How to Pick the Perfect Gray Wall Paint

For about a decade we were painting nothing but earth tones.  It all seemed to start with Shaker Beige HC-45, but then we progressed to HC-44 and HC-43. The color was like a drug. We started with the light tones and got progressively darker and darker.  Soon we were looking at colors like Townsend Harbor Brown, HC-64 and Van Burren Brown HC- 70.  It was as if Shaker Beige was the gateway drug.

painting with earth tones

Then one day, and I can still remember that day… everything changes.  It was a beautiful day, and I was headed to Boulder, Colorado. I was headed to see a long-time customer who had painted for at least three times. Several years prior we had painted their new house in a myriad of earth tones.  After a few minutes of chitchat and catch me up she made her announcement. I want to go gray. She had several swatches from Benjamin Moore. She had done her homework. She had the telltale sign of someone truly ready to make a change: Color squares painted on the walls in various places.  I remember telling Wiesley that today was the start of the change. Which she loved because she liked being the trendsetter. This was at least six years ago, can’t quite remember exactly when, but it feels like a decade ago.

Over the next few years, we started to paint more and more houses in the gray. Now it is about all we do.  Everyone is talking about the color gray right now.  We are painting on walls and ceilings and on cabinets; mostly, the lightest gray.  I get questions all the time on Facebook, “What color is that?  I love it!”  To which I usually reply, “The perfect gray walls to paint fabulous.”  I don’t like to share details like that with the universe. Color is so personal. It’s not just that we don’t share color because it’s one of our competitive advantages, even though it is.  The truth of the matter is a color that looks great in your friend’s house will not necessarily look great in your house.The perfect Gray walls to paint

Color is affected by two major things. Firstly, color is affected by the light source. Do you get natural light or is it artificial light…and how much of it? The next major factor of how a color will look is what are you seeing it with. If you see a medium tone gray next to white doors it will have a tendency to look much darker then if you see that same gray next to a dark brown.  It may even look white.

When picking the perfect gray, I would start by looking at the other colors that you have in the space. Look at your artwork, your window treatments, your photos, couches, and your rugs.  Are they all cohesive? And if so, can you select a color from them. If you do I would grab a Benjamin Moore Classic color deck, and see if you can match one of the colors. Once you were able to find a color that matches if you have large walls and a lot of natural light and I would go two shades darker than the match.  This is because in big spaces colors will have a tendency to look lighter than what you selected. Before you go and buy 20 gallons of this color though, buy a pint or quart and paint it on at least a 2 x 2′ square board and look at it in the space at different times of the day. I also recommend not holding it over the existing color on the walls but hold it in front of things that will still be in the room such as couches and doors if they will remain the same color.

I see people agonize over color all the time. The one thing they are afraid of is change.  Don’t be afraid. It’s the only color.

Go bold and have fun!

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