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How to Choose a Gray Paint Color
A good customer of ours found himself moving into a new home and his daughter told him to paint the interior walls gray. I asked Sandra (our Interior Designer) to pick out three gray paint color palettes for his walls and a coordinating trim.
This did not go over well, because as she so eloquently pointed out, gray is the hardest color to pick in isolation. There are many, many shades of gray and in one room and lighting it may look gray (like in the paint store), but in your actual room next to the furniture and carpet it will look totally different.
Here are her three tips for selecting the perfect gray color palette (and how we helped our customer pick the best gray paint color).
Check for Undertones
Very few paint colors are truly gray. Most have undertones that can read as blue, pink, yellow, and even green. These undertones become very clear when you put that “gray” next to another color. This is especially important if you’re going to use white as a trim. What you need to do is gather as many samples of the items that will be near that color. For instance, put the paint color next to tile, stone, wood floors, carpet, upholstery fabric, and window treatments in each room. This way you can see how the paint looks with all the elements and identify any undertones that work or alternatively don’t work.
Contrast Cool and Warm
There will be cool grays and warm grays. Cool grays primarily have blue, purple, or black undertones. Warm grays usually have yellow, green and pink undertones. Those undertones are critical whenever you’re pairing a gray with another color. They can make a gray seem cool (blue undertones) or warm (yellow undertones). To illustrate, a soft warm gray with yellow undertones can throw a nostalgic hue to a space (like Grandma’s house). Yet, a cool gray can be sharp and brilliant and read as blue next to a taupe rug or carpet. Optimally, you’ll want to find a balance between those warm and cool colors. This suggests that when you have warm colors in your carpet or furniture pieces, balance the wall color with cool grays to keep them true.
How’s the Light
So you’ve selected the perfect gray that looks great in the natural light, but the minute the sun goes down and the lamps are turned on, the lovely cool gray you liked suddenly looks lavender. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true, lighting has a profound effect on paint color. And consider this: A north-facing room will give your walls a blue tone and a south-facing room will give your walls a yellow tone. The type of lamps you have can also affect the undertones, making some cool grays read as green. We suggest painting at least 3 different grays on the walls and look at them at different times of day. It might simply mean changing the bulbs in your lamps.
To add even more complexity the sheen can also make a difference. Read this blog to help you figure out the sheen you should go with.
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