I've spent most of my adult life traveling the globe and staying inspired by the world around me. Here's a look through my eyes, as I share interior design tips, inspiration from my travels, and art and textiles I’m finding and creating.
Selecting the right gray paint color for your home seems like it would be fairly straightforward, right? I wish! I recently designed a home in the mountains, full of natural, organic materials and textures. I wanted the walls to be a soft, neutral backdrop… a soft misty gray would be just right for the space so the other materials (stone, metal, concrete, nubby textiles and great art) would be the stars of the show. A home I lived in previously had walls painted the perfect light, warm gray, and I thought it might look similar in this new home (both houses are in the same general area on the mountainside). I was familiar with some other grays I loved, that I had seen in beautiful spaces.
I asked the painter to paint several 2’ x 4’ swaths on the office wall from a selection of my favorite grays. I went to check and was aghast at how dark these shades looked on the wall, as well appearing as various shades of lavender, blue green, mauve and yellow. The gray shade I had lived with elsewhere looked green here! “Uh-oh,” I thought. “This is not going to be easy.” There is a huge variety of undertones in neutral colors (whether grays, whites or beiges). All you need to do is look up at the clouds to notice the range of colors and tones.
I dove into color research, looked at loads of different grays, and selected several to sample. The painter was very patient as he brushed swaths all over the house. In the kitchen, where I had selected lovely grey tiles, I walked in after paint samples were brushed on the walls and was horrified to see how BLUE and cold they looked – so different from how they appeared in the living room. There was snow outside the large windows and, we decided, the cool blue tones of fresh snow must be reflecting off the walls inside. Back to the drawing board. We ended up with 54 shades of gray on the walls before I determined the right color!
We all know to never paint a room without testing paint colors. I learned this lesson as a newly married young woman when my husband and I moved to the east coast and I wanted to paint my studio a nice, buttery yellow. I found the sample I liked, “Lemon Yellow” (which should have been a warning sign in and of itself, but it looked light and buttery on the 1” x 2” chip, and I thought it would be perfect). I bought the cans and painted the room myself. It ended up looking like an overdose of bright citron, with a limey tint. Ugh! I couldn’t live with it, so learned my lesson about testing colors immediately.
When you live somewhere with distinct seasons, particularly in a natural setting, the light changes throughout the year. When there’s snow outside you get a colder light filtering into the room. In spring and summer, the light filters green through the trees. Each room will probably look different, depending what direction it’s facing and what’s outside the windows.
So, when you’re selecting a neutral paint color for your home, keep in mind these tips:
Here are some of my favorite grays. Notice how different the undertones are:
Incidentally, the color I ended up with is Benjamin Moore’s “Rodeo” at 50% strength.
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