Thinking of Updating Your Home with Gray? When You Should Think Again . . .

It seems like everyone is jumping of the gray bandwagon.  Are you considering updating your home with gray walls?  You may just need to think again . . .

green bedroom

 

Although gray may be the right choice for you, here’s an example of where it just didn’t work! My lovely client had lived in her older home for many years and wondered if it was time for an update.  She decided to paint several of her rooms gray, as she had seen that trending neutral all over design magazines and blogs.  Unfortunately, she was NOT happy with the results.  That’s when she called me in for help.  Here is the “before” of one of her bedrooms:

DSC_6480

 before 

This is the bedroom of her adult son, who is away at college and will probably only return for weekend visits in the future. My client painted a “current” gray neutral on the walls of her older home with antique furniture, and the whole thing fell flat.  I suggested a COLOR that would make the antique furnishings and classic architecture SING.  And, of course, I had to rearrange her furniture and art . . .

rosemary sprig bedroom

after 

Here’s the “before” from another vantage point:

DSC_6479

before

The bed linens were in the wash, which is why there are no pillows in the “after!” Yes, the walls are vivid, but can you see how the color makes the wood tones come alive?

green antique bedroom

after

Here is the bedroom of my client’s college-age daughter that she attempted to “update” with a gray paint color on the walls:

DSC_6478

before

Once again, the gray does NOTHING for the antique wood furniture.  I chose a different color that I knew would revitalize the entire room.  Let’s see if you agree:

palladian blue bedroom

after

So let’s move into the den, where the homeowner had painted another version of gray to update her space.

DSC_6486

before

It just wasn’t working on so many levels.  But never fear – The Decorologist is here!  This is the new look, along with some pretty cool bookcase staging, if I do say so myself:

bookcase styling

bookcase after

Color changes everything – for good or for bad.  No new furniture or accessories were purchased in these examples – just using what my client already owned (although I must be honest, we scoured some closets to find some things).

styled bookcase

styled bookcase

The lesson here?  If you have an older home or antique and traditional furnishings, you may need to think twice about going gray . . .  Do you agree, or no?

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Jayme
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Jayme

Much better Kristie! The warmth of the wood just glows and now the items in the bookshelves are just highlighted. I have had gray in my bedroom for 10 years and have always considered it a great neutral and a great choice-so I am glad to see the grays coming into vogue now. But you are so right-you have to look at the room in total-the furnishings, the wood tones of the floor and trim, the carpeting-the “permanent” items. And in the end, you need to pick a color you love-no matter the fad or fashion-you need to be able… Read more »

d
Guest
d

Yes! I’ve been saying this for years! I learned the hard way in 2009 when I painted my formal dining room gray and watched it suck all the life out of my beautiful antiques. Antiques shine (literally and figuratively) when they’re near colors that enhance their beauty.

j
Guest
j

I lived in a 108 year old house and painted the formal dining room BenjMoore Cliffside Gray. Gorgeous colors, looked beautiful on the wall with the wainscot and mouldings.. then moved my furniture in. I’ve never understood what was off but you’re ABSOLUTELY right – it has just washed everything out. Did you repaint the room? Any suggestions?

Taryn
Guest
Taryn

OH MY GOSH! What a difference! I cannot believe how much better these rooms look!!! Great job and great post!

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I completely agree. I have a brownstone and I wanted to repaint the first floor (which has a very open floor plan). Removed all furniture and paintings, etc., from the walls, drop clothes… As I was painting, loved the more contemporary look the gray gave it. Put all my more traditional furniture, antiques, and paintings back and now I hate it!

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

Yes and yes! There are many of us, for reasons you stated in this post and for practicality, who are abstaining from the “paint your trim white and your walls grey” trend. Thank you for showing us how it is done. I absolutely love the color you chose for the daughter’s room. We went with “relaxed khaki” and “wool skein” both by SW in two of our rooms and will eventually paint every wall in this older home, and will likely keep away from grey as a wall color. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t work everywhere. Btw, Pinterest needs your… Read more »

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

Wool skein is a great color! I used it in my living room, dining room and hallway and we couldn’t be happier!

Mary
Guest
Mary

Honestly, I love seeing some happier colors on the walls, instead of more grey. I am sure in 20 years grey will be thought of as a very outdated color, like the ubiquitous hunter green of the 80’s.

Pam Lee
Guest
Pam Lee

Beautiful changes. I have walnut stained solid wood six-panel doors throughout my house and I would never paint them so I need those colors you are talking about. Someone before us did paint all the baseboards and window sills white. Any suggestions on what to do about that? What color is the green in the first room?

mary
Guest
mary

Thanks for saving me from the same mistake. My kids have been asking me to update our house, but I also have older furniture with the same warm wood tones and the same honey colored oak flooring (and a clay colored brick fireplace)….it’s so easy to see from your pictures that grey just doesn’t work here. I’ve been thinking about a light shade of blue/green…..can I ask you what the color was that you used in the daughters room? That looks like the color I need!

Donna
Guest
Donna

I’ve never been a fan of gray walls. It’s silly, but I attribute them to an episode I saw back in the 90s (dating myself here) on Scarecrow and Mrs. King. They painted Mrs. Kings dining room gray so they could transform it into a makeshift interrogation room. I just can’t get that image out of my head when I see gray walls! lol I absolutely love the color you chose for the son’s room!

Deb Konrad
Guest

Frankly, I am not a fan of gray…DEPRESSING!

debbie
Guest
debbie

What you did is lovely but I am a huge fan of gray and we are definitely going with soft grays in our home. There are so many gorgeous grays – the list is endless. But we can certainly agree to disagree. To each his own,

Louisa
Guest
Louisa

Well, this sort of frightens me. What do you think of an accent wall? I want to paint my living room gray, and one of the walls has an antique piano and a wooden bookcase against it… should I paint that wall another color?

Pamela
Guest
Pamela

Agree completely. The rooms needed color to work with her furnishing and huge difference. I don’t have any gray walls because we have dark wood and all the fabrics have ivory in them. I like looking at gray rooms but they wouldn’t work for us. But our daughter is moving to a new build this summer and updating her furniture so we are doing their master in gray and yellow! Fun!

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I love gray walls, but they’re very modern. The colors u picked suit the lovely classic furniture – it’s so refreshing when the color just feels right!

Cathy
Guest
Cathy

Yes, I live in an 125+ year federal style home, and though I keep trying to jump on the gray bandwagon…..I just can’t abandon my greens that make our antiques and wood floors come alive….

MK
Guest

Both bedrooms come alive with your color choices! I don’t know what that shade of green is, but it reminds me of “Georgian Green” by Benjamin Moore which I have used in 3 different rooms (over the course of 2 different houses). And I love the blue you used as well! You really do have the knack for color!

Kathy
Guest
Kathy

I think wood and color or at least an antique/creamy white is so much better than blah greys and neutrals. Neutrals can be nice in the right setting and with some contrast and texture to add interest. And I do like white kitchens and baths, and white rooms with lots of light and wood floors. But I agree, color really sets off much traditional furniture and architecture. Craftsman homes in particular need some sort of color to look right, especially warm colors and earthtones and the right color makes it look ten times better. And I think jewel tones look… Read more »

The Vintique Object
Guest

Thanks for having the courage to speak out on gray. You can also count me in the “I’d never paint my walls gray” camp. It almost always feels too cold for me. I’ll forever be a white wall person — nothing makes me happier than a good stark white wall. Love the colors you chose for the warmer toned antique woods in your client’s house. Would that second bedroom be Palladian Blue? Having said all that, I do think there are situations when gray walls can look amazing — especially with honey toned woods. Here’s my favorite example: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/206813807858465308/

Angela Brant
Guest
Angela Brant

Oh my! Thank you!! I painted my entire house last year but could only bring myself to paint one room gray – the home theater. It works and looks awesome. Other rooms were a lovely green similar to the one above(master bedroom), blue, also similar to above and soft mauve (guest bedrooms), brushed subtle apricot (with black for the home office, looks amazing!), a peach and white laundry room with chandelier!! and soft khaki shades for the formal and informal living areas. I was afraid my living areas would look dated without the lighter, cooler shades popular now. However, I… Read more »

applehillcottage
Guest

Oh, I love that green! And yes, I too love gray, but have yet to use it on any walls in either of the two houses we’ve been working on. My furniture is all antiques, and the houses are vintage — 30s and 40s. And I just can’t do it. Although I certainly can appreciate a good gray room! Maybe the bathroom at the cottage…Thanks for explaining why it doesn’t work everywhere!

Diane
Guest
Diane

I love the color that you picked for the daughter’s bedroom – it is exactly what I’ve been looking for for our guest room. Is there any chance that you would share this information?

Melissa Kramer
Guest
Melissa Kramer

I would love to know the color too!

Maureen
Guest
Maureen

Kristy, your work here is amazing! What a difference the colors make! You have a real gift! Personally I didn’t care for the gray trend the last time it came around in the 80’s. And gray is a difficult color to wear. I do love a good gray on exteriors.

diane
Guest

Great post!

jeannette
Guest
jeannette

Kristie, thank you for asserting what I chose to do the right paint color here in our newer home. I moved in with my walnut, oak, and dark wood furniture, but the house had some bamboo flooring and white doors and trim. So I did beige-white walls throughout. However, I am now redoing the office which has a stark white built-in, black desk and chair, and black and grey striped sofa. I am planning to do the built-in walls in a grey and leaving its white trim. Should I also paint the room ‘s walls grey? I ‘m thinking this… Read more »

Paula Van Hoogen
Guest
Paula Van Hoogen

I LOVE…”Never fear, The Decorologist is here!”. Just wonderful refreshment you bring to people, Kristie!
The reward is probably in the happiness they express to you when you’re done. You’re amazing!

Colleen
Guest
Colleen

Great post! I do think it depends on your home and furnishings. I have a more contemporary home with vintage/cottage/industrial/ French furnishings. I painted every room in my house gray, and I love it! I have lots of windows and light, and white trim, and it looks beautiful! I get compliments on it whenever people come over. There are grays that are almost “Chameleon” like in that they can seem cool or warm. f you like gray, keep on looking until you find the right one!

Shannon M
Guest
Shannon M

Hi Kristie,

What about colors like Grey Wisp and Grey Cashmere which are grey but not quite as drab as regualar grey? Could these greys work with well with antiques or would you still recommend going with a more solid, vibrant color.

Jen
Guest

Well done! Wood, being from nature, really needs nature-inspired colours to bring out its beauty, so I’m glad you were able to help this client. I’m not really a fan of grey to begin with, though I do like some of the greyed-out colours, such as the one we have in our bedroom—BM November Skies, I think, and yes, wooden furniture, including some antiques! I’ve lived in the midwest my whole life and there is nothing BUT grey from October to April or May—grey skies, grey snow, dead grass that seems grey because of the grey sky…give me colour, please!… Read more »

Cathy Z
Guest

Great post Kristie, thank you 🙂

Julie S
Guest
Julie S

I quite like the gray trend in other people’s pictures, but it’s a horrible color for me to wear so I won’t be having any gray rooms or sofas. We’re about to repaint the exterior and I picked a soft gray (green undertones) as that will look current and go beautifully with our black roof, red door and white trim. But inside, depending on how much light the rooms get, we have painted in shades of white, cream, and yellow-beige. We have some wood furniture and some painted/upholstered pieces so it’s not really an antique filled home, but the soft… Read more »

Jeannie Heller
Guest
Jeannie Heller

While the exterior of my home is grey, and I love it, I would not enjoy grey interior walls. It seems so depressing and trendy to me.
I am hoping it’s on its way “out”.

However, I love to see charcoal grey on baseboards (done in that classic 1920’s timeless style), or on a kitchen island.

Lorraine
Guest
Lorraine

I, too, almost jumped on the gray bandwagon, but thought twice. I have golden oak hardwood floors throughout my house, a lot of traditional style furniture (both light and darker woods), and few more contemporary pieces. I figured the style of my home wouldn’t work with gray, so to be safe I decided to go with a warmer neutral and chose SW Macadamia for my foyer and family room/kitchen. It’s a tiny bit more gold than I would have liked, but I’m happy with it overall (can’t change it since I had to hire painters for the cathedral ceiling in… Read more »

KJ
Guest
KJ

We just repainted our whole house from Kilim Beige to SW Repose Gray. We used it at 100% in the hallways and at 50% in the other rooms. We are in love with it!!!! We have mostly new furniture with lots of dark to provide contrast. I am amazed at how well the color goes with all of our existing artwork and decor. The one thing that REALLY surprised me is that it works well in the one room we still have old “90’s” furniture in. Anyone still have a goldish tapestry pattern chenille couch???? We do; the Rushmore from… Read more »

Gretchen
Guest
Gretchen

Love this!!! What color is in the daughter’s bedroom?
Thanks!