If you automatically think of gray as drab, dull, or downright boring, think again. From light and serene to bold and moody, there’s a full spectrum of gray variations, making it the kind of versatile color that works well in any room. “Gray is a mainstay in terms of popular colors due to its range—from light gray to charcoal and from cool to warm tones—it’s a true neutral that works with every color, texture, and design style,” says Courtney Sempliner, founder of Courtney Sempliner Designs. Use it as your main color, accent color, furniture, and more to create contrast in a room, and set the stage for the rest of your decor.
To give you some inspiration (and to prove that this color is really anything but boring) we rounded up 11 gray room ideas that embrace the neutral color in cool and creative ways. Plus, we tapped interior designers for their top tips on how to decorate with the color gray, so you can get the look yourself.
With no two types of gray exactly the same, these ideas run the gamut in terms of style, use, and more. Now, the only thing you’ll have to decide is just what shade suits your room best.
Layer Shades and Textures
For a sophisticated look that's casual and clean, complement varying gray tones by layering them. Don't be afraid to introduce texture, too. "Using just one shade of gray can make your room feel flat and dull," interior designer KD Reid says.
"Begin with a foundation layer of gray that inspires you, then layer in other shades of gray with furniture, soft furnishings, and accessories," Reid suggests.
Mix in Metallics
Choosing a flat gray paint color allows the rest of your decor to shine—literally. Metallic accents and smaller furniture pieces transform a gray room into a glam oasis. And for even more visual interest, a funky patterned ceiling draws the eye upward.
Incorporate Natural Materials
Wood, iron, and leather may be traditionally harsh materials, but when complemented with a lighter gray shade, they take on a more calming effect. Pair a textured gray wallpaper with dark wood furniture to add warmth to the room.
Create an Accent Wall
If you're reluctant to paint an entire room a singular shade of gray, opt for an eye-catching accent wall to brighten things up. An abstract design that skews slightly taupe contrasts with the crispness of light gray, while plenty of natural light makes the space feel bright and inviting. Of course, adding a waffle-knit throw blanket ups the cozy factor, too.
Test your paint color in the space before you commit. According to Susan Taylor of Davis Taylor Design, "Grays have loads of variation in different lights. "
Add a Touch of Whimsy
Love the look of neutrals but want to add some pizazz to your powder room? A gray-toned wallpaper with fun and colorful designs is a great way for your space to remain elegant, while still showing some personality. Since gray has the ability to balance out other colors, it makes for an ideal background or base color. The eye will be drawn to the whimsical designs, without it feeling too juvenile.
Keep It Neutral
"Cool grays have a crisp modern look while warmer grays tend to be a cozier neutral," explains interior designer Susan Taylor of Davis Taylor Design. Try layering the two to create a timeless palette and zen vibe, without being drab. Light and dark gray walls create dimension, while a luxe, taupe gray sofa offers a sophisticated alternative to white or cream.
In search of a new throw pillow for your gray living room? Davis suggests reaching for accent colors like indigo, terracotta, dusty rose, or marigold for a pop of warm color.
Find a Focal Point
Gray's natural ability to balance the eye and blend into the background sets the stage for a wow piece like a unique light fixture or work of art. Select a cool-toned shade for a serene space. Then, let your wow piece serve as a grounding focal point in the room. Accent the calming paint color with bright white trim to maximize light reflection and cast an airy ambiance.
A gray couch is not only an attractive furniture choice but a smart one, since dark gray upholstery can hide almost anything and won't show as many stains as lighter colors. Plus, dark couches are an easy and elegant way to add contrast to a room.
"My advice is to not overdo one shade of gray, and rather to contrast it with accent colors, or at least varying shades of gray for a more sophisticated and layered look," says Sempliner. "I love gray as a base color for larger upholstered furniture pieces and then using brighter and patterned pillows or a throw blanket as accents."
Keep It Moody
Painting an entire room a dark gray shade may seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. "Don’t be afraid to use dark gray on your walls," says Taylor. Look for a hue the skews more blue than black and go for a semi-gloss finish to complete the bold, moody look without it coming off as dingy. Then, "pair it with light wood floors or white trim to create an unexpected contrast," suggests Taylor.
Add an Accent Color
"Gray's neutral nature makes it an excellent complement to other hues," says Reid, who states that adding an accent color to an all gray room can instantly create a dynamic and visually interesting space. Amplify the impact of your accent color (like this pastel pink) by choosing a calming lighter gray. This allows the pink and gold accents to pop without being too busy.
Make it Monochrome
Talk about tricking the eye. A monochrome gray room will allow everything in the selected gray hue to fall to the background, setting the scene for a bright white and inviting bed. To avoid the room looking dull and lifeless, use neutral wallpaper to break it up.