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Is Grey only for Happy People? Yay or Nay

By 06/11/2013August 20th, 201854 Comments


Is Grey only for Happy People? Yay or Nay

Some people say that decorating with grey is not for everyone, that if you’re someone who suffers from depression, then you should stay away from it.

The reason for this misconception is because of the tendency that many people have towards decorating with the current trendy neutral.

Just like everyone bought a brown sofa when the espresso brown trend was here, the same thing is happening with grey.

If you gravitate towards grey assuming it’s ‘safe’, and your entire house ends up decorated in varying shades of grey, well that’s a recipe for depression for anyone.

Just today I consulted with a client who said a decorator recently specified a grey blue for her honey-maple kitchen. She stopped painting when she was half-way through because she wasn’t in love with it.

That’s because without a decorating plan for the entire space a grey blue would simply look like “New trend colour, old living room/kitchen”.

My advice was that we start with choosing colours for furniture and accessories in the great room. Only then could she possibly get excited about a new neutral for the walls in addition to being able to choose colours for adjoining rooms to create flow.

Orange, yellow and blue

Image source lamp, chair, sofa, pillows

Grey is the crisp backdrop for colour that beige is too dirty to provide in most cases.

Gray vs. Colour

Both of these rooms (above) would be considered trendy and current at this moment.

Which one is for you?

Related posts:

Danger: How you Know You’ve Fallen for a Trend

Is Colour the Best Neutral? Yay or Nay

Are you Waiting for your Paint Colour to Propose?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 

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  • Ginger Kay says:

    I don’t like living in neutral rooms. I need colour, lots of it. I disliked the brown trend more than the grey trend. I think grey can be mixed with more colours than the earthy browns could.

  • Amanda says:

    The Manchester Tan, obviously! (the one on the left) I think its a timeless solution to the current trend that can take a space forward into future trends with ease.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Doesn’t this question ultimately go back to the fixed elements? I tried several colors at one point for a bath with a certain color of tile (can’t remember now), but the ONLY color that worked with it–and the bath was windowless–was a “clean” shade of grey. Contrary to what you might think, it was not depressing, but the room finally clicked and came alive. So context is king.

    • Cary says:

      It has taken me several months of living with partially grey walls (Ben Moore’s “Coastal Fog”) to be convinced that I gravitate to the grey more than the previous bright colors. Now I am excited about a total downstairs make-over, and as Paula says, everything else in these rooms is coming alive.

  • mimi says:

    I am drawn to the color on the right. But, I am not sure if it is because of the wall color or the curtain color which I also love. I also like the hit of pink in the flowers.

    I do love but funny enough find myself gravitating more towards blue and I never considered myself a “blue” person. Go figure.

  • Angela says:

    Well I moved into my current house five years ago before I took your workshop or even knew about you Maria. I hired someone to help me with the main colour in the kitchen and living room. I have a small open space so needed one colour. We decided on a blue/green/grey (Devine ‘Glass’). Everyone comments on it favourably. I have those orangy maple kitchen cabinets too. (Not a fan)
    So I guess we were ahead of the pack in this choice? I do like the colour, but I have to be honest and say that it is pretty dreary in the Winter months when it is overcast. I’ve thought about brightening things up with BM Brandy Cream because it has an orange undertone. However I do like the contrast of the ‘Glass’.

  • Mm says:

    Embrace the grey. Being from the NW, let me count the shades.

  • Angela says:

    My entry and main halls, along with dining room, were previously painted BM Monroe Bisque, which I enjoyed for many years. But last year, I wanted a change. I *thought* I wanted gray, but everything I tried ended up too blue, too green or just too blah-greige. Even the old stand-by Revere Pewter wasn’t working. After many tears, frustration, and far too much $$ in samples, I finally gave up and tried BM Classic Gray. Oh my… I love it. It’s light and soft and fades nicely into the background. My natural cherry dining furniture that previously read RED with the Monroe Bisque now looks so much better against the Classic Gray. I have Ikea off-white linen drapes, white porcelain and pewter accents, (and currently, white peonies!), and everything just looks so much more calm and lovely. I recommend BM Classic Gray as a subdued, very light gray background color. Nothing depressing about it.
    By the way, I color matched it to Behr’s paint, mixing the flat enamel and eggshell at 50/50 and it’s a perfect sheen. (Get a big bucket, pour in a gallon of each, and mix, mix and mix. It works.)
    Maria, in my endless search for the perfect color, I gained so much information from your blog. Thank you! When I read this particular entry, I just had to share my experiences. Good luck to all of your readers in their quests for that perfect gray!

  • Kim says:

    Hi Maria,
    I’m so excited! I’m decorating my new condo and saw a picture of your kitchen banquette…. and I’m doing a similar style in my dining room niche made up of three walls. When it’s finished I’ll send you a picture if you like. I love your blog and your taste! So chock full of great ideas and so much practical advice! Oh, and I like the room on the right. The room on the left is going to look pretty drab when those flowers die.

  • Wyn says:

    They both need more colour. The left room looks like a vampire bit it — it’s wan and drained. The room on the right has at least some personality and colour, in both intensity and variety.

  • StagerLinda says:

    The left hand room is void of personality. The single design elements are good but they aren’t integrated with color and warmth.

  • Bonnie says:

    I like the one on the right. It’s lighter and the pops of colour and the diffferent textures make it a place I’d enjoy sitting in.

  • the room on the right. definitely. my eye is drawn first to the curtains and the chairs.

  • You may be on to something. I can’t imagine myself living in a gray house. However the room on the right is lovely – the brightness of the curtains and the lightness of the furnishings compared to the example on the left says happy. Now THAT I could live in.

  • Jill Baum says:

    When I was renovating last year I was going to go very Restoration Hardware so I painted gray samples on all the walls. My hubby had a heart attack! I ended up only doing my second bath (which is all carrara marble) and it does seem kind of dreary even though the gray perfectly goes. I’m actually toying with getting rid of it. My house is a jazzier version of the left and I used a creamier Honey Harbor on the walls.

    • Sharon Charboneau says:

      Honey Harbour is a lovely colour. I used it in our kitchen – subtle and worked well with espresso cabinet colours & granite we chose.

  • mrsben says:

    IMHO the room on the right “hands down” is definitely far more appealing to the eye but with that said, I do not find gray depressing. I feel what is lacking in the opposite room is ‘namely’ pattern and a contrast in texture.
    P.S: There is bedroom featured on Houzz that I absolutely lust over. Its overall colour palette is done in gray tones (2011 Dream Home by Michael Abrams Ltd.) and though classified as Art Deco it is simply gorgeous.

  • Tricia says:

    I am redecorating the first floor of my home with brighter colors and I started with painting the woodwork Classic Gray OC-23. The LR & DR have color on the walls but the foyer, hall and stairwell are painted OC-20 which is called Pale Oak but is a very light gray. It is perfect with the crisper bright colors in the rest of the house. So, my answer to you question is obviously the one on the right although for those who prefer a simple, sleek look, the one on the left might work for them.

  • Amy says:

    I love the one on the right…but it has more to do with the bright green cushions and black chairs. (Hope nobody eats those grapes.) The wall color doesn’t own the room so the other elements can take center stage. I like to see the unexpected in decorating and I like things to pop. Not everybody does though…isn’t it somewhat about finding your OWN style really is and making it work for you. (Imagine the one on the right with kumquats and Tiger Lillies…that urn would really pop out.)

  • Franki says:

    Definitely the left for me (which is funny because I’m so right brained!) as it just looks cohesive. franki

  • tara dillard says:

    Hired Susanne Hudson to choose my colors.

    Mostly, BM Rockport Grey.


    Especially on the ceilings too.

    A zillion lamps are everywhere, at all heights, & types of bulbs. Many windows in my house too.

    Don’t know how it would look in northern Europe, Canada……

    Same thing happens in gardens with color. Blues or greens used in England look rather stupid in Georgia. We have so much dust in the air from the red clay it affects everything everyday every day light hours.

    Can’t wait to see more of your new garden.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Sharon Charboneau says:

    I am in midst of choosing colours for casa in Baja. We are renting, so I am going with some new paint colours but also removable wallpaper in a few rooms.

    For the first time ever, I am living in a climate with sunshine every day & considering a grey to work with the marble floors in entry. No BM dealer here so I am using Behr chips. I think my fave is Planetary Silver. Anyone familiar with colour? Know what it looks like when on wall?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Sharon, just take a paint colour you are familiar with and find the closest one in Behr, it’s what I would do if I were looking for paint colours in a fan deck I did not know. That post I wrote–the professional knows that the only way to know if a colour is right is by comparison, applies here. Hope this helps, Maria

  • Fran says:

    I’m hopelessly behind the times. My entire home is decorated in sage greens, warm yellow-golds and coral tones. But I love it and it makes me happy. So, I won’t be going with grey at all, although I can appreciate its appeal. Who knows . . . maybe my colors will become popular again eventually!

  • Martha Hughes says:

    I will not be doing grey. I did not like it in the ’80s at all, and not much now either. Besides I have a whole houseful of furniture that would definitely not go with grey, and I for one cannot afford to change it all. I mostly like muted greens and yellows. Having said all that, what I really like are the pops of color in grey rooms. Those are the colors I would wear, but not decorate my house in them. It’s sort of sad when what you like goes completely out of style. There is a pressure to conform to what is current, but for me I think it would be the wrong thing to do.

  • I agree with Fran, I’m so not into gray anything. I love warm, mellow colors. The whole blue and gray trend turns me off. I’m a happy person already, but do find cooler colors blah and depressing. I find muted earthy colors, well, more earthy! They seem more natural to me, more classic. Bright clear colors look too artificial to me. Fake, intense, not calm. I’ll never be trendy, and that’s okay with me.

  • Sandy says:

    I love gray and think it works in both large and small ways from light to dark shades. Just as with any color choice choosing the right sharper shades to compliment both the space and each other is key. Maria does a wonderful job of explaining this this key point! PS. Is it Grey or Gray lol

  • Wendy says:

    I’m not angry just sad about people who say they never like gray …because of all the beautiful possibilities they are missing! It’s like being prejudiced against brunettes because you argued with a brunette when you were 12 or something…let’s be FLEXIBLE, people! There is SOOO much beauty out there, and it’s foolish to eliminate an entire range of paint colors. Okay, I’m done.

  • Beth says:

    I like the room on the right because it is calm but with a few refreshing splashes of life and color. I love gray as long as it’s not too bland. I’m trying to paint my shingle and siding home with a light-to-medium gray (not too cool in tone), because I adore the classic and calm feel, but after way too many samples I’m still undecided. The exterior of a house is so important that I almost want to paint it white so I don’t make a mistake. I’ve tried BM Rockport, Revere Pewter… Maria, do you suggest any lovely grays (a solid stain might make sense?) for the exterior? I would paint the door and shutters to coordinate. Help!!!

  • SandyCGC says:

    I’m looking at the two rooms and reading some of the comments and wondering: Have we not learned anything from you, Maria, about undertones? I love grey and always have, even before it became a trend, but I don’t like every grey room I see. I prefer the room on the left because the wall color seems to have a green (warm) undertone which is the grey I like. Otherwise, I think both rooms are somewhat drab and boring – the only things I like in the room to the right are the dining chairs and the bowl of green apples/grapes. It’s fine to say “I’m not a blue (grey, green, pink) person”, but I think it’s sad when we say it with a vengeance that eliminates the colors in our world. I’m not a “blue” person, but I found an inspiration bedroom picture with muted tones of aqua and orangey red that enabled me to embrace the “antique blue” secretary in my guest bedroom (was thinking of painting it – ha ha) and I was able to build a delightful room that I enjoy walking into and that I think my guests will enjoy as well (and there’s not a bit of green anywhere except in the little bowl of succulents.) Here’s to “never say never!”

  • Giovanna says:

    Maria I need your opinion please..Just bought a house (cathedral cealings) & needs lots of updates since has flowery wall paper all over the house : $ I Would like to paint most of the rooms with a very light gray, white baseboards, white windows frame, Ivory leather sofas, Pergo Presto Espresso Oak laminated floor (Wide x 47-5/8 in). ,dark cool gray on fireplace, metal contemporary wall art & mirror.
    I’ll like to ad some bold color like orange,(pillows , flowers ) Not sure about the rug yet. What do you think? Thanks for your time : )

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Giovanna, yes you’re on the right track. That’s what a lot of people are doing now! Maria

  • Elena says:

    The problems is people keep choosing a synthetic paint fan/color wheel gray, instead of a shade of gray found in nature, or one of the natural aging process on material items in an outdoor environment. Natural tones work well with any thing. Also, choosing a synthetic gray for walls, then adding many poor toned gray fabric and furniture pieces is not only trendy, but cheap looking. Gray, like black, white, brown, and navy is a classic!

  • Ruth says:

    this grey trend drives me crazy – but only because the photos look like black and white with photoshopped color pops. An actual lived-in room would never look that way.

  • I love both the rooms pictured 🙂 And yes, without a whole plan, just picking a trendy color is only going to give you a “used shoes, new dress” look in your house.

    Make a plan people 🙂 That’s the ticket !

    BTW, my open plan living room/piano salon/dining area/kitchen/hallway is done in white and pale gray. Because we have many windows with east, south and west exposures, the gray never looks depressing. Light’s a very important factor in how any color will look.

  • Merry Hagenston says:

    Neither! As much as I LOVE gray, that first room is greatly lacking any light and life! The other room is of a confusing decor. I couldn’t relax in such a room.

  • Maria Killam says:

    My point here is not that everyone should LOVE this particular colourful room on the right, it’s that grey all by itself and without the context of colour is what can be depressing and debilitating for some people. But does this mean they should eliminate grey from their house? No, the lesson is, do not default to grey for EVERY decorating decision you make for your house.

  • Loribeth says:

    Definitely the room on the right. The room on the left seems a little too sterile for me; it needs something besides the just the flowers to bring it to life.

    I haven’t been able to embrace the grey trend. I like more nature inspired colors like green, which I think goes with everything.

  • Angela T. says:

    I’m suprised that nobody picked up on my mistake earlier. BM CC-60/1030 Brandy Cream has a PINK undertone and not the orange undertone that I specified…it was early AM… what can I say? As long as I get it right for my clients:)
    Recently suggested this colour for a client as she had a lot of pink undertones in her fixed elements. See Maria, I did pay attention:) Still prefer warmer tones here in the NW. It’s all subjective right?

  • Dianne says:

    Help. Those are the two colors I am pulled between for painting my house. My new sofa has a light cream, sage green, and pink fabric with small squares. What to do?

  • BillP says:

    Is Revere Pewter and gray or a beige? My choice of the above would be the left room, with the furniture items you sourced above.

  • Georgia55 says:

    I agree completely with your point Maria that grey can be a light, airy backdrop to splashes of colour. Those splashes of colour can be switched up anytime the fancy strikes.

    We painted our master bedroom BM Stonington Grey and love it. It feels fresh, not trendy and works with the colour palette of the rest of our home.

  • Lisa says:

    I started out by saying that I would never use gray in my house since I live in Seattle where it’s often gray outside. Well, now that I’m seeing gray everywhere I’m getting used to it and am using it more. My dining room is purple toned down with gray and my entryway is blue toned down with gray. I love them both.
    BTW-where did you find the lamp? The link is missing. Thanks.

  • Mary says:

    Love gray, always have, but I don’t want it everywhere and am less inclined to add more because it is considered trendy now. As for depressing, not to me, but I imagine it can be in some cases, like that room on the left which looks like an old MD off ice in a strip mall. That bland monochrome room is depressing, but it would probably feel the same to me no matter what single color it was, especially brown.
    Don’t care for the right room either, hate each and every piece in that room except the urn of flowers.

  • Mary says:

    Maria, I’m curious, are there go to grey paint colors that builders are using as the standard colors for entire interiors?
    I haven’t been to any new home developments with model homes lately, but I recall the days when the standard wall color for every new tract home was Navajo White, then Botany Beige and Swiss Coffee. Now is there a go to greyish neutral that is widely used?

  • Kerry says:

    My condo is Behr Silver Drop throughout. It is beautiful with my white crown moulding, white cabinets, white ceramic tile floors, and tan carpets. So many grays are pinkish or blue and just feel wrong to me. I love the warm undertones in Silver Drop; it looks beautiful on sunny California days as well as on those gray “June gloom” mornings. It gives a light, spacious feel to my small place.

  • Keri Cannon says:

    What color gray is in the picture above? I am going crazy trying to find the right gray for our new home – I am not a designer or decorator…and I want just a light gray – not a blue/gray – for our living room/foyer/ kitchen areas…I had chosen Wickham gray but now fear it is too blue…
    I have now been told to look at Agreeable Gray or tinsmith…I am beyond confused!

    • Monica says:

      Try Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore. It’s a close cousin to Wickham Gray but less blue. I just changed my living room from Wickham Gray to Gray Owl and it turned out the way I had hoped. (I found Wickham Gray too cool.) Classic Gray or Balboa Mist are nice too.

  • Lynne says:

    Can I have the furniture on the left but with the colours of the room on the right? 😉

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