Ask Maria: What if I Don’t Like the Grey Flooring That’s Everywhere?

The grey trend has fully saturated home design. Shopping for a new home, this reader noticed an abundance of all-grey renovations. Here’s how to decorate with grey floors or other grey hard finishes you’re stuck with to help bring your home back to life, without replacing everything. 

Ask Maria Killam True Colour Expert

What if I Don’t Like the Grey Flooring That’s Everywhere?

This is a great Ask Maria question I was happy to receive because I think a lot of people are dealing with this same dilemma:

My husband and I are looking at downsizing. Every single one of the newer condos we look at is grey-flooring, paint, cabinetry. White kitchens with grey mosaic tile backsplashes or grey cabinets with grey floors. . . grey on grey on grey.

I did not love the grey trend cycle at all and opted out completely. While I love colour, I’ve always leaned to warmer colours- reds, yellows, creams, Wood, cognac leather. Nothing I own will suit a grey on grey look. I particularly dislike grey flooring but it’s everywhere.

I feel terrible ripping up nearly new flooring- but I’m not going to suddenly buy a turquoise couch to help the grey come to life.

How do you successfully mix preferences for warm/earthier colours with this grey trend without putting almost new materials in the dump?  Is there a way?

Tricia Firmaniuk, my senior colour designer, is shopping for a new home right now and she agreed that it’s everywhere in all the updated homes for sale she’s seen in her area.

And here’s the average kitchen with the exciting and trendy backsplash of course (below).

Why I Stand Behind Boring

I recently received a comment from someone who said “They way I see it Maria, you like BORING”. Whatever happened to ‘Different strokes for different folks?'”

And that’s exactly right. Because boring now equals timeless later.

What’s boring about the possibilities offered by a blank canvas? Nothing, they are endless of course.

And where’s the stroke of inspiration in grey upon grey with more grey and a bit of black? Because let’s face it, this is where people’s “creative” choices lead them when they are not taking a bird’s eye view of the trend cycle. They are simply picking from what is on display at the flooring store. And that means trendy.

Save your upgrade budget for your next house.

Tricia says it has been really disheartening to see the “upgrades” that people are hoping to recoup the costs of in the sale of their homes. She would rather have the slightly too warm and worn oak floors and older wood cabinets that can be painted. The best house they found had miles and miles of shiny brand new charcoal shag carpet, a big expense to replace right off the bat if you’re over grey.

A backsplash is no big deal to replace, but flooring does get expensive. And it’s wasteful.

These two images (above) are the reason why I constantly talk about classic and timeless on this blog.

Because this is the kitchen that I see every. single. day. Trendy, with a shelf life of just a few years and even less if this was recently installed for resale with the homeowner blissfully unaware that the grey trend was already over.

How to live with all-grey renovations.

So what can you do if this is what you see over and over again? If the home that has the perfect location and price point with the ideal exposure and layout is decked out head to toe in the grey trend?

While it’s true that nothing brings grey to life faster than colour, it’s not that you must decorate with colour if your floors are grey, what you need to do is REPEAT the grey in your decor  (a little bit) to make it look like you’re not ignoring it completely.

But first, let’s explore some ideas for making it prettier shall we?

Alecia Stevens

How to decorate with grey floors.

There are not many flooring gaffs that cannot be greatly improved by a natural fibre rug like seagrass or jute. And they are relatively inexpensive. Have them measured to leave approximately a foot or a little more all around the room. This instantly adds warmth just like this image (above).

See how it brings in the look of natural wood? And the black banister and grey tile? Repeat them judiciously with furniture and decor to create an intentional look.

Why you Should Paint all Your Floors White |  Richard Ouellette

You could paint your grey floors white! Radical I know but white is definitely trending. And it would be a lot less expensive than replacing them. If there was something in my house that really bothered me and I was stuck with it, I would not hesitate to paint it. You would be amazed what can be painted with the right product. Tile, stone, flooring, brick, even countertops in some cases!

Layer in some warm cognac, wood tones and white. Oh, and a little brass doesn’t hurt either.

Charcoal banister, natural fibre rug, cognac, wood and white | Decorated Life

While this spiral staircase will not be found in the average house on the market, the elements are all here. The natural fibre rug, lots of warm wood, white and cognac. Essentially, the idea is to compensate for the lack of warmth with yummy wood tones and crisp white in everything else you bring in. And the charcoal is lightly repeated in the artwork and accessories.

Notice the green accent in the library shelves? Fresh green and plants is also a fabulous way to freshen a neutral grey palette.

You won’t find many designer rooms with grey flooring.

It’s honestly not easy to find pretty rooms with grey flooring because that is not what pro designers install. Classic natural oak floors are the go-to choice for the professionals. Because they’re beautiful, timeless and versatile. But I’m sharing a couple rooms below that balance a lot of grey successfully to give you ideas.

Cognac and grey | Anna Hewitson Design

This lovely room above has a grey palette that feels timeless. Why? Because it is intentional and balanced by white, warm cognac and brass. There are also delicate hits of black that don’t overwhelm. The pretty architecture doesn’t hurt either, but you get the idea.

This kitchen below is not an example of the standard DIY renovated in the grey trend specimen. However, the large charcoal sofa, area rug and island add up to a lot of grey. And again, they are expertly balanced by warm wood, loads of white and cognac leather sprinkled with a few  black accents in the lighting and dining chairs.

Charcoal, white and cognac| @amberinteriors

Grey floors | Home Deco

I think the cat was the inspiration for the colour palette in this boho take on grey and cognac above, haha. These floors are grey, and all the woody baskets and warm brown accents, once again make it work.

The theme? If you are working with a lot of grey, natural wood tones are your friend. If you don’t have a pretty wood floor, decorate with wood tones instead! Any room can come to life with love and clever decorating.

I hope this helps you discover how to decorate with grey floors! Let me know what you think in the comments below. How have you been working with grey floors?

If you’d like to submit a question to my Ask Maria column, send your question and photos here.

If you need help choosing flooring I can help through my hard finish eDesign package here.

Related post:

The Most Timeless Hardwood Floor

Ask Maria: What’s Next After the Grey Trend?

What Everyone Should Know About Black

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  1. Spot on Maria! (as usual) I have found that I’ve been sourcing a lot of Luxury Vinyl Plank (LVP) for people, the manufacturers clearly think gray is still in- pickings are slim in medium wood tone. Every “spec” home done by a builder here is gray on gray on gray. It makes my eyes hurt!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! I am a Realtor and tell my clients that want to renovate that grey is on the way out… However, that is all they see in new builds so they continue with the grey trend. It seems so crazy to buy a very expensive new build with finishes that you need to “work around”! The examples above were beautiful.

  3. This validates everything you have taught us over the past years. The gray trend is still very much alive in the Midwest so I’m hoping some flooring can be saved. For those stuck with gray floors this advice is very helpful, thank you.

  4. Maria, I love your stuff! Thank you for sending it to me in my inbox. You helped me when I was rebuilding a home I now live in. The information on whites and undertones was very helpful and I love my results. Blessings to you.

  5. Once again, you knocked it out of the park. Love every single room, but most of all, the kitty cat. She definite adds a touch of spice.
    You are a joy!!!!!

  6. My advice is rip it out…if you can afford it. Or maybe you can refinish it if it is wood…or paint it if you can’t replace it. Since gray flooring is something you particularly dislike I would get rid of it one way or another. You can work with the other “grays” but flooring IS everywhere!! And it is so much easier to replace or refinish before you move in!
    Because you are someone that follows Maria then color is important to you. I know that having a gray floor would bother me EVERY day, so if you figure the cost over how long you will live there. I like gray but not on flooring or cabinets those are too permanent!!

  7. Thanks for this post Maria. I was just in my kitchen store and the manufacturer of the cabinetry are offering three new shades of grey as a standard colour. I was just in the store a year ago and they offered only one shade of grey. No wonder why builders think 🤔 wow a new standard colour must be trending, let’s use it. As a builder of spec homes, its so sad 😞. Builders use standard colours to keep cost down. I’d like to see more than two options of white and a couple of pretty wood options at the same price point. A girl can dream.

  8. I thought your styling of the gray rooms look very pretty, but when I see a house with gray carpeting, flooring, and thoroughly painted in gray, I just walk on by.

  9. My soulmate!!! I felt exactly the same way when my husband and I started the downsizing process. I did not like grey on grey at all. Not even in hotel rooms. I was determined to let this trend pass. Even if you like the trend, the new over 50 communities that are being built show condos that have been furnished accordingly, and to make the space look right when you move in, it requires ditching your furniture.

    If possible, I would hold off until you find a condo/house where the builder is willing to work with other flooring. This is probably your last home purchase and it would be a shame to choose something where you are working around a major feature.

    If that’s not possible, Tricia has given lots great ideas. My husband and I went a different route, we renovated a small rancher we inherited and, with Maria’s help, we are so happy with our non-grey on grey home.

    • We, too, downsized. We remodeled some with neutral white in kitchen and everyone thought we were nuts because we left the gorgeous cherry floors alone and even added some to replace carpet. People are changing their tune now! Gorgeous wood floors,

  10. Yay for the end if the grey trend. I was an early adopter, bought a lot of furniture, a rug, and accessories for a home office. Decided it looked like a bucket of wood ashes and returned the whole lot. So happy with the blues and greens I switched too.

  11. I LOVE how the cat matches, and then I love how after I noticed that you said the cat could be the inspiration! Made my day! I think there is a general misconception that grey’s can’t work with warmer colors but that is far from true. I love popping cognac against grey.
    Thanks for the great content as always!

  12. Thank you thank you Maria for posting my question and for your answer and the additional suggestions and answers from your amazing readers!! You are simply the best! I am glad to read I am not the only one struggling with this dilemma.

  13. Recently I moved into a home with beautiful grey tile floors. Yes beautiful. I have always had wood, dark and heavy and the tile is so light and refreshing. I have mixed light wood tones in caramels and greys and blue walls and it feels so fresh. I would call my decorating style eclectic, not worrying about whether something is at the beginning or end of its lifecycles, just does it feel right for us. I would love to send a pic or two.

  14. Thank you for this excellent “Ask Maria”! I am aligned with the questioner–don’t care for grey, love a warmer color palette. Now we’re doing what trend? White walls? Not me, either…and I’m no designer, just know what color environment makes me happy.

    When I recently chose colors for freshening interior walls, I had to put on blinders to all the grey, and read and re-read your comments on flow throughout the home, clean vs dirty, choosing yellows, etc. I barely changed the colors I chose 20 years ago, just tiny tweaks according to your principles. I love them and never tire of them…but I’m sure real estate agents would gasp and tut-tut. Not their house! No Stepford Wives here!

    The post you did from Finland on kitchen tables vs islands has really stayed with me–drove home just how myopic and insular Americans are re taste. Reading that was very freeing for me, a confidence-booster in rejecting the grey (now white ?) trend (and a kitchen island!!).

  15. Ironically, I love gray and dislike the gray trend. For years I’ve been looking for an old house in the country that has not been overly updated, and when I find one that might be a possibility, the owners have slapped gray on surfaces everywhere. It’s so disappointing. And sometimes they add new gray flooring in a kitchen or bath that is directly contiguous with the beautiful original wood floor. It makes me want to scream.

    The best idea for me would be painting gray surfaces white. So nice to know that it can be done!

  16. Those images are beautiful – especially the last one. I have essentially followed this color advise, but in reverse order. I have a lot of warm finishes, both hard and soft, from the Tuscan trend in my own home; warm woods, cognac and black. The floors are a very warm oak, and cabinets are natural hickory, which have warmed over time. I knew it needed updating, but I didn’t want to start all over, and I love my warm finishes – so, I pulled up the warm area rugs, and bought new ones in neutral greige tones with flecks of cognac and black in the weave. I swapped out my cream pillows, throws and linens for more greyish tones, and even added some pottery accents and art in that vein. I am keeping the kitchen cabinets which we love, but will likely swap out the black countertops. Luckily, my original backsplash tiles are a soft white, so I will probably keep them. We still have the cream walls and matching linen draperies in the living/dining/kitchen area and that’s not likely to change soon, but I am happy with the resulting look. My color palette now looks a bit like the above images, not as bright white, though, so now I feel like I am – if not updated – then at least close to timeless! More work to do! This blog, which I found just over a year ago, has been instrumental in this project. Thanks, Maria, for your expertise!

  17. As always, great post Maria! I actually love the look of wood with gray – really gives the designer look I think.

  18. That gray, white, black backsplash needs to be discontinued! Every flipped house on the market has it. It is ugly! Great post, as usual!

  19. Spot on. Ever since the grey trend started, I have NEVER specified a grey-toned wood (or wood alike) floor as I predicted these floors would be what pickled oak was to the 80s; Ubiquitous, trendy, and hard to work with when the trend died as it now has.
    As your photos have so well illustrated, wood tones combined with grey is a very sophisticated look and jute/natural fiber area carpets are a brilliant solution especially because they tend to be reasonably priced. The only quibble I have is the suggestion that painting floors white would be a good idea. Do this only if you like to spend a lot of time with your Swiffer.

  20. Such a good post Maria! The pictures you have chosen are such good examples! For me a little gray goes a long way! The worst gray trend is making the floors gray. Your suggestion are spot on. Another way to treat gray floors is by using throw rugs where possible with color and using them as a starting point to add color. I am glad the gray on gray trend is finally phasing out. I like boring with so many more possibilities.

  21. I don’t like ‘grey-on-grey’ either, but I do like the versatility of grey, so I”m still liking mine because I’ve incorporated it against a canvas of ‘Cloud White’ walls, adding warming leathers & other textures (cognac and caramel) natural woods, and hits of black to punctuate & anchor. But, for a long while, I’ve had ‘ochre’ on my mind. Grey with ochre (the dark, muddy mustard version) is so warm & rich. It’s time for a change, so I plan to incorporate it with a couple of decor pillows (one plain, one pattern) a throw (found one with ochre on one side, grey on the other) add in a vase or three on a bookshelf and display art books that have some black, white and ochre in the covers. And, finally make sure your pictures are framed using all of these shades (maybe not ochre?). The grey floor can be remedied. Hopefully, you haven’t moved in yet, and you can afford to change or re-stain. If this is your last home and you can’t live with the grey, do something now because you will be reminded every time you enter… your home will “rise-up” (Oprah & Nate) but not to “meet you” – it will ‘rise-up’ to remind you that you should have done something while you still could.

  22. great post! hated the gray trend, so depressing! and feeling like living in a battleship. still see some people remodeling putting in gray floors, not taking them out! 😮
    Love these gray updating ideas in your post. In a way, it’s almost like treating the gray like natural Stone, and adding another natural element, wood.

  23. Don’t get weird, trendy floors. That’s my #1 advice. Sure, maybe in a powder room or distant bath, but not as your whole-house material. They are the single most expensive thing to replace. I fully agree that any wood floor whose color is not extreme is the best choice. Stay away from the dark, almost black floors – they will show every speck of dust and lint, even when you think the house is spotless.

    If you want drama, take a chance with a bold wall color. That’s easily changed if you tire of it. Even more so with pillows.

    The hardcore blue-gray trend has been on the way out for a while. Many builders just don’t realize it. I have been steering customers away from it for several years now.

  24. Great advice and why I read your blog! I live on the east coast in Nova Scotia and so much grey feels cold and uninviting as we see lots of grey days being a maritime province, especially at this time of year. Your answer to this all grey dilemma is right on target, I’d say. Classic styling with touches of warmth in decor and furniture pieces. Colour advice your readers can trust!

  25. What I see is every “current” remodel or new build looks like a black and white photo! (all grey, black and white) I live in MN and that is NOT something that works for me. Outdoors is colorless for 6 (or more) months! I am so glad you promote COLOR.

  26. I had no idea that grey and cognac look so fabulous together. Can you do a post about bathroom flooring? If someone has wood floors throughout the house, what is the best choice for bathroom flooring, to compliment it, instead of looking like a totally different room from the rest of the house?

  27. I am continuously applying your advice to my clients’ homes. As you stated, the grey is still going strong on the internet.
    As they are paying for my knowledge and eager to learn and listen if it isn’t too late, the homeowner understands the logic behind my advice and my undertone knowledge from attending your workshop!!

    Maria, your recommendations are so steadfast and reliable; reflecting repeatedly back to the concept of the freedom to embellish and change with the wind and whimsy if one chooses and to not be bossed by hard finishes!!

    The jute/seagrass performs magic, covering the overbearing dark grey flooring and softening the mood teaming with the cognac accents! Great examples you always share!!

    ALSO – I purchased your online Master course for EXTERIORS and watched all 12 Modules in one day as I could not leave the topic!! THANK YOU once again!! I’m revisiting them again this weekend- sooo much info!!

  28. What great ideas to deal with these ubiquitous grey floors. I have an old (well, not antique old,1990’s old, lol!) oriental that is mainly a deep burgundy with navy, cream, green, yellow and a bit of grey. It works great with wood tones and yet that touch of grey lets it work with the grey trend. First I had it in a burgundy dining room with lots of warm wood for a while, no grey-it looked fabulous. After a move, I was tired of the burgundy and wanted the grey trend for a while but had no $ to get a new rug of comparable quality, so I followed Maria’s advice and had lots of the blue, green, and grey furnishings from the rug and had minor notes of burgundy accents in the room-it still worked. Look for a rug with lots of colors, some warm, a note of grey and it may do the trick of repeating but reducing the grey impact.

  29. Well, I have dark grey floors in my living room and light grey floor in my foyer, almost white, and I was going to continue the dark grey to the open concept of my kitchen but it sounds like I should not do this, correct? I have some white in my living room and was going to paint my cabinets white on top, grey on bottom, change countertops to white with a little grey marble and paint the island white. But, I have a rose colored wall, a beige colored wall and a ombre grey colored wall with a pink sky in my living room with floor to 18 foot ceiling windows, and mosaic over 2 archways that are inbetween my 2 rooms. Not to mention I have turquoise artwork in my living room and the archways are painted a light turquoise. So, the cognac color is not going to work in my house especially since I have natural colored trim around the windows and baseboards. So far, what i have read in your website, I have too many colors. Can I carry the rose and turquoise into my kitchen somehow?

    • It doesn’t sound like you have too many colours? And if you go back and read my readers question again she was not interested in adding colour to bring the grey to life. That’s what you are doing and it’s a great idea! Keep going! Maria

  30. I actually have higher end grey Owl color kitchen cabinets. I’m more into the English style kitchens most are not white. I love accenting with terracota and greens. Why do you hate grey? I don’t like grey on grey. White kitchen is only timeless if it has character. If it’s cheap it will look cheap. In my opinion. I’m not a professional though.

  31. excellent blog maria! you’ve made it very clear that cognac, white and perhaps black balance the grey nicely, warming it up. the photos made it clear to see your vision.

    once again, thanks! we need you!!!

  32. Hi Maria,

    Me, personally, like contrasting colors, and I love the dark floors.. or crystal white floors .. And I am also really fond of jute and everything made of natural metrials, such as rattan furniture .. It is very cheap, practical and brings in the spirit of tropical islands and are easily replaceble.. 🍍🏝 If we talk about current trends, I would definitely cover the grey floors with moroccan carpets, they have such diverce patterns and colors and are very trendy .. 🎨 BTW, the room “Cognac and grey” looks very sofisticated, I find this combination the most intriguing .. 😃

  33. I have a porcelain floor in a small bathroom in a basement. It is on top of concrete. Do you have a recommendation for a paint brand to paint this kind of porcelain floor? It is now a sandy pink color. I once saw a blog where a person painted her bathroom floor which took several steps, but after 5 years she said it still looked good. Thank you.