That “Just Right” Shade of Gray

This week I’m covering a popular topic, Finish Folio: Paint Edition with the beauty of grays. At a glance, these colors are more subdued than their counterparts of blues, greens or spice colors, but in fact, they are what most people naturally gravitate towards, especially as an alternative to white. Essentially, grays are neutrals that offer a touch of color that is less risky and suits a majority of clients’ taste as it pertains to the Trend Shockwave I’ve shared in the past.

Calm and cool

Pairing with gray is rather straightforward, and you may already have some duo or trio combos of your own to share. First up are three new grays that cover a couple of temperature categories, and my top picks for stains that call their names!  

Gray Owl is the lightest of the shades, offering a position of being mostly neutral in the midst of the cooler tones of London Fog and Perfect Storm, or the warmer grays (further below). To me, Gray Owl is a color that many may steer towards because it’s light and airy and works with all whites and most stains. Above, I pulled it into this color story to illustrate the difference in temperature between the adjacent colors of London Fog and Perfect Storm. As you can see, those two colors are on the cool side of the hue spectrum and work quite nicely with cool whites (including Magnolia) and dark stains, like Smoke or Onyx. Adding Greystone, Boulder, or Shale from the Stoney Brooke Collection will give your design texture and dimension, while Celeste offers a contrasting deep navy color that is desaturated, keeping the overall palette serene.

Below, you can see how neutral vs. cool counter selections can shift the appearance of each of the grays. Gray Owl with Cloudburst pairs well with Greystone or Celeste for a neutral-to-warm temp. Adjacent, London Fog and Perfect Storm with Airy Concrete also pair with Celeste or Greystone, but the temp is cool. This simply means that there is some flexibility within the colors that allows them to maintain their status in the general category of neutral colors. The shift towards cool or warm actually happens when the other major components, like lighting, counters, wall color, backsplash material, and flooring join the scene.

Design tip

When making final color selections it is always best to view samples within the actual lighting that will be present in the home whenever possible. Also take into consideration that lighting temperature, outdoor colors (and seasonal changes) through windows or patio doors will affect how colors appear.

One of the latest trends that first became evident during EuroCucina 2018 showed black as the primary cabinet finish. Though this is super sleek and dramatic, a more subtle alternative would be to consider a dark gray. Perfect Storm and Earl Grey are great options that fill this niche of trending colors in Transitional or Contemporary designs.

Flooring: Tile Bar Norwalk Deco Gray 8×8, Backsplash: Tile Bar Norwalk Frame White 4×24, Amerock Oberon knob and Davenport pull in Satin Nickel, Hudson Valley Lambert 12” pendant, Caesarstone Georgian Bluffs quartz counter. Benjamin Moore paint, First Snowfall.

Perfect Storm alongside the softness of Billow led me quickly to a Deco-inspired style story. Using Platinum evokes classic details, but the trend-forward finishes and graphic floor tile, along with style-centric lighting and hardware, make for a fun twist on the theme.

That gray is just right!

Our lineup of warm grays has been in place for some time, but there seemed to be just one that was missing. So now, sitting nicely between Macchiato and Frappe, you have one more shade to offer in the spectrum: Sandpiper. It’s not too light, not too dark, it’s just right! (For shade discerning clients of course!)


Above, Sandpiper is shown with similar warm stains in both equal and contrasting values that give off a romantic smokey vibe. Below, Cappuccino and French Roast add character and dimension to an otherwise subtle and sophisticated scene of white and greige.


With recent trends pointing towards the inclusion of color, these warm grays offer another great opportunity to consider a new hue from Finish Folio, like this style story that is anything but blah!

Shown above: Park Place flat panel in Sandpiper, Craftsman flat panel in Eucalyptus. Paint: Benjamin Moore, Rodeo. Hudson Valley pendant light: Ivy in Aged Brass. Cambria counters: Dunmore, Oakmoor. Backsplash: TileBar Nabi Sprig Tundra Marble & Ceramic. Top Knobs Brixton pull in Honey Bronze. Armstrong solid wood hickory floor: Inspired Gray.

So, as you can see, these new grays offer plenty of possibilities—check back next week for some inspiration featuring Medallion’s new beiges!

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