The Perfect Gray Paint | Gray Apartments

Trying to find the perfect gray paint for your space is way more challenging than it seems. There’s more than just deciding how light or dark you think you want it to be- there’s also the problem of finding the perfect tone [does this look blue? Will this go well with cream?] as well as accounting for the natural light in your space [one shade off and you can feel like you’re in prison darkness]. Hopefully my adventure with painting can help you!

Here is my apartment in move-in condition. You can see the original paint on the wall was a yellow with a reddish, brushed type of effect over it [why? Just why? #SayNoToSponging].

I knew coming in to this that I wanted my walls to be a light gray, but the amount of light in this space proved challenging when choosing a color. Natural light [and lots of it] is the best kind of situation to have when going for a darker tone. It not only lets you see the true color, but also gives a light and airy feel, which automatically breaks up the ‘closed-in’ feel that darker paints can provide. The difficulty I had was finding a paint color that would be the true light feeling I wanted while still not being washed out by all of the light.

Enter attempt #1. They let me work with the painter before moving in to decide what color I wanted my fresh coat to be. I was provided samples from Benjamin Moore, and ultimately decided on ‘Calm’, a light grey with warm undertones.

Looking at the swatches, you might think the middle shades would be better to use. While those are the colors my eye is drawn to, those colors appear much darker in a larger space. See the heavy contrast between the white stripe and the swatches? I want there to be contrast, but not a stark dark vs. a bright white. Grays also tend to dry darker. When in doubt, go a shade lighter.

Also, you can see the true undertones of the paint when looking at the family of swatches. Like a shade? Look four shades darker. Does it seem purple? Blue? Those tones will show even if it is the lighter version. I liked the ‘Calm’ family because it was the most neutral of the set- and it’s warmer tone was perfect for the cream couch I knew I’d be bringing into the space.

You can see the swatch held up to my wall pre-paint [again, what is with the blood splatter special going on? Woof]. In retrospect, I should have chosen barren plain. But you see how gray ‘calm’ truly looks when held up to the yellow, so I went with that.

You’re probably thinking ‘you just told us to go a shade up, and now you’re saying you should have gone a shade down?‘ I know, sounds crazy. Those rules apply to 95% of spaces- just not spaces that are 95% percent windows.

Cue move in day- I come in to find this:

Um. This looks white. More than white. Hospital white. Sterile white. Not warm or relaxing, just bare. It was deceiving how gray the swatch looked against my yellow wall, which brings me to my next tip I should have followed-

Always buy samples of the paint you think you want. And then buy samples of some other colors you like too for when the first sample looks completely different than what you thought.

[Shout out to my boyfriend for this pro tip^. He’s the brains of this operation].

After moving all of my furniture, I had to run out to Home Depot to get swatches, test them on the wall and decide so the space could be re-done. I decided to try out some more light colors, as well as some colors a step or two lower. They didn’t have Benjamin Moore, but thankfully they could identically match the colors I had chosen.

Benjamin Moore: Coventry, Silver Chain, Stone Haven, Shoreline

I began making predictions as soon as I opened these samples. I was like ‘Oh, Coventry is IT. I don’t even know why I’m bothering doing this because this one is obviously going to be it.’ I also thought ‘Shoreline looks EXACTLY LIKE WHAT’S ON MY WALL RIGHT NOW. Oh. Hell. No’.

Do not let the paint fool you! It will ALWAYS dry differently than how it looks in the container.

See below with how the ‘shoreline’ sample looks on the lid

[I’ve also included this photo in case you want to try out this exact gray for yourself, just bring it in to your local store for it to be replicated.] [Can you see where this is going?]

Here are the swatches right after I painted them on my wall at 10pm- not altered in anyway, as you can see from the extreme poor quality of the photo.

Benjamin Moore: Coventry, Silver Chain, Stone Haven, Shoreline

Seeing it on my wall at night made me think that Silver Chain was my favorite. I felt a little silly for making up my mind earlier after seeing these on the wall. Also, look how DARK Stone Haven looks compared to the sample?

I knew better than to decide right away. I wanted to wait until the morning to see the paint with the actual sunlight coming through. Here are the swatches during the day:

Benjamin Moore: Coventry, Silver Chain, Stone Haven, Shoreline

I still loved Silver Chain, but now I was leaning towards Shoreline. It was obviously darker compared to my ‘gray’ walls, while still being light. Silver chain was clearly a much darker step than my current ‘gray’, and I didn’t want to make the mistake of it running darker than what I wanted [especially considering my space is either all windows, or no light]. I may go back and purchase Silver Chain to be the darker gray I use on my bathroom ceiling, but I ended up choosing Shoreline:

You can see the distinct contrast in the paint between the white- exactly how I wanted it. Obvious, yet calming. It looks simple, clean and modern. You can also see that this grey still doesn’t feel enclosed or cold even in spaces completely void of light-

It provides a great backdrop for lighter neutrals, as well as darker tones-

Overall, I’m  very pleased with this paint color. The darker floors and white trim provide great contrast to this lighter color without being too overwhelming or closed in. Took a few attempts, but it was well worth it!

Have you found a perfect gray for your space? Would love to hear what you chose and/or see photos!

21 thoughts on “The Perfect Gray Paint | Gray Apartments

  1. Goodness I absolutely love your apartment! What an awesome find! I love what your doing in terms of decorating…it’s the perfect combination of modern yet comfortable — it looks great. Really enjoying these decorating posts, can’t wait to see what you do with the rest of the space!

  2. Yes! That grey is phenomenal. I have the swatch for Shoreline sitting on my inspiration board, just waiting for my decision. I’ve got to go get a sample size now and see how it looks in my place. You have such amazing decorating style, love it! Can not wait for an update video. 🙂

  3. Great post. I’ve never lived in an apartment that allows painting but your boyfriend definitely has some great tips for me to remember in the future. Also really like your dining set choice. The metal reflects off the mirrors and gives your apartment a nice modern twist.

  4. I love that you’re an artist w intellect and you approach decor with an almost analytical approach! I prefer this method over what I usually see on blogging sites! Love this!

  5. Holy smokes. My husband and I went through the EXACT same issue when painting our house. Unfortunately we have not yet landed on the perfect grey but are getting much closer. I sincerely wish I had read this before we embarked on our adventure. One additional learning is that we have found several better grey options through Sherwin Williams (vs Home Depot).

    • Actually Behr, the Home Depot brand, is a division of Sherwin Williams that was created so they do not compete with their flagship and more expensive line.

  6. I think I have a pretty good eye for design but when it comes to paint color I’m color blind! I really wanted a true grey for a guest bathroom that is on the small side and has no natural light coming in. After going through the usual paint samples and frustration of having to chose a color quickly I stumbled across your blog/website. I loved the detail and the pictures you provided. This is the only site I felt the pictures were true to color! SO…..on blind faith I went with the same color, BM Shoreline and I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!
    I plan on having my guest bedroom repainted in the same color. Thank you so much Carly for taking the time to post this information!!

  7. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your search for a great shade of grey!

    We are a Vermont nonprofit and really needed to update our waiting area but we didn’t have the extra time or money needed to find the right paint color. After reading your post, I bought 2 gallons of the B Moore Shoreline. It looks lovely and we are really grateful to you!

  8. My painter is putting samples on the wall as I type. One is Shoreline 1471.- does it have a lavender undertone or is that just my eyes? I sure don’t want lavender so hope not!

  9. I am searching somewhat frantically for my new living and dining room paint color. I loved every photo I saw of Shoreline and couldn’t wait to test a sample out… but on my wall it’s reading sort of purple. Are there any obvious purple or red undertones? Are paint samples ever “off”? Thanks!

  10. While I 100% agree that you should try samples of paint to make sure you are getting the accurate colour. There is no way that home depot can make Benjamin Moore colours accurately. Ben Moore has their own tinting system and do not use universal tints (like homedepot and other stores) therefore the colours wouldn’t be accurate. ( I’ve worked at ben moore for 8 years.) The same goes vice versa. i would expect ben moore to be able to make behr accurately.

  11. I stumbled across this while researching gray paint colours for our living/dining room. I am leaning toward Shoreline and I think your post confirmed it. I will be testing it out first!

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