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HGTV.ca Editorial Team

How to Choose the Right Grey for Your Walls

Posted by HGTV.ca Editorial Team Tuesday, February 21, 2012 4:57 PM EST

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Despite lackluster paint swatch names like ‘rainy days’ and ‘dusty roads’, grey remains a popular choice for interior wall colour. Grey is a choice for so many due to its contemporary feel and neutral tone -- it's basically the new beige.



Grey can warm up or cool down a space, and can set off an accent colour like no other.  If you're having a hard time picturing anything but a rain cloud hanging inside your home, try these foolproof tips for choosing the perfect shade of grey to work with your space:


Natural Light
The most important factor in choosing the right shade for your space is to consider how much natural light your space gets, and what direction this light comes from. Does it shine in from the north, south, east, or west? The direction of your light works to make your wall colour cooler or warmer.   Northern light is the coolest (blueish hue) and southern light has the most warmth (golden hue).  East and west changes from morning to evening, as the sun moves through the sky: western light is warmer at sunset, and eastern light is warmer at sunrise. 



Cool Light
If you have north-facing windows, a cool grey like Benjamin Moore's ‘Horizon’ will appear even cooler in your space. This scenario is perfect for a space like a photography studio, but not so great if you are trying to create a cozy homestead.  A warmer shade like Benjamin Moore's ‘Balboa Mist’, will help to neutralize the cool light and create a more inviting feel.  

Warm Light
The opposite is true for homes with southern exposure. Southern light is warm and cozy, but could morph a warm grey like ‘Balboa Mist’ into beige (blah).  To neutralize the warm light choose a cool grey like ‘Horizon’, or if you want to keep the warmth but not the beige, choose a grey without warm or cool undertones like ‘Bunny Gray’.


Horizon; Bunny Gray; Balboa Mist, all Benjamin Moore

If you have a window that faces either east or west, pick whatever gray you like, but know that eastern exposure means your wall colour will appear warmest at sunrise; and western, at sunset.

Greys for Accent Colours
Grey may appear to be a non-colour, but there is a grey for every colour in the rainbow.  What sets one grey apart from another is its undertone -- the colour mixed in to give that particular grey its shade. When looking to make an accent wall or a collection of accessories pop, choose a grey with an undertone that is opposite to the accent colour.  Here is a list of opposite colours that can guide you:

Accent Colour                               Undertone in Paint
Yellow                                            Royal Purple/Blue
Orange                                           Blue
Red                                                Emerald Green/Blue
Magenta                                         Kelly Green
Purple                                            Chartreuse Yellow/Green
Royal Purple/Blue                           Yellow
Blue                                               Orange
Emerald Green/Blue                        Red
Kelly Green                                    Magenta
Chartreuse Yellow/Green                  Purple

For example, if your accent colour is Kelly Green, a grey with a slight magenta undertone like ‘Winter Gray’ would work best.  ** If you are not sure of the undertone ask your paint mixer, they will be able to guide you.

Softening an Accent Colour with Grey
The opposite is true if you would like your accent colour to be softened.  For this effect, choose a grey that has the same colour of undertone as your accent colour -- a colour that's analogous.  For example, if your accent colour is Kelly Green you could choose a gray with a green undertone, a yellow green undertone, or a blue green undertone.

Designer Tip:  No matter what your light source, or what accent colour you're working with, if you want to be 100 percent sure of your decision, invest in a sample can of the two or three colours you're considering, to paint 12” x 12” test square on the walls in question. Observe the colour for a day, and see if it accomplishes the look you imagined.

What's your favourite grey? 

Written by Prop Stylist, Alanna Davey, of The Style Dept.

Topics: Paint, Painting, Inspiration, Interior Design, Decor, Design

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