How to find the right neutral grey

Finding the right neutral grey for your interior project can be as fraught as looking for the right white.  Each paint company offers a wide range to choose from and as with whites, they all have a different underlying colour.  You need to be careful with your selection so that you find the right grey to fit in with the rest of your decorating and at the moment, the grey that I am asked about most often is a neutral one.

How to find the right grey for your interior
Image – Taubmans Stone Patino

In this post therefore, I am going to concentrate on how to find the right neutral grey.  This means that it won't have a very obvious underlying colour and in my experience as a colour consultant, this is the grey that everyone is trying to find.

How to find the right grey for your interior
Image – Threshold Interiors

A neutral grey mood board

I have put together this mood board to demonstrate what I mean.  A neutral grey tends towards being silver but without any obvious blue.  I find that these work really well with green and look stunning when partnered with white.  But of course, being neutral, they will work with most colours and this is the beauty of them.

City Stone from Haymes paints is a fantastic neutral grey – shown in the middle of the fan deck below and once darker, as Haymes' Gunpowder Smoke, becomes a fabulous dark, almost off black but without the blue undertone of charcoal.

How to find the right neutral grey for your interior

You can sign up to my Free Resource Library where I have a free e-book on how to put together a mood board. Sign up for free here.

How to see the underlying colour

When looking at a chosen grey, the trick is to isolate the swatch of the colour with a piece of card – a professional fan deck will have an isolation window which makes it much easier to see the colour when it is by itself.  Compare it to other greys and you will start to see the underlying colour in each one.  Many do have a blue undertone, which can be great but it will limit your choices more.  Often greys are warm, with even a touch of purple in the base and again, this is a fantastic look but it may not be the one you were hoping to achieve.

How to find the right grey for your interior
Image – Karin Walker
Be careful not to combine greys

I find that a neutral grey will sometimes read ever so slightly green or may have a slightly warmer brown base.  There will always be something there but some are less obvious than others.  Combining greys in a decorating scheme can also be an issue, so if you are in doubt it is wise to select one from a paint company that offers the same grey but in varying strengths, from a cool silvery off white through to a very dark sophisticated grey or even off black.  This makes your job so much easier!  Great paint companies that offer this are Haymes in their Natural series and Resene, amongst others.

How to find the right grey for your interior
Image – M&D

The more you look at neutrals, the more you can understand them

There are so many fabulous paint colours to choose from and it can be a minefield finding the one that is just right.  I really like putting mood boards together as it helps to keep you focussed and to only choose from colours and neutrals that are right for your project, rather than going off on a tangent when you see something else that you love!

So browse Pinterest, take cuttings from magazines and pieces of fabric that you love and put them together with the things that you can't change and this way you can start to find the right paint colour. The more that you look at neutrals, the more you will understand and begin to see the differences and the underlying colour.

I hope this helps you to find your perfect grey for your interior decorating project and I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

How to find the right neutral grey for your interior

Do you want just a hint of grey in your decorating scheme?  Or do you want the perfect white palette to act as a backdrop for a grey sofa? If so you might also find my post on the 5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white helpful.

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

Want to find the right grey for your exterior project?

This can be as tricky as finding the right white but in this post I cover all the different guises that this beautiful neutral comes in.

How to select the right grey for your exterior

A pale neutral grey is often used in Scandi decorating schemes

When partnered with white, this is a classic combination for this look.  I have written about my 5 key elements for Scandi style which includes the right colour palette – see more here:

5 key elements of Scandi Style

20 thoughts on “How to find the right neutral grey

  1. Avatar
    Susan says:

    Hi Sam,
    I have just found your site and I love it! Just in time I might add as our renovation is underway. I have an east west orientation and currently it is all dark brick on the interior so impossible to judge how much light we will have in the house. The entire eastern side will have glass doors but we will be adding a covered entertainment area, which will impact on the amount of light we get inside. From what I’ve read, cooler colours are not the right way to go. We are very close to the beach in QLD, so am trying to create a relaxed coastal look. My selections so far, are Polytec classic white kitchen cabinets, with a white stone bench. I’m after a grey for the walls and really like Dulux Vanilla Quake. Second choice is Dulux Pipe Clay. As for the trims and ceiling, I was thinking Lexicon quarter. The flour will be smoked American Oak, in a matt finish. I would love your feedback on these selections, as I am really after a nuetral look-I really dislike anything that looks cream. Thanks so much.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Susan lovely to hear from you and I hope your renovation goes smoothly – getting rid of dark brick inside sounds like an excellent starting point! Dulux Vanilla Quake is a lovely warm grey but it does have a tendency to look a little Lavender. I have had a client use this and she liked it – it does look great but it can look Lavender so make sure you are happy with that. Dulux Pipe Clay is a lovely neutral stone colour but can look a bit green. Dulux Ghosting is in between the two – perhaps you could give this a try. This is a great favourite of my clients at the moment but whatever you do, paint large sample boards and look at them with the Lexicon Quarter – which is a lovely clean crisp white and your kitchen colour to make sure you like the effect in your house. Polytec Classic White cabinets are slightly warmer (not cream) so you should look at that with the Lexicon Quarter too as you may be better off with Dulux Vivid White as your trim. Remember to consider current furnishings too – these underlying colours are not bad but they need to work with what you already have and love. Good Luck!!

      • Avatar
        Susan says:

        Thanks so much, Samantha. I have used Vivid white before in 2 previous kitchens and it is lovely. I will definitely get a sample pot or two to try ghosting and vanilla quake. I will discount the pipe clay as I have an A4 swatch and can definitely see the green in it. Although with all this hideous brick, cork floors and pale yellow paint I am struggling to get a clear idea of colour – I think it makes everything look warmer than it is. As far as other furniture goes, we are planning to purchase all new lounges etc as our current items are passed their use by date – very liberating! Thanks again for your advice – much appreciated 🙂

      • Avatar
        Susan says:

        Hi Samantha,
        Just thought I’d let you know, that i went with the Vanilla Quake half and lexicon quarter trims and it looks amazing! No hint of lavender at all – just a true nuetral grey! It must have something to do with the light in the space, which is why your advice to get sample pots is so important. Thanks again for your wonderful bog!

  2. Avatar
    Caren says:

    I am still planning my beach cottage. The builder uses Sherwin Williams. The local store told me the do not use strengths of paints. I cannot seem to find this concept in the US. What to do? It seems a great idea, and I think my style must be Australian or Scandi Coastal as I like your styles so much.
    I like the grays and working towards a whitish ” Boat house” look with some natural pieces such as a live edge table and bar. Would like to have a soap stone island.



    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Caren The cottage sounds lovely – I love a boat house look which is very typical to the Australian coastal look but we borrow so much from other parts of the world too and with our love of navy, white and grey, we really look to East Coast America for elements of our look. I’m sorry I can’t be much more help but perhaps if you get together lots of imagery and then ask a local designer for help to make sure you pull it all together and are happy with the end result – good luck Samantha x

  3. Avatar
    Julie says:

    Hi Sam, l am seeking your help once again with our kitchen paint colours. We are now planning on polytec polar white cabinets for the back wall, Quantum Quartz Michelangelo stone bench tops. I have an Island bench l would like to use a grey 2pk paint for the under cabinets that will work with the stone bench top and polar white back wall cabinets. Are you able to suggest a grey that will work with these 2 finishes. The room is filled with natural light. Floors will be Australian Chestnut or Spotted Gum. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance. Julie

  4. Avatar
    Liz says:

    Hi Sam, I’ve been reading the above conversation having read through your blog and had a question for you. We are doing Vanilla Quake quarter on the walls throughout the major areas of our house. Floors are a smoked mid tone oak, white oak island, carrara marble benchtop and combination white and grey kitchen cabinetry. Would you have any advice on whether the grey cabinetry should be the Vanilla Quake as well (or should it be different grey) and what white would work in the cabinetry against this without being too bright a contrast and what colour trims should be (I’ve heard same colour architraves as walls is more modern). We also have a couple of very gloomy rooms on the opposite side of the house with entirely different light, where Vanilla Quake doesn’t work. Is it acceptable to introduce a completely new white with a yellow base (given these connect to the Vanilla Quarter rooms) or is this a mistake? I’m also wondering what ceiling paint colour you would put with Vanilla quake quarter? Would so appreciate your advice.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Liz You might like to look at a half or even a full strength of the Vanilla Quake for your kitchen and then the white you use should be the white that you take through the house for your trim and ceiling. Dulux Snowy Mountains Quarter is a nice soft white that I find works well but you would need to look at a sample next to the Dulux Vanilla Quake Quarter and your bench top, flooring etc (and the full strength Vanilla Quake) to see how it all blends together. There is certainly nothing wrong with adjusting to a warmer off white for the other rooms – just ensure you like them with the trim colour you opt for. I hope this makes sense – do test it all out first! Samantha

  5. Avatar
    Lorraine Laing says:

    Hi Sam
    You’ve given me wonderful advice in the past about colours in my house and now I’m seeking some help with my sister’s renovations please. It’s for her bathroom, toilet and laundry – three separate but connected areas.
    We have selected a mid grey tile for the floor. To give you an idea of the colour, on a Taubman’s fan deck it is similar to Observation (T15 29.3) and Wolf Cry (T15 29.4). I think it’s a warm grey. ???
    We need advice on a wall colour for these rooms please. (Later we may extend it into the hallway and living areas) The bathroom is quite small – we’re having white akril for the walk in shower walls, white vanity and the remaining walls painted. Do you have any suggestions for warm white or grey walls that would suit these tiles?
    Also, would you suggest a white ceiling or a quarter/eighth strength of the wall colour?
    We have access to Taubman’s, Dulux, British Paints and Wattyl paints. Their colour charts have such a wide variety of whites and greys it’s mind boggling, hence my SOS to you. Thanking you in advance Sam.
    Cheers, Lorraine

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Lorraine good to hear that I was able to help. I have had a look at Taubmans Observation and I think that something like Taubmans Grey Matter (a light warm grey close to the grouping of greys that Observation is in) could work. Probably look at a quarter strength of that for the ceiling. Do try samples of it first though – I haven’t actually used that colour and it will depend a lot on other factors in the house too. Hope this helps! Samantha

  6. Avatar
    Lauren says:

    Hello Samantha, what a useful resource your site is. I’m reaching out to you as I am driving myself mad with my inability to choose external paint colours for my California Bungalow and I’m hoping you can help. The house is currently painted cream and salmon. My garden is full of silver, purple, white and a few pink plants. I’d like to paint the house to complement the garden. I also need to replace the colorbond roof. I am not sure whether a very cool grey like a Haymes greyology would be best or a warmer grey like Dulux grey pebble half or tranquil retreat would be better suited to my 1926 house. I like white trims and I thought maybe Shale grey might be a good roof colour. My husband thinks there isn’t enough contrast in my choices. I’m going round in circles and am paralysed by choice. I’m hoping you can help. Warm regards, Lauren

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Lauren I tend to agree with your husband that you don’t have much contrast which is important on an exterior. The colours you are looking at are also very light greys which will appear very light in the sun. Perhaps consider a warmer grey like Dulux Silkwort as this would complement the silver/purple tones of your garden rather than a blue based grey like Greyology and Tranquil Retreat. This is also a slightly darker colour which will give you more contrast with a fresh white – perhaps look at a sample of that as a starting point? Good luck Samantha

  7. Avatar
    Jaimia Ollington says:

    Hi Samantha
    I’m reaching out again for help with the interior colours in the open plan living space. The kitchen cabinets at Polytec Classic White, bench Caesarstone Bianca Drift and all trims in Vivid White. I’m searching for a neutral wall colour with some warmth in it, but definitely not yellow or cream. I’ve samples of Dulux Beige Royal Half, White Duck Half and Pipe Clay Half. Am I heading in the right direction?!

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Jaimia If you want some warmth you are best sticking to Beige Royal half as White Duck and Pipe Clay have more green in them – lovely colours but may not give you the warmth you need. Good luck Samantha

  8. Avatar
    Jaimia Ollington says:

    Thanks Samantha,
    I’ve ended up ruling out the Beige Royal Half because it looks pink/brown in the space. The Pipe Clay looks like a lovely neutral and I can definitely see a bit of the green undertone peaking through in some areas. Interestingly the White Duck looks the pinkest of them all – I’m actually getting another sample pot because I’m sure it must have got mixed incorrectly?? Have you ever had White Duck look pink? Anyway at this stage leaning towards the Pipe Clay.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Jaimia No I haven’t ever seen White Duck look pink. You need to be careful about what else is around that could be throwing pink or it could be a poor mix. I suspect you like Pipe Clay as it is a little more grey – it really is a great neutral colour. Samantha

  9. Avatar
    Jaimia Ollington says:

    It must be a poor mix because there is nothing in the house and the walls are all painted undercoat at the moment. Anyway we’ve decided to go Pipe Clay. Thanks heaps for your help.

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