Whether cleverly named as gunmetal, titanium or pewter, grey is a neutral shade that, at its base, is a blending of black and white hues. However, the broad spectrum of colours that can be classified as grey makes the colour category more complex than most. When selecting a wall colour to complement a specific shade of grey, one must first determine if the grey has warm tones, cool tones or is truly a neutral grey.
Gray shades like clay, putty and taupe have warm notes of yellow or red mixed in with the basic base of black and white. Wall paint or wallpapers that fall into the warm colour families of red, orange and yellow complement warm shades best. A deep burgundy adds an austere elegance to warm grey drapes and furnishings while pale pink walls become less frivolous when paired with a deeper grey. Bright yellows or oranges tend to look more modern when paired with grey tones. Brave decorators who want to dabble in a more advanced colour palette can pair warm grey tones like taupe with colours that tread the line between warm and cool, such as blue-green hues. While experimenting with an expanded colour palette can be enjoyable, decorators run the risk of selecting clashing colours.
Grays like steel and slate lean more toward cool blue tints mixed in with the white and black base, making shades of blue the top choice for wall colour. Midnight blue walls create a frame for light blue-grey, however darker blue-grey accessories can overwhelm a space when paired with deep blues. Match the shade of grey of the furnishings and accessories that will occupy the room, and select a lighter shade on the same paint chip palette for the wall colour for a monochromatic design scheme. Shades of green and purple can also work well with cool greys as long as they both have blue as their primary base colour. However, greens that have more yellow than blue and purples that have more red than blue at their base work better with warm greys. When in doubt, ask a paint specialist to help you select a purple or green wall colour that is mixed with at least 50 per cent blue or more.
Grays created purely by mixing black and white, without the addition of cool or warm tints, can be paired with almost any wall colour as they will mimic the tones of the wall colour almost as if reflecting the shade. Neutral greys paired with maroon tend to look warmer than when the same neutral grey is paired with a cool blue. However, one of the most striking colour schemes that requires neutral grey is the monochromatic palette that utilises either a stark white or severe black as the wall colour. Larger rooms with a lot of light and pale, neutral grey furnishings can handle a modern, black accent wall. Smaller rooms utilising the monochromatic colour scheme with white walls can avoid looking antiseptic by introducing splashes of colour in artwork and accessories. Decorators intimidated by the thought of a plain white wall can instead use a pale grey wall colour base; however, the shade should be dramatically lighter or darker than any neutral grey furnishings to prevent the end result from becoming a bland grey blur.