wood trim to be frequently exempt from the rule? I think warm wood (like pine or fir) looks great with lighter gray walls, but I’m second guessing myself after reading your wonderful article!

    1. Post
      Author

      This actually still follows the guideline as the warm white trim is LIGHTER THAN the light gray/cooler walls!

      1. I second that question. I think Janet is referring to natural wood tones. I have older natural wood trim and floors in my home which would be considered warm tones, but I do think they pair well with light, cooler, paint colours. Thoughts?

  5. This is exactly what my bran has been trying to figure out. We are looking to paint our kitchen/living room (with skylights & fireplace) with two paint colours: edgecomb gray (one wall) and Windham cream (opposite wall and wrap around fireplace)
    At a certain point both paint colors with be next to each other. And so the edgecomb gray would go from simply being neutral to a neutral “warm” tone while the Windham cream would remain warm…is warm or warm ok? Should I be bringing in a cooler tone?
    My kitchen is upper whites /lower dark gray cabinets…we liked edgecomb gray for the walls because it feels like a color that can go with anything…so many things to consider when it comes to cool and warm.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Nina! It’s hard to say without seeing your home, but Edgecomb Gray and Windham Cream don’t belong together. It’s not just about the minor shift in LRV (it’s good to see more) but they’re competing neutrals and Windham could make Edgecomb Gray look quite dirty in comparison!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Barbara! They do ebb and flow based on my workload! We try to get some out every week. Keep in mind that the $99 Quick Consult can get you well on your way too!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thaaaat’s a good question! I would say maybe transfer them to Word? As long as they’re just for personal use!

  6. Would sherwin williams topsail in an East and south facing room go well with sherwin williams vanillan for closet doors or is that too warm? Looking to paint over our wood closet doors something to go with the light blue on the walls…. Also considered evergreen fog but that seems too dark! Thanks for all your wonderful helpful articles

    1. Post
      Author
  7. I have Bianco Superiore Quartzite with Snowbound cabinets and looking for a paint to “warm” up the space. Thinking about taupe or beige, thoughts on any colors? I like BM Cedar Key. Kitchen window is NE facing and slider is SW facing. Any ideas are appreciated.

    1. Post
      Author
  8. This is sooooo soooo helpful, thank you! What paint color is on the walls in the “ The Best
    PAINT COLOURS
    for your walls…” picture above?

    1. Post
      Author
    2. Does this rule apply to floor tile as well? If you have warm, brown, Tuscan style, tile are you limited to only darker cool colors? I am considering using escape gray for our mud room but I’m having trouble telling if it’s darker or lighter than the floor tile.

      1. Post
        Author
  9. Hello! Can you tellme the name of the paint colour on the dining room with the circle mirror in the background. It says it’s a grey but look like blue. Either way, it lovely. Thank you in advance!

    1. Post
      Author
  10. Hi kylie I’m trying to find paint color for my kitchen that will match my living room which is painted grey owl in adjoining room. The finishes are maple cabinets and baltic brown granite looking for a warm grey,greige,or off white color, should I go darker then grey owl or lighter ?

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