This post contains affiliate links. One of the questions I get asked most of all is does your house feel dark? The answer is not at all. And the second question is what shade of grey paint should I use? And although the first question is an easy one to ask. The second is all together rather more complicated. And so I thought what better subject to devote a blog post to. Grey is a much more complicated colour than many others. And technically I’m not sure you can truly classify it as a colour. To term it correctly it is either a shade of black. Or a tone of white. But then that gets overly complicated too so lets for ease call it a colour for this post.
Sitting room by @littleedwardian
As I just mentioned a true grey is achieved by adding white to black. Or black to white. This though for the purposes of decorating just would not work. Simply because what that doesn’t take into consideration is the lighting conditions. Depending on which direction a room faces and obviously the time of day natural light looks different. And so most greys we use for decorating have an underlying colour to prevent them from draining energy depending on light. Much like a dementor sucking the very soul from you!
Sitting room by @jackdmarch featuring Railings by Farrow & Ball
This underlying colour can be blue, yellow, red, green or any colour really. And it’s this aspect of their makeup that can make choosing the right shade of grey paint difficult. What works in one room facing south may not work in another facing north. Or perhaps it looks great for the morning but by the afternoon it’s a completely different colour. But don’t let this put you off because when you do find the right shade for you it really will make your room sing.
Bedroom by @the_yorkshire_homestead featuring Skimming stone and strong white from Farrow & Ball
But before we even get to choosing the actual shade of grey we have to think about the depth of colour. Are you looking for a light, mid or dark grey? Remember that adding light colours to a north facing, small room will not make it feel brighter. Nor larger for that matter. In fact you could end up with it feeling smaller and colder. I always find turning to your wardrobe helps with determining where you sit on the depth of colour. If it’s full of whites go light. Full of beiges or pastels go mid tones. And more to the dark side (like me) stick with the darker colours. If your wardrobe makes you happy you cannot go wrong choosing shades that reflect it.
Bathroom design by @709_design featuring Battlefield by valspar
So now you know which depth of colour is right for you it’s time to turn our attention to the tone. That underlying colour I was talking about. Grey’s fit into either the cool, warm or neutral category. Which has an effect on how they respond to different light. A grey with a red pigment added for instance would be considered warm. One with blue added would be cool and so on. So let’s take a look aspect by aspect. From north to south. East to west. Let’s find the right shade of grey for you. In a ‘Never Eat Shredded Wheat’ kind of way because lord knows why that has stuck since my school days!! BTW, if you have no idea which way your room faces you can download a compass onto your phone for free.
Bedroom also by @littleedwardian
What Shade of grey paint should I use in a NORTH facing room
Oh and it just had to be the most difficult first up didn’t it!! Notoriously hard to get right north facing rooms can be challenging but not insurmountable. Renowned for feeling dark it is perhaps wiser to not fight with nature. With a north facing room you have to befriend it and embrace the little light that it gives you. The very last thing you want to do in a north facing room is to paint it white. In fact this is the perfect time to embrace darker stronger colours. You’ll be amazed just how much they open up the space.
A north facing room needs warm shades of grey to help neutralise the cold light. Anything with a red or yellow undertone will work. Warm greys are perfect for creating a relaxing and cosy feel and work well with other natural elements like wood, natural leathers and cowhides. They’re a perfect backdrop to mid century schemes too. Stay away though from neutral or cool shades in a north facing room. it will never feel inviting though oddly will work if your looking for a pared back modern industrial/minimal look.
light greys for a north facing room
mid greys for a north facing room
dark greys for a north facing room
My own @raspberry_flavoured_windows bedroom
What Shade of grey paint should I use in an east facing room
East facing rooms give you a couple of options. A true East facing room will receive blueish light and with that in mind works incredibly well with greys with a blue or green undertone. But remember that the light in east facings rooms changes more dramatically than in North or South facing rooms. Bear in mind that it will receive natural light in the morning but by the afternoon the room may feel slightly cooler and you will likely use artificial light later in the day.
The changing natural and artificial light can greatly affect how you perceive the undertones in the grey so check your chosen colours throughout the day and evening! Though this is great advice for choosing grey for any aspect it’s even more vital for an east facing room. You will be surprised at just how different the colour can look depending on the time of the day or for that matter the wall it’s painted on! And because of this neutral shades of grey can often work too, giving a more cohesive feel to the grey across the entire room irrespective of time.
light greys for an east facing room
mid greys for an east facing room
dark greys for an east facing room
bathroom by @lydiamillenhome featuring downpipe by farrow & Ball
What Shade of grey paint should I use in a South facing room
Just as north facing rooms are the most difficult. Conversely South facing rooms are the exact opposite. They’re a designers dream. With a south facing room the world is your crayfish. That is to say that the quality of light and brightness of it allows you to use colours from both sides of the spectrum. Warm or cool colours will work. As will light or dark. A south facing room does not dictate to you as others do leaving you open to endless options.
That said be aware that the light will intensify the undertones. What may appear almost black with an undertone of green on a colour card can be transformed into an over powering green when applied in a south facing room so plan carefully when it comes to colour choice. When testing out greys in a south facing room try to make your paint samples as large as possible. For instance try painting a panel of cheap lining paper the height of your room rather than a small piece of A4. It really will save you from costly mistakes.
light greys for a south facing room
mid greys for a south facing room
dark greys for a south facing room
Guest Bedroom by @locationhouseofbeau
What Shade of grey paint should I use in a west facing room
Much like East facing rooms, West facing rooms can see a dramatic change in light from morning through afternoon and into the evening. In the morning you may find colours here are slightly shadier, so a cool or neutral grey will be enhanced and may feel cold. Though not as dark or cool as North facing rooms again warm greys will work best.
Again though be wary of the pigment levels used for the undertones. The afternoon light will intensify them. And check the grey not only in all light situations but on each wall too. The light in the morning will be cooler than that of the afternoon. And although light greys work will well for this aspect if it is a morning room. Darker greys will also look fabulous and cosy come late afternoon/early evening when the light is warmer. So thinking how we will use a room is helpful too.
light greys for a west facing room
mid greys for a west facing room
dark greys for a west facing room
So there you go. Grey is the perfect backdrop from which to build a scheme with most paint companies now offering a wealth of shades to choose from. Whether high end or a more budget brand you will find a plethora of choice out there. From almost blacks to off whites there is indeed a grey for everyone. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. And contrary to what some may say is not waning in popularity either. In fact it’s a new classic. And certainly here to stay too.
Kitchen by @danielwooding featuring blackened by farrow & Ball
Many of us are leaving behind trends in search of homes that reflect the inner us. We are fed up of keeping up with whatever the latest hot colour is. Or indeed the multiple colours of the year which I fear may sometimes be more a case of overstocks left on the shelves 🙂 We no longer want to be wasteful either nor throw away by endlessly keeping up with these new is the new new colours. But what we do want is comfort, a home that feels, well, like home. And above all our happy place. And this is why grey has stuck around. Because it’s a powerful neutral from which to build a perfect scheme. But remember to always try out tester pots before committing!