Choosing the Right Gray

Choosing the Right Gray

Mark Chamberlain
Sep 21, 2010

I'm about to be quoted in a certain issue of a certain magazine about the uses of gray for interiors. Without scooping any exclusives, I thought I'd share some more detailed thoughts here and rewrite my notes and can also we can do the thumbs down-up thing where readers trump my suggestions. I'm all ears.

For starters, I always prefer gray in it's lighter shades to beige, linen or cameo. It's classy, urban, and ever so slightly reserved--as Diana Vreeland would say,"Elagance is refusal." It can match a variety of styles from contemporary to Mid-Century,or the style of a European salon with panel molding. When choosing a gray you shouldn't think service elevator or dumpster, you should think town house on the Upper East Side. But you have to pick the right one.

I prefer a warm gray, like a wet sidewalk or a Boucher ink wash. I personally find the sweatshirt grays less useful, though they have their place in the world. And what i really love is when gray gets dark and becomes a color, not like orange, but something that makes it's point yet still holds back enough so that you can hold a conversation. If you were to collect together the color chips I'm about to suggest, you'll see that gray can have a variety of shades, hues and undertones, and doesn't necessarily look like a tenement building. Let's be egalitarian and go by paint brand.

Benjamin Moore
I've enjoyed Dior Gray as a medium value, Titanium for lighter tone.
Also, dig around the mid number 1400s-1500s in the classic deck, or the historic colors. they have plenty of nuance to match every swatch you have.

Ralph Lauren
Try Tudric Pewter, Indian Rhubarb, Natural Gray, Bleeker, Cove Point.
I espcially like his rich darker tones, if you can look at the RL nomenclature with a wry smile and a shake of the head. Variety of values and undertones, and his pallette is very precise. Re Bleeker or Indian Rhubarb--go on, give yourself permission.

Try Blackened, Cornfirth, or Pavillion for soft rooms; French Gray, Blue Gray or Pidgeon for unbelievably sophisticated rooms in historic colors that work to contemporary advantage. Restricted set of 132 colors means they've done all the thinking for you.

Fine Paints of Europe
Run, don't walk, to FPE for the Mt Vernon Collection, which has a set of historic colors that will knock your socks off, especially their verdigris, ochre and grey. Too many to choose from, go nuts and let us know.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

Image: RLW Cabin

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