Fifty Shades of Gray Paint

This could’ve been a blog post where I explain how to pick the perfect gray paint color and show how grand it looks in our living room, but ahem… Our paint color selection process is not yet over.  Currently we have 5 shades of gray paint doing tryouts in the living room.  (Only 45 more to go.)


Turns out that picking a gray paint is quite difficult.  I should’ve hired an interior decorator or color expert or whatnot but instead, I’m just going the usual DIY brute force route by staring at paint strips for hours and buying tons of little sample pots (5 so far).  Here is my collection of paint strips, very helpful indeed.

paintchipsI’ll let you guess which one was Ransom’s suggestion. 

Our living room has a lot going on already: pine trim, khaki-ish cabinets, several walls of exposed brick.. i.e. red with gray mortar.  Combine all that with decent daylight but very dim lighting at night (which we plan to replace).  So a nice light shade of neutral is in order, right?  Gray seems like the obvious choice.  Its kind of ‘a thing’ these days, just ask pinterest or google.  It can be ‘neutral’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘unobtrusive’ all at the same time.

But what I’ve learned thus far is, gray paint (grey? greige?) can actually completely transform, right before your very eyes – to pink, blue, green, even purple.  Which direction each paint sample will lean on my walls is totally different from how it looks on the paint strip, so we’re sort of in a guessing game at this point.  And, the colors that look half decent during the day look a lot worse at night, or look at lot worse right next to the cabinetry.

Also there’s the added pressure that this one room is literally 50% of our house, with vaulted ceilings.  i.e. painting will require extension ladders (or scaffolding?) and many gallons of paints..  I.e. lots of both time and money.  OH THE PRESSURE.

And a final tip to anyone else buying paint samples.  You can paint those samples on to white posterboard which can then be moved around, switched in an out, and then conveniently placed in the garbage when you finish.  Thus avoiding the permanent patchwork look in your home.  Here’s an example from the internet:

from here

I knew that trick, but was too lazy to implement since I didn’t have any posterboard on hand…

Later today I’m heading back to Home Depot to gather a few more options.  Maybe ditch gray entirely and go with ‘white’.  Oh but there are so many shades of white too.


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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

10 responses to “Fifty Shades of Gray Paint”

  1. Jennifer Taylor says :

    We are way past five samples of gray paint at our house. I should send you some of our rejects, lol. Gray evidently wants to look blue in our house, but we’ve found a couple that are better. But we aren’t anywhere close to painting yet (drywall needs repair everywhere first, ugh). So those lovely multicolor swatches will remain in the living room for a long while yet.

  2. Barbara Daniel says :

    Having remodeled and painted with several shades of grey just a couple of years ago, “I feel your pain!” My immediate thoughts upon reading your first few sentences were “it’s lucky you’re not going with white!” My husband used to be in the garment industry and can tell you that white is the hardest “color” to match. Well, have fun trying – and if all else fails, go with Ransom’s pick! 🙂

  3. bethanybordeaux says :

    Ours is cement grey. It’s a valspar color from lowes that I had color matched to another paint brand. And if you decide to go with white, is recommend just choosing the untinted base. It’s what we did 🙂

    • Mary-Hall says :

      There are literally a hundred shades of white. I like your idea.

      • bethanybordeaux says :

        It’s the best ever. Everything in my house that is painted white is just the plain base. Trim, built in bookshelves, the whole nine yards. I love it. It’s so bright and clean and no worries about pinks or greens or blues showing through.

  4. Katy Nelson says :

    Ok! I don’t know you, Mary-Hall, but am a childhood friend of Bethany’s and had to weigh in on the paint decision! We recently painted and I used gray in our boys’ room and hallway. It’s really a perfect “true” gray, and just looks great!

    Then, reading a blog, I found someone who is also using LOTS of gray, who used several grays from the same card and also loves it. I think it could work in many places without the tricky undertones some grays have. Here is a link to the blog post (

    We used the darker “gauntlet gray” in the bedroom (white trim with lots of light) and the lighter “dorian gray” in our hallways. I think for a main room the middle gray between those (Dovetail) would be lovely but of course so hard to tell when you can’t see it in person Here is a link to the color online (it’s a Sherwin Williams color–and I really love their paint–there are almost always 25-40% off coupons, but you could have anywhere match it)

    Good luck! We are slowing repainting our whole house and only have part of the hall, a bedroom, and two bathrooms to go…..

    • Mary-Hall says :

      Thanks a bunch for the info!! I am starting to think that there aren’t any great Home Depot (behr anyway) options for my house so it may be time to branch out a little bit to a fancy paint store. Crazy! 🙂

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