Neutral colors have a bad reputation. They are considered dull, depressing and boring. Sometimes that crosses over to unimaginative and lacking flair. But any designer will tell you that neutral colors are a big component of interior design. This isn’t just because they can support any color and style but also because they stand tall and rather graceful on their own.
Neutral colors are versatile, reliable and provide visual relief. They are great as backdrops and are generally known to make any atmosphere more calming. So it is no surprise then that gray is a huge hit with minimalist and contemporary style of interior design. And we will get to the wonders of all the different shades of gray paints in just a minute. First, a quick look at another key aspect of painting.
What Is LRV and Is It Important?
You have probably seen this disclaimer while shopping online which says, colors may appear slightly different due to the various monitor display settings. When it comes to painting, light plays the same role. And there is a term for it in the business called light reflectance value or LRV.
It is defined as the total quantity of visible light that a surface reflects in all directions (and at all wavelengths) in the presence of a light source. It means, whatever the shade you pick, there is a chance it might look different after painting because of the amount of light in the room.
LRV is a way to measure the amount of light reflected or absorbed by a color. It goes from 0 to 100%, 0 being absolute black and 100% assumed to be a perfectly reflective white. Now, nothing exists in absolutes so the blackest of black has an LRV of 5% and the whitest white is 85% LRV. In fact, some yellows measure in the high 80s and 90s.
This is why the same color looks different on a hand railing outside the house versus on a wall in the basement. How do we know the LRV of the paints we choose? Well, this is where the likes of color consultants, designers and architects come in. They use LRV in the planning stages to work out which shade looks the best on a certain surface. They make lighting plans for the color of your choice by taking daylight into account before finalizing it for a certain surface.
This is also something you could keep in mind yourself while picking a color. Remember that a color shade with low LRV absorbs too much light and retains too much heat. That’s how manufacturers decide color palettes for certain surfaces. A good guideline is that colors below 50% LRV absorb more light than what they reflect into the room. Colors with LRV more than 50% will reflect more light than what they absorb.
Let’s move on to talk about gray.
10 Best Gray Paints by Sherwin Williams
Sometimes, a touch of the shades of Sherwin Williams’ gray on your walls is all you need. But don’t underestimate the power of gray. It can look really lovely on cabinets and doors too. All you need to figure out is which part of the room is being painted and how to match it with the LRV of your choice of gray. Let’s take a look.
- Agreeable Gray, SW 7029: This is a warm shade of light greige and is quite popular. It is warmer than Repose Gray and its LRV shows that it reflects more light than it absorbs.
- Repose Gray, SW 7015: This is cooler than Agreeable Gray and was picked for Pottery Barn Kids – Fall/Winter 2019 collection. This too has LRV above 50 percent and reflects more light than it absorbs.
- Light French Gray, SW 0055: This one is a mid-tone gray with a slight blue undertone which makes it a cool gray. It is a part of the Historic Color Collection and is generally considered a good neutral color for outdoors and indoors.
- Mindful Gray, SW 7016: This is slightly darker than Repose Gray and lighter than Dorian Gray. So it is on the lighter side of mid-tone gray and is great against white trims and furniture. It has a little more red than green and blue but is still a neutral color.
- Amazing Gray, SW 7044: This is a bit darker than Worldly Gray and is good against white trim. It is also a great shade for interiors and exteriors.
- Ellie Gray SW 7650: This has lovely blue and green undertones which makes it a brave and stormy choice. But the overall look is soft and calming. It adds depth and personality to the room.
- Tinsmith: This is a light-medium gray with slightly blue undertones. It provides a nice shift to the room when you switch the light on and off.
- Silverplate SW 7649: This is another cool gray but it might be heavy for a dark room. It is sharp and clean but is meant for a well-lit room. It is a bit stormier than Tinsmith.
- Big Chill SW 7648: This is also a slightly cool gray with a hint of stormy blue undertones which is calmer than icy blue. It is what you might call a typical gray and is good for darker spaces.
- Dorian Gray, SW 7017: This is a mid-tone gray that is slightly darker than Mindful Gray. It is a popular choice for doors and cabinets. It is a part of the Pottery Barn Teens Collection – Fall/Winter 2019.
Picking the Right Gray
With so many great options, you might find yourself wondering, “how do I choose the best gray paint?” Well, we got you covered.
Cool Gray vs Warm Gray
This color is mostly associated with cloudy days but it has a variety of shades. Start by understanding them.
Whether a color is cool or warm is decided by the undertones of red, blue and green. You’ll find them on the color card. Cool grays have more blue undertones. Sherwin Williams has some great cool grays like Repose and Argos.
Warm grays have a lot more yellow and brown. They look a lot like greige, which is a combination of gray and beige. For interior surfaces like floors and cabinets consider the undertone of those elements. Certain stones work well with cooler shades while brick and gold work with warmer shades like beige.
If you have your heart set on Sherwin Williams, your next question will be, “what are the warm greige or gray colors that Sherwin Williams have?”
Coming right up.
Using Gray to Add a Dimension
Gray is a great way to give personality to your rooms. While gray walls and white ceilings are a standard choice, gray ceilings that are 2-3 shades lighter than the walls (Light French Gray) will give you more impact and make a cozy room look bigger. This begs the question, “what is the best light grey or pale gray color?”
Many designers put SW Agreeable Gray, SW Naturel, SW Anonymous and SW Mantra on top of the list. But if you are open to stepping out of the Sherwin Williams palette, you also go for the Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, Benjamin Moore Gray Owl or Benjamin Moore Silver Chain.
These are great choices for smaller rooms. But remember to pick a darker gray if you have a large room. For that, you can check out Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray, Benjamin Moore Englewood Cliffs, Farrow and Ball Plummett No. 272, and Benjamin Moore Cheating Heart.
Grays in High-Quality Paints
When you combine high-quality paint with expanded paint palettes, you increase the value of your home and profit your businesses. The SW Cashmere Interior Acrylic Latex or the Emerald Interior Latex Acrylic are both great options for that reason. They offer durability, washability and a finish that can stand the everyday rigors.
The Bottom Line
It can feel like quite the task to make what is considered a boring color look dapper. And a sea of choices with designers telling you how compelling it is can’t make it any easier. The cool grays and the warm grays and the greiges with a dizzying array of undertones can be overwhelming.
But think about what you are painting and what you want to achieve with it. Are you going for smoky or slate or ocean? How much light does the room allow and do you want the gray to reflect light or absorb it?
If you are not sure, you always have the option of picking a greige shade. And always be mindful of the color scheme of the furniture in the room.