When you don’t want to play it safe with an all-white room but can’t fathom painting the walls pink either, there’s gray. “I’m a big fan,” says Layne Kula, the designer and creative consultant behind Penny Layne. “The right shade has a chameleon-like ability to change just about any space.”
While the hue has long been regarded as a safe choice, settling on the right swatch is no simple feat. Go too dark and it might read as charcoal; too light and it will look like a lackluster shade of white. There’s a lot of talk over the best brands, finishes, and undertones when it comes to picking the right gray paint. To get to the bottom of the debate, we asked the pros which ones they stand by. These eight picks never fail.
New York–based interior designer Maggie Burns is a huge fan of this hue in Benjamin Moore’s Historic Color collection. “I recently used it for the baseboards and doors throughout an entire apartment and it instantly added character to the white walls,” she says.
“When it comes to pulling paints, I always opt for a matte option with cool undertones because I think it catches the light perfectly,” says Kula. In addition to Loft Space by Behr, this milkier pick is one of her favorites.
Considered to be Farrow & Ball’s “understated gray,” designer Hannah Crowell’s go-to sits right between the paint purveyor’s popular Ammonite and Purbeck Stone. “It doesn’t reflect blue or green hues like many grays do,” she explains.
When Katie Gebhardt, founder of Solstice Interiors, wants to add depth to a space, she uses Dunn-Edwards’s Cloud. “I love contrasting it against white trim and baseboards,” she shares. Before committing to a color, the designer recommends testing out a small swatch on the wall and living with it for a few days. Observe how the color changes as light moves around the room. After all, you want to love what you end up choosing, from dusk till dawn.
“Sophisticated and moody” is how designer Whitney Durham sums up her foolproof shade. “I love it in high gloss for a library or study and on kitchen cabinets for an unexpected surprise.” The paint’s blue undertones make it perfect for a smaller room or nook in need of some coziness.
Tania Cassill of Huit Laguna recently used the zen hue on cabinets in the master bathroom of this sunny Emerald Bay project. The fan favorite has 100 reviews on the company’s site and a nearly five-star rating. You’ll find it in Farrow & Ball’s Easy Neutrals collection, for obvious reasons.
Berkeley Minkhorst, who co-owns House of Nomad with fellow designer Kelly Lentini, loves this option so much she used it all over her home. “I suggest using it for rooms with ceilings that are nine feet high or lower. It will really brighten them up,” she says.
This hue might have been designed with a nursery in mind, but “it looks really sophisticated in dining rooms, powder rooms, or studies,” says designer Keri Peterson, who likes to spice it up with brass and chrome accents. “It truly does feel like cashmere: warm, soft, and unbelievably luxurious.” Confirmed: This once-boring color is anything but.
This story was originally published on January 5, 2019. It has been updated.
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