For years, beige was the unopposed neutral champion of interior design. But gray has unequivocally bumped beige off its longtime perch to become the top choice for interiors ranging from casual to sophisticated, preppy to pretty, glam to industrial. With so many fabulous choices for custom furniture in so many styles, here’s how to coordinate wall colors and other accents to get the most out of your gray shade of choice.
Here you’ll find not only some of our favorite design ideas and color combinations to highlight your gray couch, but also a step-by-step breakdown on for how to approach your overall gray furniture design plan – from family room and living room ideas, to the bedroom and beyond.
Start by Curating the Perfect Backdrop
Before you jump into matching paint colors or wallpaper designs to your grey furniture, take a step back and ask yourself, “How do I want this room to feel?” What’s the vibe? Or, as professional interior designers say, what “story” are you looking to tell?
New York City designer Gregory Shano suggests, “Start with concept for the room that you can get excited about, which makes the vibe of the room easier to envision.”
This is the time to let your imagination run a little wild. If you could inhabit any room, at any point in time or anywhere in the world what would it be?
For instance, Shano explains, do you want something luxe and glamorous, with an old-world Hollywood feel? Say, perhaps, Jean Harlow’s dressing room from the 1930s? Or is your dream vision something with a modern, beachy vibe, like the beloved Hamptons house from Nancy Myers’ film Something’s Gotta Give?
Ask yourself what mood you are looking to create. Do you want something soothing and airy, or something cozy that envelopes you? Do you feel best in surroundings that are cheerful and preppy, or those that embody the handsome, industrial look? Is easygoing modern farmhouse your jam, or do you vibe more with the refined elegance of traditional, classic design?
If you’re not sure yet what you want, a great way to begin to craft your ideal vision is to collect photos of rooms that you love and look for the common threads. You can go old school and tear out pages of shelter magazines to create a file or mood board or create a customized Pinterest board online.
Get to Know the Color Gray
Gray is a complex color, in that there is no such thing as pure “gray.” By its very nature as a tone rather than a color, it is a combination of black, white, and some undertone. There is gray with green undertones, gray with purple undertones, gray with blue undertones…you get the picture!
In its simplest breakdown, gray comes in light, medium, and dark tones. For our purposes here, when we say “light gray furniture,” we mean shades that tend to have names like pearl, dove, fog, silver, and platinum. These cooler, more ethereal shades have purple, blue and green undertones.
Medium tones are slightly warmer grays and usually have names like putty, pewter, flannel, greige, and elephant gray. A warm gray can have a wide range of undertones – brown, green, purple, blue, and red. The easiest way to determine the undertone of your existing furniture is to use the gray paint swatch trick. Pick up a few Benjamin Moore color strips and identify the shade that most closely resembles your upholstery. Run your eye up to the darkest shade in that color strip and voila! That will indicate your undertone.
Lastly, dark gray colors usually carry names like iron, steel, charcoal. These have brown undertones that give them their richness and depth.
Choose Your Palette: What Color Walls Go with A Gray Couch?
The answer to what color walls go with a gray living room couch is pretty much anything – if done right! Gray is a complex color that can range from ethereal to moody, depending on which shade of gray your furniture is and what you pair it with. To help choose your color scheme, take a read through these color pairings to see which one complements your specific furniture and the overall feeling you are looking to create.
Soothing and Serene
If you tend to feel happiest when at the beach, this color palette is probably for you! There’s a reason why shades that reference the sea and sky are so often paired with gray. A serene sensibility works best with furniture that is on the lighter end of the gray spectrum set against a backdrop of creamy white neutrals.
Gray and Watery Blue Walls:
Gray furniture paired with pale blue walls is a tried-and-true pairing to create a relaxing coastal look. Try offsetting your gray furniture against Benjamin Moore’s Quiet Moments or Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light. Blue walls and gray furniture look especially inviting when paired with natural accents like a rattan trays, a sisal area rug and a capiz shell chandelier.
To up the beachy factor, consider painting the walls in a pale blue and white wide stripe, or choosing a light blue subtle patterned wallpaper.
Gray with Soft Green Walls:
This is a slightly less expected combination, but every bit as appealing. The key is to choose a shade of green with gray undertones, to keep it soft and soothing. Farrow & Ball’s Mizzle, for instance, evokes misty skies and cozy drizzly days spent indoors with a warm cup of tea. If you prefer something more earthy than ethereal, try Benjamin Moore’s Sage Wisdom. Elevate this combination of grey and green by pairing adding in fluffy ivory throw pillows, chunky cream-colored throw blankets and hits of warm brass.
If you’re more of a garden lover than a beachgoer, you might consider wrapping your dining room walls in a soft green floral or toile wallpaper print to give it a lovely romantic touch. Paired with glossy white trim on the windows and a gray-stained table and chairs, you’ll have friends and family wrangling for an invitation to dinner parties at your home!
Gray with Dusty Pink:
Dusty pink walls look stunning with pretty much any shade of gray furniture. To keep the look soft and sophisticated rather than juvenile, choose a muted pink that has brown undertones, such as Farrow & Ball’s Dead Salmon. For more living room design inspiration, pair with other furniture in blonde wood tones, matte white ceramic lamps, a flatweave rug, and some fluffy live green plants for a warm and modern Scandinavian vibe.
The Luxe Look: Glam and Gorgeous
If shimmery silks, plush velvets, and glints of shimmer and shine tend to call your name, you might very well be a luxe glam kind of person!
Gray furniture can run with the chicest of crowds when accessorized right. A glam vibe is most easily achieved if your gray furniture is anywhere in the light to medium range. That’s not to say that if your furniture is charcoal gray you can’t go luxe – if this is you, skip down to “Handsome and Debonair” or “Elegant and Classic.”
Gray with Reflective Walls:
If you’re all about the shimmer, dress up your gray furniture by setting it against subtly metallic walls. This luminous look is best achieved by choosing a soft silver, gold, or bronze wallpaper – solid or patterned – but several paint companies now make metallic paints that wash your walls in a soft, luminous glow.
Another option is to lacquer your walls. This is a super-luxe look that you can do in pretty much any soft shade that you love, but we like it especially in colors with a built-in sunset glow such as blush pink, the faintest shades of lavender, or pearl grey walls.
Shano painted this irresistible visual for us on how to achieve the ideal glowy glam room:
“I would use the palest shades of gray in luxe fabrics such as velvet and cashmere, layer in varying shades of cream, ivory, and the softest blush pink which could be fabulous as an accent in pillows with a hint of shimmer (think silk shantung, velvet or satin). The mixing of textures here is critical to making this look chic and sophisticated rather than too sweet or juvenile. Think about pairing matte with shine, plush with silky, with pearlized accents throughout. Mix in mirrored nightstands for an over the top hit of glamour.”
Gray with Ivory Walls:
While this combination may sound classic or even minimal – and, depending on the accents and style of your furniture – it very well could be, it can also become super luxurious when you add in a vintage brass and glass coffee table, alabaster lamps, and drapey cashmere throws. Just be sure to stay with a warm ivory tone like Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee rather than a stark white, which can read too cold.
Handsome and Debonair: The Perfect Gentleman’s Study
If you are looking to create a space that feels sophisticated, rich, and very appealing, Shano offers up what he calls “the perfect gentleman’s study.” This works best with gray furniture that ranges from medium to dark tones.
Gray with Navy Walls:
As Shano says, “There’s nothing like a beautiful navy blazer with a gray flannel pant.” We couldn’t agree more. Pair your gray furniture – whether it’s a gray sectional or upholstered bed – with Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy painted walls and white trim for a crisp look or paper your walls in a rich navy seagrass for added texture.
Shop the look: Modern Sofa in Platinum Velvet
Gray Furniture with Gray Walls:
Another menswear-inspired look from Shano channels an old school Saville Row Haberdashery. Pairing deep, rich charcoal paired with heather gray – one on the walls, one on the furniture – creates a warm, enveloping space.
To complete this handsome picture, Shano suggests incorporating menswear details like pillows made of wool houndstooth or tweed with grosgrain trim, a herringbone patterned rug, pinpoint oxford-style window treatments, and brass or polished nickel hardware and light fixtures (the cufflinks of the room, if you will).
Bold and Beautiful: How to Team Gray Furniture with Bright Paints
Gray may be a neutral, but when set against the perfect backdrop of clear, bright colors, it becomes fresh, modern and cheerful.
Gray with a Yellow Accent Wall:
You’ll note we said “wall” there, not “walls.” A yellow accent wall against medium to light grey furniture (not charcoal, too drastic) is a joyful dose of lemony sunshine. Four walls might be a little, how should we put this…much?
Take your accent wall to the next level by doing it in a sunny yellow lacquer for even more shiny happy wow.
Gray with Orange:
Ditto for above when it comes to gray and orange. We do, however, love Shano’s advice of painting your walls in a gray that is similar in tone to your furniture and then bringing in the citrus punch with a lacquered orange ceiling!
Gray with Grass or Emerald Green:
Another unexpected combination that packs a gorgeous punch, this bold combo looks especially smart with light to light-medium gray upholstery and Palm Beach-chic bamboo or rattan accents. Don’t be afraid to add in zebra stripe pillows – gray, green, and animal print look super chic together.
Elegant and Refined: The Stylish Classic
Shop the look: Tailored Platform Bed
Gray works beautifully in almost every setting, but especially so in traditional or transitional rooms with classic architecture and details. This timeless look works best for gray furniture that is in the medium to dark range.
Gray with Smoky Lavender Walls:
We like to call smoky lavender “purple for grown-ups.” Whereas teenager purple can be garish and dated, smoky lavender walls paired with gray furniture reads super sophisticated and unique. The key is to choose a light purple that has gray undertones, such as Benjamin Moore’s Wet Concrete or Mauve Dessert.
Another gorgeous option is dusty purple wallpaper, either in a solid or print. If you’re looking to splurge big time, Gracie’s mural wallpapers are always fabulous, but you don’t have to break the bank to find a soft lavender textured wallpaper to pair with your gray furniture. These days, there are incredible peel-and-stick options available so you can try it out without making a permanent commitment.
Gray with Ivory:
Remember how we said earlier that gray furniture and ivory walls can go traditional? Well, here’s your chance to set your classical heart a-flutter by choosing a warm off-white shade for your walls to beautifully offset your medium to dark-toned gray furniture. We love this look most when the sofa incorporates brass or nickel studs and is grounded with an oriental or otherwise patterned rug. Add in a rich walnut or mahogany coffee table and a pair of urn-shaped lamps to offset your grey sofa and you’ll have a warm, elegant setting for everything from soirees to Netflix and Chill nights.
Shop the look: Tailored Platform Bed in Charcoal Cabana Stripe
Gray with Camel:
This luxe neutral combination evokes visions of cozy cashmere, worn leather chairs, bookcases stocked with classics and after dinner drinks in heavy crystal glasses. If this is your dream vibe, choose a warm caramel color for your walls like Benjamin Moore’s Brookline Beige to complement your darker-toned gray furniture. Work in some patterned pillows and finish off the look with polished nickel lighting for upscale sparkle.
Gray with White Walls:
Gray and white is a timeless and failsafe combination, a true style chameleon, but there are some tricks to making sure your gray furniture and white walls add up to the look and feel you are going for. For instance, if cozy and easygoing is your aim, you’ll want to choose a white that has a tiny bit of warmth to it, such as Benjamin Moore’s Steam. Ground these neutral colors with mid-tone brown furniture – all the better if it’s vintage and well-loved.
If you can’t get enough of the modern industrial look, opt for a purer white to complement your gray sofa, like Benjamin Moore’s Super White, then add accents and other furniture in blackened steel, bronze, and reclaimed dark wood.
Lastly, if you’re intrigued by pairing your gray living room furniture with other colors but aren’t ready to make the leap yet to paint or paper your walls, white gives you lots of options to experiment with color and pattern without making a huge commitment. For instance, a gray velvet sofa with black and white graphic print pillows looks fresh and classic against white, and a charcoal gray sofa when paired with lime green pillows is a stunning focal point surrounded by crisp white walls.
Wall Colors to Avoid with Gray Furniture
Dark Brown: Gorgeous when it’s gray dress paired with a classic leather handbag, but kind of dull as a room combo. We say skip brown walls with your gray furniture when there are so many other different shades to choose from.
Vivid Purple: As we mentioned above, unless you are currently enrolled in junior high school, gray against purple walls are a pass.
Fuchsia: Ditto for above.
Red: This was a combination that was big in the 80’s and has thankfully run its course. Tuck this away with your shoulder pads and neon leggings and stick with something more modern.
Peach: Ditto for above. Anyone remember the big, billowy floral chintz prints from the 80s in gray and peach? They weren’t so great then, either.
Black: This one bears a little explaining. While we are all for incorporating black and white accents with your gray furniture in the form of patterned throw pillows, rugs, and even some fantastic black furniture, black or dark grey walls are not the best choices unless you are looking to make a very serious statement. Don’t get us wrong – we’ve seen some incredibly chic black lacquer rooms – but they aren’t for the faint of heart and they don’t generally stand the test of time.
Bottom line: Gray furniture is wildly versatile and can play well with a wide range of wall colors. Try out the one that feels most exciting to you and let us know how it turns out!
By: Debra Goldstein, Staff Writer at The Inside