Whether you want to create a serene, minimalist environment, or make room for pops of color throughout your space, consider a gray and white color palette in your living room. A gray and white aesthetic may seem simple enough, but to keep things balanced in a neutral space takes some intentionality.
Want to try out a gray and white scheme in your living room? We've got you covered.
Choosing the Right Gray and White for Your Decorating Style
Picking out grays and whites to complement your home's style—and complement each other—can feel overwhelming. As a general rule, cooler colors lean more modern, while warmer ones feel more traditional, says Mark Cutler, an interior designer at Cutler Schulze in Los Angeles. So if you embrace rustic or farmhouse style, opt for warmer grays and creamy whites. If your living room is mid-century or contemporary in aesthetic, then go for cooler grays and whites.
The key is to stay consistent. Not sure where to start? Cutler suggests starting with the parts of your room that aren't easy to change, like your trim or flooring. If you have a warm wood floor, choose warm tones. If your flooring is cool stone, then stick with cool shades.
If you're painting your living room, keep in mind your lighting will impact how a color looks. "A color you've seen on Pinterest or in someone else's project doesn't mean that it will be a perfect match for your space," says Courtney McClure, an interior designer with Courtney McClure Design in Oklahoma. Grab paint swatches at the store, stick them on your walls, and check throughout the day in different lighting to see how they look.
How to Decorate With Gray and White
As with any design scheme, a bit of intentionality can go a long way when you're focused on creating a neutral space. Ahead, interior designers explain how to use gray and white in your living room.
Stick With the Same Fabrics
As you create your neutral haven, balance is key. To achieve a look that feels consistent, Cutler recommends choosing similar fabrics throughout your space. "Trying to match a white with a white in the same room is tough, as different fabrics reflect light differently," he says. Avoid mixing warms and cools by incorporating the same types of fabric throughout your space.
Vary Shades of Gray and White
Gray and white can feel serene, but if you're not intentional, your room could be snooze-inducing. While choosing a consistent color temperature is important, make sure to vary the shades of gray and white you use to keep things interesting while maintaining balance, suggests Seattle-based interior designer Rebecca Rowland of Rebecca Rowland Interiors.
Lean on White or Gray for Larger Pieces
When you're designing a room, use neutrals like grays and whites for the larger pieces. "They form the perfect canvas for mixing smaller elements that introduce color," says New York and New Orleans-based interior designer Elle Jupiter. "Also, it’s much easier to exchange smaller pieces than larger pieces when making seasonal changes."
Add Another Neutral
It may seem counterintuitive, but adding another neutral to the mix can make your gray and white sing. "I’m a fan of adding in a very pale sand or camel color in a very small dose, with an accent chair, throw blanket, or pillow," says Billy Ceglia, an interior designer with Billy Ceglia Design in Connecticut.
Choose Either Gray or White as an Accent
One clever way to keep your space balanced is to go off-balance, says Ceglia. If your heart's set on gray and white, lean one way or the other, with one as the star and the other as the accent. "This will help achieve a crisp, tailored look, and avoid the space becoming too monotonous," he says. "The accent color will help lead one’s eye around the space to highlight art and architecture."
Incorporate Wood Furniture
Even warmer shades of gray and white can quickly feel sterile, so Ceglia recommends doing your best to incorporate more warmth and coziness into your living room by choosing pieces of wood furniture. Whether you choose an oak coffee table or a walnut chair, shades of brown are sure to enhance your gray and white scheme.
Play With Texture
In an otherwise neutral and minimal space, texture is an easy but effective way to add interest without overwhelm. Interior designer Esther Dormer of Dormer Design suggests incorporating wool, leather, wood, and metal whenever you can to elevate the neutral look. Natural-woven materials, like rattan or wicker, are also a great way to add a touch of softness to your gray and white room.
Add Pops of Color in Pairs
As you probably already know, a gray and white scheme is the perfect backdrop for pops of color. While you can pretty much add any color with gray and white, Larisa Barton of Soeur Interiors says it's best to keep your pops in pairs. For example, a green pillow would look random on its own, but paired with a green plant or a rug with green accents, it'll tie right into the space.
Try Out Jewel Tones
Blanche Garcia of B. Garcia Designs says deeper pops of color keep gray and white palettes interesting and current. Try to work in jewel tones like dark blues, greens, or Garcia's personal favorite, chartreuse. A throw pillow or blanket could be a good start, but if you're feeling bold, try out a jewel-toned accent wall or rug.
Another way to make a neutral space feel more lively: incorporate greenery. If you don't have a green thumb, a faux plant or a bouquet of fresh flowers on the coffee table can have the same, enlivening effect on your green and white room. "When you layer different physical textures into your space, you create a cozy approachable atmosphere that will complement and balance your freshly painted walls," says interior designer Tara Miller of The Heartland Interior Design.
Just like mixing textures to ad some oomph to a neutral room, so can mixing up patterns — and McClure says gray and white are the perfect backdrop for integrating stripes, dots, and other fun designs into your room. Throw pillows in varying patterns are a great way to add depth to your space without losing that sense of balance you're looking for.
Paint Your Crown Molding
Do you have crown molding in your living room? Depending on the look you're going for, interior designer Sara Mosele of Sara Mosele Interiors in New York says you can integrate it into your gray and white palette. If you paint your walls gray, consider leaving your crown molding white to keep things balanced. If you'd rather the room feel more contemporary, paint the molding and walls either all gray or all white.
A gray and white color scheme is the perfect time to consider adding bolder features throughout your living room, such as a shiplap wall in a neutral or even statement color. "As an interesting architectural feature, shiplap can either be a background character to let other statements shine, or be the star of the show with an unexpected paint color," says Yasmine El Sanyoura, a home designer at Opendoor.
For a modern traditional gray and white scheme, she recommends installing shiplap vertically on the lower third of a room's walls in a soft gray paint color and pairing it with white walls. To make a bolder, more modern statement, install shiplap horizontally and paint it dark gray—it'll also make your room feel wider.