Colour Psychology: Using Grey in Interiors

Shaker Kitchen by DeVOL - grey interiors

Shaker Kitchen from DeVOL

Back in March, I invited colour expert and consultant Karen Haller to take part in an interview all about the colour yellow and its use in interior design. The post has been a massive success, one of the most popular of all time in fact, and because of this, Karen and I have decided to make the posts into a new quarterly series: Karen’s Quarterly Colour Psychology Questions. This time we have decided to take a closer look at the use of the sophisticated and elegant colour grey in interiors. By this, we mean archetype grey, (as in a mix of black and white, not other colours that are mixed with grey) which has proven to be a big hit in interiors over the past year or so. Grey interiors are definitely becoming more popular.

Karen Haller applied colour psychology expert

I chose to quiz Karen about grey interiors as I personally really like the use of grey in interiors. However, I know that it is quite a controversial colour as some people find it quite depressing. It was in fact an article in the Guardian entitled ‘Why has everything gone grey?’ that prompted me to ask Karen for her expert opinion on what the Guardian referred to as the “drabbest colour in the palette”.

Furniture Choice Midcentury Dining Table and Chairs - grey interiorsUnion Table & Brooklyn Chairs from Furniture Choice

Grey is a colour that is most often associated with industrial environments. How does this affect our perception of the colour?

KH. If we look at grey, we see a colour that is neither black nor white. Given it is virtually absent of colour, it draws no attention to itself, it keeps its distance, remaining separate.  Thinking of industrial environments, they are utilitarian and functional. Industrial environments don’t necessarily need to be seen so grey is a suitable colour.

Nordic Nights Niko Cotton Digital Printed Duvet Cover from Cloth & Clay - grey interiors

Nordic Nights Niko Cotton Digital Printed Duvet Cover from Cloth & Clay

In recent months, we have witnessed the growing popularity of grey interiors. Why do you think that is?

KH. There could be a number of reasons. It could be seen as trendy/fashionable or aspirational. This gives a sense of belonging, inclusion, acceptance. Or perhaps during these uncertain times we are currently in, people may be looking for security.

Porcelanosa Tono Collection in partnership with Foster & Partners - grey interiors

Porcelanosa Tono Collection in partnership with Fosters & Partner

What are the main psychological properties of the colour grey?

KH. Grey is the only colour that doesn’t have any positive psychological properties. Grey is the colour to wear when you don’t want to be seen, ‘cloaking the personality’. It can convey seriousness and the message ‘I mean business’.

Simple Form Livata Corner Sofa from Barker & Stonehouse - grey interiors

Simple Form Livata Corner Sofa from Barker & Stonehouse

Grey is often perceived as quite a negative colour. Why is this?

KH. It evokes a lack of confidence, fear of exposure, hiding. In the home surrounding yourself with grey is like cocooning yourself from the outside world, going into hibernation. Over time this can be energy-draining and straining. There are many other colours that support the emotions without draining them.

Maxine Brady's dining room featuring Laura Ashley - grey interiors

The dining room of interior stylist & blogger Maxine Brady

The colours that we choose to decorate our homes with are often said to be a reflection of our collective psyche. Do you think that grey interiors have become popular as a response to the difficult economic situation we are experiencing at the moment?

KH. That can absolutely be a reason why. We are protecting ourselves, we may be fearful of the unknown and what is going to happen. We may be subconsciously withdrawing and using grey as a means of protection to feel safe and secure.

If we are anxious or nervous we may also turn to grey to feel calm, which is quite an extreme way to do it as it can be so draining without any support. As I said, there are better colours that support the emotions without draining or straining a person’s energy.

Recently I was meeting a friend at a café. Running late I rushed in, out of breath. I felt myself instantly relaxing, looking at the walls of the café which were grey. We both noted we felt ourselves unwinding and becoming calmer. However that ‘calming down’ kept going and going so by the time we left a couple of hours later we no longer felt relaxed but drained and tired.

Luxor Davos rug from Modern Rugs - grey interiors

Luxor Davos rug from Modern Rugs

To what extent does the shade of grey that we choose make a difference to our interiors?

KH. It’s best to use the shade of grey that resonates with you. There are warm greys (yellow-based) and cool greys (blue-based).

Duette Shades from Luxaflex - grey interiors

Duette Shades from Luxaflex

Are there any areas of the home where the use of grey should be avoided?

Grey is best avoided in the bedroom, nurseries and any rooms for infants and children. It should also be avoided in any rooms that require creativity.

Livingroom of Interiors Blogger Kimberly Duran of Swoothworthy - grey interiors

Livingroom of Interiors Blogger Kimberly Duran of Swoothworthy

What colours would you say work particularly well in conjunction with grey and why?

KH. As grey doesn’t have a ‘personality’ of its own, paired with any other colour, it allows that colour to be visible whilst grey takes a back seat. The key is to choose a grey that is from the same harmonious colour family as the rest of the colours you are using.  That way it will harmoniously resonate and not jar or drain the other colours.

If you had a colour that was overpowering, you could tone it down (drain it) by using grey, or better still change the overpowering colour.

Crucial Trading Sisool SP304 Plaid Rich Black Carpet - grey interiorsSisool SP304 Plaid Rich Black Carpet from Crucial Trading

What are your tips for successfully creating grey interiors?

By understanding the psychological effects of grey you’ll be able to decide whether it is the right colour to use. You’ll also know that if you are feeling drained or tired it could be the effects of grey.

So, after hearing what Karen has to tell us about the colour grey, I’d love to hear your thoughts on using grey in interiors. Have you used grey in your house? Or any interior designers out there who have used it in a client’s property?

Karen and I would be really interested to know after 6-12 months of living with a predominately grey scheme how the clients feel. Was it their colour choice or did you make the recommendation? I’d love to hear how and where you used it and what other colours you teamed it with.

Tips and advice for using grey in interior design according to the principles of colour psychology

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  • I love natural yellowish wood (pine/spruce) but before I have any furniture made we paved floors with fake wood tiles of taupe. When the light wood furniture arrived, the colors and patrerns clashed. I will probably opt for some grey on furniture to harmonize the space. Presently its anything but welcoming.

  • Dreadful, the dark grey on the walls makes the whole thing look like a squat, how could anyone live with this without falling into a deep depression, for goodness sake let’s have a bit of light and colour life is depressing enough!!!

  • I have to admit that gray makes me feel nauseous. I actually detest the use of Gray in cars interiors exteriors. I sure hope the FaD leaves soon

  • writing a blog on “what color curtains go with grey walls and brown furniture”, and surpriesly I find your blog. your blog helps me know more about color psychology. thank you so much.

  • What you have told about the gate color combination, most of the people of the interior room do not use gray color but what you told this is a blue way great article for you to share thank you

  • Hi! I love the gray color!!!? I love contrasting walls, and gray and white are very beautifully combined! I always make graphics on one of them! My hobby is contemporary-modern design! Constantly, I paint, drag and rearrange something, I get great pleasure!!!??

  • Hi! Many out of habit call gray color boring, banal, unsuitable for creating bright solutions in the interior. And this is a big misconception! In fact, no other color is able to surpass it in versatility, variability of application. Gray color in the interior is used by various styles. Everything about the richness of its shades, the possibilities of combining them with other colors is known to designers. But non-professionals will find many pleasant discoveries!

  • Hello,
    We have been living in our home for the last year and a half. Being head to two grey, white and black.

    Since living here I have definitely drawn in on myself. An tend to be on the glass half empty sized.
    Before I was living my best life and always saw the world in a positive view.

    I am unsure if this is a result of the pandemic but after reading this article I’m not sure if it’s the colour of my house.

    • Hi Alex, what an interesting observation. The effects of the pandemic are still unravelling and will for decades to come I’m sure. But as for your home, there are lots of easy steps that you could take to try to figure out if this is affecting you and your outlook and moods. Maybe try changing the colour to see if that helps? You could add in lots of other colours in your accessories and soft furnishings to minimise the effects of the grey and see if that helps before committing to redecorating. Good luck with it!

    • I’m not surprised mate. Get rid of the depressing grey rubbish on your walls and let a bit of light and colour into your life. No wonder you are starting to sink into depression grey is a colour of despondency everybody knows how colour can affect mood, change it asap!!

  • Thank you for this article. My condo has greige walls and because I am unskilled in interior design, I recently purchased gray furniture, which I cannot return after a 6 mo wait. The rest is disastrous as I find the space quite depressing. I am currently looking for bright accessories in an effort to save the arra without painting.

    • Hi Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear that this has not worked out for you and that you are not feeling the grey. Adding in pops of colour should definitely help though. Good luck with it!

  • Hi:
    Great article although I don’t necessarily agree. I’ve been using grey for many years wether in interior design and in design pieces as a color to make decoration, furniture and other parts of the interior itself stand out (even with white).
    And is important to mention that a light grey has very different effect than a dark or middle grey (light grey could be calming/relaxing without the draining effect) and also that you can create many slight variations of gray (warm and cold) mixing it not only with blue or yellow but also red/magenta and a combination of all (like in lilac grey) giving to grey some extra layers of emotion.
    At least i think ?

    • Hi Daniel, I completely agree. As Karen mentioned it is important find the right shade of grey for you personally. Not all shades affect people in the same way. the draining effect is something to be aware of as some shades of grey will have this effect on people.

  • This article is soo spot on!
    In fact, I’m so tired of grey that it triggers me to see yet another grey wall (although I do have quite a few grey walls in my house…oops).
    I completely agree about NOT using grey in the bedroom and kids’ spaces. I also agree that people tend to opt for grey out of fear. It really does disappear in the background, not really making any statement.
    I remember choosing paint color for my bedroom and I gravitated towards a very rich dark color but was soo scared to paint the whole bedroom in that color. I kind of stuck to my instinct there and painted it dark anyways. 4 years later bedroom is my favourite place. And THE most relaxing, despite it not being grey.
    I also think everyone has their level of tolerance with colour. To some it might feel overly stimulating, to others it provides the stimulation they need. So I do believe it’s about finding that very personal balance, between the muted (greys) and more vibrant colours.

  • I have to say that I find it so dismal that in home renovations etc. that everything seems to be grey and black. If nothing else it is a very masculine looking design, particularly I think in kitchens. Add to that the ‘in vogue’ rectangular Victorian toilet tiles …. Let’s hope there is a change in the colour schemes soon to something more uplifting and cheerful :-) or at least maybe pop some nice light soft yellow in the mix?

  • I am about to paint my ceilings throughout a light grey, with the walls in various shades of pastels. I decided this after redoing the bathrooms with a dark but warm grey wall tile. Each bathroom has a different second colour that makes it feel anything but depressing. There are mirrors to brigten the space up. The dark grey makes the bathrooms look much bigger than before. It is elegant and I love being in there.

    Having said that, I couldn’t live in an all grey house. My reason for using grey is that it goes with every other colour, so the grey becomes a quiet backdrop for bringing out the other colours. I am after a serene living space and a backdrop of grey allows me to create that.

  • I’m here because I’ve just completed looking at over 50 homes in the greater Seattle area and finally found one to purchase in this crazy real estate market (2021). The floors are all a dark oak, the walls neutral grey with all the baseboards and trim white. I find all the negative attributes of grey mentioned in the article to be accurate for me. It’s depressing, has no joy, doesn’t celebrate any aspect of color. It has an industrial, concrete feel to it. I think grey is fine in an industrial environment where one might want to notice change of color for alarms/alerts. In these cases, an instrument panel that is grey is entirely appropriate. But in the home I don’t want to accept the grey and have accents or pops of color to counter act its nature.

    So, my reason for being here is part of my research to see what colors I might paint some rooms that don’t fight the remaining rooms that are grey. An interesting article. As the article and many commenters mention, grey does seem to be popular and lots and lots of homes here are painted grey. I’ve moved here from the San Francisco area, and grey is not anywhere as popular as it is here in the Pacific NorthWest.

    • Hi, I suppose a good place to start would be to look at the undertones of the grey that is already on the walls in the rooms. If it is a cool grey or a warm grey will dictate which colours will work best alongside it.

  • My walls are white in my bedroom, my curtains and bedding are silver (prominent color), white and black with jewels. My headboard is tufted white leather and I have the stream lights along the top of the room, chrome stranding lamps on both sides of bed that shimmer off the jewel accents on the lamps,along with snake plants that give a pop of color, everyone loves my bedroom because it is calming but also feels like a breath of fresh air….thats my biggest problem I can’t keep the family and friends out of my room and bed!

    • This is so great to hear Nicole and wonderful that your bedroom is not only pleasing to you but to your friends and family. You’ve obviously found a way to use grey in a way that works for you!

  • I moved into a home in 2016 that was entirely grey toned. At first I liked the way it was a neutral backdrop for the jewel tones I prefer. However, I found the first winter very hard and overpainted my sitting room in a lighter grey (it is now Farrow & Ball Pelt and I love it). I have painted over the grey in most of my rooms now. Like the article suggests, I found the grey incredibly draining, especially as our light in the UK is grey light. It was like a permanently drizzly day.

  • I note this was written in 2011. It is now 2021. I am heartedly sick of seeing so much grey in interior design. It is currently very trendy. Many homes are being built with all-grey interiors and exteriors. They look like monoliths, not homes. It is not only depressing. Some greys just look plain dirty. Often if not with paler greys, it is contrasted with ubiquitous white. the ultimate effect is drab, mind-numbing, nothingness. It has become a trend towards International Conformity. The latest reinterpretation is Dark Blue-Grey. When will interior designers come up with something original, colourful and creative?

    • Hi Julia, I am also not a fan of grey and I could never live with it in my own home. When Pantone announced it as colour of the year 2021, I found it mind-blowing. Right now, with everything going on in the world, grey does not seem like the best colour to be promoting. I don’t think interior designers are the ones driving this though. I think the media are the ones driving it and people just replicate what they see online and in magazines. We all need to take control back and create spaces that we personally want to live in and that make us feel good.

  • Hi,

    My husband and I both love grey! Our living room is grey with a teal sofa and one teal wall along with a beautiful grey tree wallpaper on one wall. It works together and brings the teal out while calming the brightness of the color. Our bedroom and en-suite is also grey with tones of copper running through it, this grey is verging on a blue. The walls are then warm truffle. Again it brings a warmth into the bedroom that calms you ready for sleeping. I love grey!

    • That sounds so nice Cher and sounds as though you have managed to find the right shade of grey to work in your home in a way that feels really warm and compliments the other colours.

  • Hi Folks. Great article. Grey is not my color for anything. Too gloomy on a rainy day… Or rainy week. I have one super light gray brdroom with white trim and white bed spread with distressed white furniture. A country vibe with a few light pink accessories. The walls are so light if looks more like white. My daughter wanted the grey / white look.

    • Hi Laura,
      I’m not a fan either, but as long as you choose the right shade that works for you and your home, that is all that matters. Sounds like you made a great choice for your daughter’s room!

  • I have used grey for every room in my house but I have used warm greys and
    Light warm greys. I have paired these greys with pops of beautiful colours which make me feel happy and alive. Eg in the living room I have paired grey with mustard yellow and royal blue. In the bedroom its paired with mauve, purples and dusky pinks, In the kitchen navy blue and white. In the bathroom a hint of grey with white and this is all warmed with natural golden wood. The positive comments have been getting say my house is so comfortable,
    Warm, inviting and happy so please don’t give people advise saying grey is drab and depressing because with the right accent colours it looks phenomenal.

    • Hi Shanaz, it’s so great to hear that you are loving your grey home and that injecting pops of colour is working out well for you. This is exactly what interior design is all about, finding the colours, patterns, materials, textures that resonate with you personally and make you feel good in your own home. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else says because it is such a personal thing. We haven’t advised that grey is drab or depressing, but that certain shades may feel like that for certain people. It all comes down to finding a shade that works for you and it sounds like you have done exactly that!

    • I strongly agree with you. Grey is warm and calming for me. If you have the right colours of accessories it’s cool. My eldest daughter didn’t like it when I painted my bedroom and living room in gray but now she comes to my bedroom every night and complements me.

  • Hi, I think it does depend on the shade of grey. I have recently had a new front door put in which is an anthracite grey. I don’t think it looks dull or depressing. It enhances the property and has added a very bold kerb appeal. I am a single man in my mid 40s and I really like grey. I disagree with the fact that some say it lacks confidence and means we need security. It’s nothing to do with that and is purely down to personal choice. I think the contract of grey and white goes very well. I have used grey a lot recently in my interior decor and I am very pleased with it.

  • Gray signal loneliness, fear and make my mood plummet into an abyss of despair. I couldn’t survive in an environment of gray, not even for a week. The bleakness of the wall would start to diminish any bit of hope or tiny promise of positivity I felt. First the gray would quietly push away the positive spirit and then it would start to force itself. Harder. More insistently. Until one couldn’t bear it any longer. What to do? Stay in gray and slowly fade away? Or run from it?

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from Mari. I personally couldn’t live with grey either. My husband wanted to paint the exterior fo our home grey last summer but I had to put my foot down and say no. I would not feel happy and welcomed to come home to a grey house.

  • This post was written in 2011 and gray is still trendy. I’m so curious now, with the lockdown situation we are all experiencing, how people that chose gray for their homes are feeling about the color now? Would be interesting to reassess from this new vantage point!

    • It always takes a good few years for trends to make their way from the high-end and from the super design-savvy people working in the industry down to the high street and to Joe public using it. Then, of course, it sticks around for many years after as regular consumers don’t necessarily change their homes at the same speed that trends come and go. Bt you’re absolutely right. Now that we are spending so much time at home it would be interesting to see if people like their grey homes just as much. I do hope people aren’t feeling the potentially adverse effects.

  • My living room is a very dark, warm grey. Almost with a hint of brown tones.
    I lived with it for 14 months now and it feels Great. As You were writing my wall paint makes my furniture pop out. I have dark wood, gold and a beige sofa mixed with olive as a accent color. Im here Because i wanted to know about it as im soon going to repaint my bedroom.
    But as for grey it should be considered as nature color as I belive and I found it intresting that someone Would relate the color primarly to industrial.
    Im sorry for my bad English. Its not my moutherstounge.

    • Thanks for your feedback Jennifer and I’m so pleased that you’re loving your grey colour scheme. If it works for you and you don’t feel the negative effects, that’s great news. Everyone is different so it’s just about finding the colours that make you feel good.

    • I’m curious what brand and shade of grey you went with for your living room? I’m planning to paint my bedroom grey (literally my favorite color! Otherwise I’m super into earthy jewel tones…) my decor colors are rust, mustard, and linen/oatmeal with the adjoining open bathroom a sage color. I’ve been wanting to paint the bedroom grey for the last 6 years, and am only now finally committed to it, and set on the accent colors. The problem? I’m having SUCH a hard time picking the right grey!! I want something a bit darker with depth and mood that allows the other colors to really shine. I find myself going towards taupey, mushroomy greys that give off too much of a green cast when held against the wall, or overcompensating with greys that lean more towards brown. It’s turning out to be a very difficult color to pick the right shade/tone of. If anyone has had success picking a great medium to dark grey I would appreciate the advice!! Also, I find this article’s tone of grey being terribly negative pretty funny. I’ll be sure to let you all know my mental state after being seeped in grey, lol ?

  • I’m here because second thoughts caught on gray paint for my studio.
    Have been living for a year in my studio where bathroom is painted in deep warm gray, ceiling is black, white marble on floor.
    I feel so wrapped, snuggled and comply while being in a bathroom, showers are my fav moments in the apartment, also keeping lights there in warm tint on the low. I was wondering if I paint sleeping area same color – would it give me same effect or I may miss light and vividness.
    For a year now my kitchen is all matte black, black textured wall, black ceiling, one wall is red brick, wooden counter, white marble floor — again, adore its every view, very cozy, I tend to spend most of the time there. Kitchen looks inviting and velvety and shades are beautiful in the day light or when all lights fixtures with hidden lights are on. I paint – and haven’t stopped creating, on the opposite after renewing bathroom and kitchen – feel more inspired and refreshed.
    Haven’t felt any negative emotions (yet I’m experiencing stress and anxiety at work)
    Thank you for this interesting article!

    • Hi Julie, if your home makes you feel good, then you can rest assured that you have made the right colour choices for you! That’s the important thing. Perhaps the colours used at work are having a negative effect on you?

  • My entire apartment is grey, a light grey, but still grey. And what’s interesting is that in the last 3yrs I have lived here, my anxiety has become increasing worse, and I have developed both depression and self isolating issues. But of course the walls didn’t cause this! When I first moved in I was in a very unhealthy relationship with a partner that ended up living with me for a while, and even tho I removed that person from my life, and my apartment, over 2yrs ago, I feel increasingly smothered and swallowed up in this place. I originally saw the grey as modern and aesthetic, however, I’ve come to resent it. That’s the worst part too, because I loved this apt so much! It’s got all the charm of being a very old building; crown moulding, high ceilings, cast iron air registers and huge windows… plus decent rent for a 1 bdrm.

    Unfortunately I rent from a property management company in a big city, so there are very strict rules on painting, and I’m a student so I’m very limited financially (which is why I haven’t simply moved). I’m also a very high energy person, so I’m affected by my environment more than most ppl (it sounds crazy but when you give off a big bright energy, you’re more aware/sensitive to the energy given off around you), and I have been struggling to put my finger on why this apartment, which I loved so much, has been making feel so drained and frankly trapped.

    Obviously my particular situation has influenced my overall experience and biased my opinion of grey interiors, but I think it also demonstrates how an entirely grey environment can have a notable psychological impact on someone who is already highly affected by their environment.

    I stumbled on this article by chance but I’m very happy I did because it’s provides a lot of insight. I will also share this with my doc, who works primarily with uni students struggling with anxiety/depression, because he may find it insightful too!

    Also, screw it, I’m painting! I am under lockdown due to the global pandemic, and i think this will be a productive way to pass the time.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      I loved hearing about your space. I do feng shui and although the gray walls have not caused your anxiety/depression, everything is connected. In feng shui we say our homes are a mirror reflection of our inner world. I believe that you selected the paint color as it mimicked your inner world on a subconscious level.

      And I do agree that we are all impacted greatly by the energy of our homes. Some of us feel it more easily than others.

      I do hope that you painted your home and feel more connected to it!

  • What people do in their private spaces is none of my business.

    But I object to the overuse of drab, uniform grey in the public spaces I use – and the websites I visit.

    My first encounter of a grey public environment was in a business suburb of Munich 20 years ago.
    Grey buildings with metallic window frames.
    A slightly different shade of grey for the road, and another shade for the cycle lane.
    It was depressing.
    The only relief was the occasional street tree …. except in winter, absent leaves !

    Recently London Bridge Station was competely rebuilt – and it’s grey everywhere – only relieved by the blue-ish grey signage.

    I find grey (and white) the opposite of relaxing. It feels clinical, oppressive and authoritarian.
    Relief comes from returning home to warm red brick houses surrounded by green gardens – and dashes of colour everywhere.

    Please stop pushing grey.

  • I absolutely detest the current “rustic modern” trend. The overuse of medium to dark values of gray in conjunction with rough hewn, plain Jane lines and cheap materials and construction is now admired, for some bizarre reason. Seems they’ve imported not only the furniture, but the oppression from China. We’re seeing it in everything from flooring to walls of gray cabinets to boxy, grainy furniture. Sorry, but I do not wish to hibernate in perpetual winter doldrum. I also do not wear combat boots with a cocktail dress. What is happening to good taste and design???

  • I have lived in my house for 3 years, and it was the first home I’ve owned that I was able to do what I wanted to. My walls are a light dove gray that I painted before I moved in, but my curtains, bedding couch pillows etc are all bright strong colors ranging from deep purple to bright orange. In fact, the most common accent colors would be turquoise and orange. My kitchen appliances tend to be red.
    I like that the house has a common neutral color that I can change the feel of by what else is in the room.

    I love my house. I love the sense of ownership I’ve been able to put on it. My son’ Room is bright blue and orange, and my daughter’s room has yet to be truly personalized… but I feel like the color we have is working.

    I recently updated the outside of the home, super dark grey with white trim and a bright yellow doors. I know it’s trendy, but again, I finally feel like I was able to put my own stamp on the house and I absolutely love it.

  • We moved into a rental home that EVERY room was painted grey. After 2 years We HAVE to change it. It’s very depressing and feels like we are in a cave. I don’t recommend grey for any interior room.

  • Thank you so much for this, This article has all the necessary things well written well clicked. All the pictures are really amazing. Keep posting and writing.

  • This was a very interesting article to read…I know how powerful color can be as an artist/therapist, however I do not believe gray is as harmful as some of the Q&As elude to. I am obsessed with gray. It is a perfect neutral base. I find my home, as well as others, to be very warm, calming, and inviting. I believe with anything, it is how you use the colors or shades. Color/shades are subjective, as is art. One may find it depressing, while another may find it comforting. Do what feels right for you and your family. I haven’t had difficulty creating art in my “gray” home, nor does it evoke negative feelings. To each is own…do not overthink things! Design is meant to be fun and freeing. Paint your home the colors of a rainbow or “play it safe”.

    • Thank you so much for your comment Sabrina. I’m so glad to hear that you have had such a positive experience living with grey. I know many, many people who live in grey homes and love it.

      I wrote this article a few years ago now when grey was just starting to become popular and not many people used it at home. Since then it has become a staple neutral for many people who love it just as much as you.

      As Karen mentioned in her advice, grey can have negative effects so you just need to find a shade that you can live with and that has positive effects for you. Sounds like you’ve managed it with no problems.

    • As a therapist, could you then explain to me this recent 2021 ad about a depression medication. It says the paintings they are showing are from actual depressed patients and they show several different ones – all dominated with shades of gray. Then when they take the medicine and paint new pictures they are full of color and beauty. That tells me that gray IS related to depressing feelings; gray, dreary skies; industrial wastelands; loneliness; etc. Yes, there is a place for gray. Warm grays are different and certain uses of gray can be classic in certain settings. But this overuse of everything gray is daunting! I am depressed with this colorless world we have created. Pull into a parking lot and most cars blend with the cement in an array of colorless shades from black to white. Try to buy home décor and you get 50 shades of gray! Use your gray if it makes you happy but give us back color! Look around you the natural world is full of color – and many of us miss it.

      • Personally Teresa, I agree with you. The thought of living in a gray home is like a nightmare for me. I definitely find it depressing and even more so now than when I wrote this post back in 2011. I was quite shocked when it was announced as colour of the year 2021. But not all people feel like this about gray. So as you say, it’s important to work out how it makes you feel. Use it if it makes you happy and avoid it if it doesn’t.

  • I just came across this article, while looking up how my lovely new Grey-based Living Room could exacerbate the Depression my son & I have both been recently diagnosed with.

    For me, I wanted a neutral color that mixes well with itself & most other colors. Right now, my furniture is grey w/ pops of lighter grey & turquoise in throws & pillows. Curtains are white & light gray, to allow for filtered light through (ugh – it’s a rental) Vertical Blinds.

    My original thought was to go with a medium-to-light grey for the walls, to allow for my Science-Fiction themed framed art to pop, with light maple & birch-color bookcases & such…

    Is this likely to be a decent mix of grey & colors to avoid the “depressing” factor? I certainly don’t want to subconsciously worsen my son’s emotional health.

    Thank you in advance!

  • I have moved into a town house and the walls are all painted camel. It’s an open concept and combines the dining and living areas in mostly a square layout. The kitchen backsplash is brown and white so that limits me in the kitchen area. In the living room,. I have a grey sofa, white love seat, grey recliner and a royal blue easy chair with a grey area rug. The floor is light oak. I would like to change the wall colours and would appreciate your comments/suggestions. Thanks.

  • My entire new-build house is “Agreeable Gray” by Sherwin Williams. I wanted a neutral white but yearned for a pop. My realtor suggested this color. Our previous home was cream (more yellow tone) with cherry woods. Gray was something to get used to for my husband! We both suffer from our own anxieties that brought clashes in our relationship. Though the colors of the other home were beautiful I always felt foreign to my own environment. This color has truly transformed our family life. We are calm, happy, at peace, and love being home together….much more so than we did before! It has transformed otherwise frequently tense memories at home to stable, happy, calm and blessed memories with the kids. Not until reading this article and reflecting on how much this color has effected us have I been truly thankful for our color choice! I do hope to paint some bedrooms to a non gray. In the meantime gray in the main living is perfection.

  • Thank you for this post, but I still LOVE grey interiors and clothing. I think it’s a great neutral colour. Love these grey interiors on your blog.

  • Hello,
    I’m in the middle of redoing my bedroom. I have a light blue carpet and am painting my walls a cool grey. I really don’t think grey will have a negative effect on me. My main problem is that I can’t decide if white furniture or dark furniture would work best. I was thinking of doing a grey and white colour scheme with accents of muted blues and/or pinks. This is why I originally was set on white furniture but after talking to some people, I have been questioning whether dark furniture would actually look better.

    • Hi Christina, one factor to consider here is how big your bedroom is, how much natural light there is and how much natural light you want in the space. If the room is quite small and you fill it with dark furniture, it won’t bounce around the light quite as much as if you had white furniture. Having said that, it is a bedroom and the majority of the time you spend there will be at night, in the dark, so maybe this isn’t an issue for you. Just something to bear in mind perhaps. Try making a digital mock up of the room or a traditional moodboard to give yourself something more visual to base your decision on. I always find this helps me to solve such dilemmas. Good Luck!

  • Have a strped corner suite and wanted one chair to sit opposite. The only light colour of chair available at that time was beige and it arrived yesterday. Wasn’t quite sure if it matched my coda/mauve (cream/brown) corner suite so I looked it up online and noticed they now (within 3 months) have introduced a grey colour chair as well. Would the grey have been better or will I get used to the beige fitting in?

  • Hi I would like to ask you a question as I am a bit worried I am going to and up with to much grey . In my kitchen and living room we choose high glossy grey tiles on the dark side ,the kitchen is glossy white with an oak island and grey stools and close buy there is a grey sofa .what colour work top would you go for white or grey ?

  • Hi
    I have done my living room in light grey porcelain floor tiles I have a black suite and accessories i don’t know
    what is best colour to add I love the grey but want to add a bit of warmth nothing to bright but still looks contemporary would be grateful for any advice.

  • We have a new construction home. The walls are are
    taupe grey (CIL Arrow wood) floor is solid ash wide plank distressed hardwood in colour taffy, white trim baseboards etc. Purchased a brown leather sofa set & it all looks mismatched. So disappointed. What colour furniture goes with taupe grey walls & a country look hardwood floor?

    • Hi Amj, I’m surprised that the sofa set doesn’t look right but without seeing a picture i obviously can’t comment. Perhaps you could try sticking with the neutral colour palette and opt for a grey sofa set, perhaps in a darker shade than the walls?

  • I was constructed a house and iwas given a very good combitation to all walls and i woyld like to create a model house help me


  • Hi Karen,
    I am decorating a holiday beach home. I want the atmosphere to be relaxed and casual. A haven for both older teens (young twenties) as well as mature adults. The whole house needs painting. I was going to use a pale shade of grey on the walls in the bedrooms so that the shades of the sea (aquas to vibrant blues) could bounce off the grey tones giving focus to the vibrance of the colours. after reading your interview answers I am not so sure. I also have furniture items that are dark chocolate and espresso to work in with the aqua, blues and turquoise. I would love to hear your opinion

  • I am decorating my room gray and I honestly love it. The comforter I have purchased is a silver gray and the other colors in the room as of right now are white and black with lots of glass and mirror surfaces in the decor. I feel like I really enjoy this color scheme because it reminds me of the moonlight and it’s light reflecting on ocean waves. I would love to introduce an accent color but I don’t want to disturb to tranquil and elegant atmosphere my room currently has. I really believe the bedroom is a place of rest so the shade is very important to me. I am leaning toward a shade of purple but I am open to any color. Is there anything you suggest to keep the room from draining too much energy?

  • Hi Karen,

    I am renovating a house to sell. I have done the 3 upstairs bedroom a soft grey, the foyer – which staircase goes from front door up the bedrooms/bathrooms a lighter grey. Is it too much grey to put the Den and Living room (they are open to one another and the foyer) a shad of grey as well? The DR and kitchen are going to be muted yellow and the bathrooms are a fresh green/blue. The kitchen is very fresh with white granite and a mix of white and dark cherry cabinets. Should I mix the colors up more? my thinking was grey is neutral to appeal to more buyers…. thanks!

  • I googled “what colour carpet goes with grey interiors” and came across your website and was really grateful to read this article.

    I am in the process of completing a major refurbishment in my home having chosen white walls, soft grey and slightly darker grey interiors with a mixture of burnt orange velvet and silk cushions.

    I am stuck on what colour to choose for the carpet. Do I stick with a grey and if so should it be lighter than the shade used for the other interiors?

    My lighting is warm white Led, which is all dimmable (hubby a lighting designer so that was the easy part)!

  • Hi Karen,
    I enjoyed your piece, I do have to disagree about the way colur affects people. We’re not all the same. I find that white and grey are so calming as they do not fight for attention. They make me feel relaxed. It has nothing to do with hiding or being shy or otherwise. White especially is so cal lingo to me and never cold due to natural lighting. White doesn’t have to be clinical.
    I believe people react differently to colours, no two reactions will be the same because we build a lifetimes worth of association to colour that we actually use to determine what colours make us feel good or not.
    What is happening in our lives and emotional state also affects what we are drawn to.
    Nothing wrong with grey, it’s peaceful. I love it.

  • Hi Karen,
    You would look exceptionally pretty sipping coffee in my freshly-painted grey living room. Do pop over when you are free.

  • I in the middle of decorating my bedroom, I’ve picked a light grey carpet for the floor, painting the ceiling pure white, I was thinking of getting a grey glittering wallpaper for the side walls which is a bit darker than my carpet, I will have fitted wardrobes with white frosted and mirrored sliding doors please, I was going to use maybe a blue as accessories do you think this will be to much grey . should I go for a more coloured paper with hint of blue or yellow in it and match my accessories to this thank you

    • Hi Tracey,

      Sounds like you have having a wonderful time decorating your bedroom. I am often asked this question. When is a colour too much is down to your own personal response and what feels right for you. If it feels like it is too much then you can introduce another colour or colours tonally harmonise with the grey/silver tone you are using. Look at lavenders, dusty pinks, greyish blues etc.

      It’s great you are experimenting with colour. Go with how you feel. If it doesn’t feel right, then play around with the colour tones, proportions and placement until it feels right for you.

      Have fun!

  • Karen, we are renovating our cafe in industrial style and designer recommended to make our walls to look as rough concrete texture in a light grey color, but my and my husband’s opinions are completely different about using grey color on walls of a food place. He insists that grey will make appetite decrease and people will be consuming less food, and at this point I don’t know what other color can be used as a substitute of gray and would match industrial style?

    • Hi Viktoriya,

      I seems to me (going off what you have written) the designer is looking at the design style and colours typically used for the industrial style. Your husband is looking at the impact this will have on the mood, behaviour of those who will use the space. Both have to work together to create the right psychological response.

      I agree with your husband, grey could make appetite decrease and people consuming less food. It will depend on the tone of grey, the proportion, placement and the other colours it is teamed with.

      If you would like to discuss this further please contact me on

  • Having just ordered a rather expensive grey sofa I felt totally depressed after reading this article. All the complicated implications in Karen’s article indicate I am in for a dull and very unhappy period in my life. Absolute nonsense, colour affects people in different ways that is why we have preferences. This was such a negative article,it would have been better to point out the positives. I would be interested to know the deco and colours in her home.

    • Hi Barbara,

      You are absolutely right. Colour does affect people in different ways – colour is subjective. The grey I was referring to is an absolute grey (black&white) which has psychological qualities for which affects us depending on how we are feeling. We pick colours because how it makes us feel and how we want to feel.

      If you love your sofa colour and it expresses your personality and it gives you what you want then that’s all that matters.

      You wanted to know the colours in my home. My style is ethnic, eclectic as I travel a lot. The colours are natural, rich earthy colours.

      Karen :)

  • I just wanted to add my two cents worth. I am finding using gray in interiors to be very exciting and extremely soothing. I am not getting the “drained” vibe at all, actually the opposite. however, I am a “beachy” type person, so…. the shades of grey remind me of the beach. I see open and airy, clean and refreshing. bringing in accent colors that make the room “pop”. white trim and sunshine certainly add to the overall effect. perhaps also….. the gray interior is adding to a less rigid way of thinking for some people, not being so extreme on the scale of thought……not black or white but allowing for truths to be somewhere inbetween. just my thoughts. cheers- corey decor couture design

  • Oh, and I meant to say, yes, I absolutely adore how my grey walls cause all the mixed shades of my teals, plum purples, rich copper browns and puces of blankets, coushins, furniture, upholstery and such to pop out and to be softly “featured” and uncompetitively supported by the grey.

    I am in love with color… ahem, I mean colour ;)

    • Hi Linda,

      You’re right there. As pure grey doesn’t have any positive psychology qualities of its own, it can ‘showcase’ any colour you put with it, as you are experiencing.

      Love to hear you are loving colour!

      Karen :)

  • I have a long bedroom that was painted a very pale grey-white (with slight green undertone) by a former tenant. The window and door moldings are a medium, almost battleship grey.

    These are colors I formerly would hae hated and ran from,lol. But in my job as communication facilitator and property manager, my sensitive nature is benefitting profoundly from this grey room. I feel cocooned from people, their words, emotions, needs, stories and conflicts, which gives me more focus, clarity, strength and confidence. My office is at one end of the room, and my bed/personal space at the other. The wall behind my bed is painted in Martha Stewart’s Purple Basil (also by a former tenant).

    I have good daylight from windows around my desk. I use colors like much soft rich green in various shades, with rich yet gentle teals, plum purples, burgundy/port, deep periwinkle, a bit of old gold, and copper — all my favorite colors. The grey makes me able to easily notice objects in my room/office, and to feel almost no emotional content or overload no matter how stressful my days.

    I have near my desk and in a central location a bright and colorful print filled with bouyant movement by British painter James Wood who studied under Kandinsky. This is my “visual caffeine” every morning!

    I esp love any shade of dove or brownish grey, and am learning to appreciate grey more and more, esp in these world-changing and challenging, often overloading times :) Hope my sharing is helpful for someone.Thanks so much for this thoughtful and informative article!! (I miss living in Britain!)

    Asheville, NC, US

    • Hi Linda, thank you for your reply which was so rich in description I felt like I was there.

      You’ve touched on several really interesting observations. “I feel cocooned from people, their words, emotions, needs, stories and conflicts” – pure grey is a colour that allows us to hide our personality, hide from the world, to retreat. Think about those grey skies and how we instinctively want to withdraw from the world. And as such, pure grey ‘showcases’ any colour you put with it as you are experiencing.

      It is interesting you have teals, copper, old gold are all warm colours so perhaps instinctively you are compensating for the large amount of grey.

      Just be mindful that being surrounded by so much grey you may, over time feel tired or wanting to cocoon yourself too much (unless of course grey and grey tones suit your personality type).

      Thanks for sharing and do come back as Stacey and I do these colour articles quarterly.

      Karen :)

  • I am interested in color psychology and I am redecorating my 10 year old son’s bedroom. He wants to go with a Miami dolphins theme, therefore lots of teal and orange in the bed covers and furnishings. We are trying to decide on a color to paint the walls given the bright colors of the bed coverings etc. we were considering grey, however I was concerned since I am greatly affected by the color. It seems to me to be a depressing color and we want to avoid this of course. What color would you suggest for the walls to go with the theme ? His carpet is a blue/grey in color.

    • Hi Carla, firstly I must apologise for only replying now. I missed seeing your question.

      What you are experiencing with grey is the negative psychological effects. Your son could experience something similar. It can have the effect of being draining which isn’t what you would want your son to experience.

      If it is a good neutral you are after, if it is a warm teal and orange you have used (yellow based undertone) then a warm ivory white is ideal. This is a white that has a yellow undertone with a bit of black added. Without the black added you would have cream which would be too bright against the warm teal and orange.

      Hope this is of help and again apologies for not replying sooner.


  • I love grey as long as it is very pale, then it becomes a shimmering silver white which is the perfect base. Especially because White can often become a bit yellowish with time. I think this really stood out to me and i agree with Karen “As grey doesn’t have a ‘personality’ of its own, paired with any other colour, it allows that colour to be visible whilst grey takes a back seat.”

  • Although I have seen the colour grey used on the outside of properties, which seems ok, and a light grey is becoming popular in garage door sales, my mother-in-law used it throughout her home.

    I always felt depressed after leaving her house and it had nothing to do with her (very warm and friendly lady) I can only put it down to the colour grey. I now avoid it.

    Has anyone else found this, or is there a certain grey that could be considered depressing.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. This is a great example of colour psychology in action.

      Colour psychology is how colour has an effect on how we feel and how we perform. When we see a colour we instantly feel its effect, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.

      It’s down to an individual’s personality; for you grey does not resonate, you feel its negative effects. However if your mother-in-law loves being surrounded by grey then she is getting her needs met, it is supporting her in some way.

      There’s no such thing as a wrong colour, it’s about surrounding yourself with the right combination of colours for you.

  • This is one of the best colour blogs I have seen and really interesting given recent colour trends. Well worth reading as is relevant to most of us in some form, whether it be in Interiors, Fashion, Textiles, Architecture, or even before you go eating out or shopping this weekend! (The images are also stunning!)

  • What an interesting article and one which is very relevant to today’s interiors. I have recently specified a satinwood grey to compliment the existing red carpets, within a private restaurant. The room has high ceilings with period features and I love the combination of grey and cream. The grey will be used on the panelling, leaving a predominance of pale cream walls. It is a useful neutral to introduce, where there is already a dominant colour such as red. I have teamed it with a pale, silvery grey to highlight the cornicing.

    At home, I agree that pure greys can feel austere and cold, and in my own home, I have opted for a calmer scheme, a colour in between grey and taupe, in various shades from dark accents to paler walls. It’s a look that has worked well.

    • Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for sharing. Love to see the images when they’re on your website.

      Muted grey colour palette works beautiful together. It’s perfect for those whose personality resonates with this colour family.

  • Thanks for a really interesting post.
    I have spent some time in interior finishing specification and I noticed about 18 months ago how the greys and griege was creaping into the fashionable colour pallette. I suppose the thing about these neutral colours that are thankfully replacing the old magnolia is that although they are “grey’ed off”, they still have a hint of colour to them. As Karen said, slightly yellower or slightly bluer.

    Karen, do you see the grey trend developing further in residential interiors?

    • Hi Laura Leigh,

      Great question. The longevity of a trend will usually be in relation to the factors that ‘inspired’ it to be a trend in the first place. Given the austere times we are currently in grey is the colour that some people choose to feel protected, safe, secure. Others may find themselves doing the complete opposite wanting to bring lots of colour (fun, happiness) into their lives as a deflection. If you look at the current trends you’ll notice both these things are happening.

  • It was interestng to hear Karen say that initially the grey cafe was relaxing but the effect continued unti it became draining. It show how important it is to take time to decide a colour scheme.

  • Love it! We think grey is one of the unsung heroes in design & interiors — actually, we’re a big fan of grey full stop! We’ve used it to great effect in properties where it’s created a statement wall in an all-white space, giving quite a structural feel which works really well with our interiors. The darker greys we’ve used also make for a fantastic backdrop against which all colours pop! And, for some reason (perhaps its neutrality), it also helps us to think more clearly! Have a peek here:

  • I went to a very elegant restaurant in the south of France which had beautiful dove grey walls and grey upholstered chairs with lots of white accents, including the wooden chair frames and table linen. I think the interior would be described as “Gustavian.” The overall effect was really very lovely and sophisticated, allowing the diners and the food to take centre stage. In conclusion, I think that the more delicate shades of grey can make a soothing background, providing the room proportions are good and there is plenty of brighter colour to provide interest.

    • Hi Tanya, sounds beautiful. Your description makes it sound a place that is quiet, serene, speaking in hushed tones, beautiful… grey certainly takes a back seat allowing the colour and design of the food to be the star.

  • I have pale grey walls which I can’t change (although I wouldn’t have picked them myself), and this article has made me realise that I’ve been going completely the other way in order to brighten up my spaces with floral prints.

    I have no idea whether it’s ‘working’ but it feels good to me. :)

  • Grey is a very sophisticated colour and I think works best when used in rooms of elegant proportions, with high ceilings and lots of natural light. I do think you need an accent colour to work with it, not too much just a touch of bright pink or lime green. I personally prefer warm greys to cool ones.

  • Hi,

    I would like to say that i agree with a lot of what Karen had to say about the colour grey.

    Personally i think the colour grey can add drama to a space and I really love the fact that other colours can play off it. Exposed concrete being one of my favourites, If you are going to have a grey space then make it a space with natural light as well as this will stop it from becoming dull. Below is a link to a project that makes good use of a variety of natural greys.

    I know that Feng Shui particularly has a problem with grey its interpreted as being dead or dull yet silver is the colour for trust & romance.

    Grey can often be a great framing colour used sparingly to highlight a specific space or activity and is better at this than white. If you are going to apply a grey paint then experiment with the primer colour, a silver/dark or light primer can change the finished walls appearance. Nice Article. Thanks Shopna

    • Thanks for your comments Shopna.

      I agree that grey is a very dramatic colour and when used correctly it can look very striking. Your point about natural light is a very important one I think as using grey in a small space would probably just make it feel even smaller and quite enclosed.

    • Hi Shopna,

      These are great examples of the subtle use of grey. Exposed concrete shows how well it sits with natural materials. Personally I really love these interiors especially the rust style tiles.