Designer picks for neutral paint colors – from stylish grays to greiges, beiges and taupes
Who said neutral paint colors are boring or bland? They’re not, and and they’re super stylish. The trick to neutral paint colors is finding the right one – the one that brings your room to life and creates a neutral foundation for your room so that’s it’s stylish, comfy and inviting.
Yes, the paint colors (and flooring) are your base palette and it sets the tone for the room. They allow you to showcase your style via pops of color in the area rugs, furniture, pillow, window treatments and accessories. And, remember, you also have the ability to add a pop color in an accent wall.
In my opinion, white can be boring and bland, but neutrals add an element of style.
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page
Are you painting yourself? If so, here are some helpful tools to make the job faster and easier.
And, this Painting and Flooring Planner will organize your paint shades, finishes and flooring choices by room.
Where should you start when selecting neutral paint colors?
So first, you need to determine if you are starting from scratch…or if you are working with what you have. Do you have furniture or area rugs that you need to coordinate with or are you starting fresh. If it’s the former, you will want to work with the tones you already have in your decor items; if it’s the latter, the world is your oyster.
From there, you want to decide which type of neutral you prefer. Do you want cool tones or warm tones? Or somewhere in between? Hint: There is no wrong answer here – as long as you like it and feel it works well with what you have and what you like.
5 Neutral Color Families
Here are the 5 basic neutral color families. I’ve selected my top 3 choices for each one. These are generally light enough to work as a base color for most rooms. But, if you have a low light or north facing room, you probably want to do on the lighter and warmer side.
Currently grays are the most popular neutrals. In fact, they are the most popular overall, surpassing whites. Both the cool and warm grays are hot right now. But, as you’ll see, there’s a wide range of neutrals.
See which YOU prefer. And, then TEST the colors (more on that below)
These are Sherwin Williams Paint shades.
1. Cool grays
Grays are currently the most popular and stylish now, especially when it comes to wall colors. Cool grays have blue and purple undertones. They tend to be cool and crisp. They go incredibly well with dark floors, especially dark brown flooring (especially ebony, espresso and dark walnut…brown colors without red undertones).
These are my top picks for cool grays:
- Reflection SW 7661
- Gray Screen SW 7071
- Network Gray SW 7073
For more cool gray choices see: 11 Awesome cool gray paint colors
2. Warm grays
Warm grays, as the name implies are a bit warmer in tone. They tend to have some pale green and pale beige undertones, so they make the space feel a little warmer and comfier. These shades aren’t as stark as the cool grays and they tend to blend better if you have other warm tones in the room.
The warm grays work well with virtually any type of hardwood floors. They work well with very dark, mid toned and light floors. They even work with dark stains that have red undertones. They would not be my first choice for red stained floors, but they can still work with them.
Here are my favorite warm grays.
- Silverpointe SW 7653
- Repose Gray SW 7015
- Ellie Gray SW 7650
For more warm grays and greiges check out 9 Amazing Warm grays and Greiges.
As the name implies, greige is a mix of gray and beige. These truly bring in the best of both worlds with a mix of warm and cool. There is a fine line between warm grays and greiges…it’s really just a spectrum.
These colors are really quite universal. They will pull in both warms and cool colors in the room (whether that’s the floors, area rugs or other accessories). They work with dark, light or mid toned hardwoods. Greiges have more beige in them and are warmer; therefore they do work well with red stained hardwood floors.
- Agreeable Gray SW 7029
- Anew Gray SW 7030
- Mega Greige SW 7031
For more warm grays and greiges check out 9 Amazing Warm grays and Greiges.
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Accessible beige is a neutral color with taupe undertones. Taupe is mixture of gray and green, so it’s softer than your typical builder beige.
It’s a welcoming color and it’s not as yellow as some of the more dated beiges. It’s soft, subtle and neutral and complement most rooms. The other 2 featured beiges here are darker versions of Accessible beige and can coordinate well with it as accent walls.
- Accessible Beige SW 7036
- Balanced Beige SW 7037
- Tony Taupe SW 7038
WAIT! Need help keeping track of your stain and paint colors? This tracker makes it easy! GET YOUR PRINTABLE PAINT AND FLOOR TRACKER HERE!
Taupe is the 5th family of neutral paint colors. Taupe is a mixture of green and gray with brown undertones Here are my favorite taupes.
- Useful Gray SW 7050
- Mindful Gray SW 7016
- Gray Area SW 7052
Testing Neutral shades of paint
I encourage you check the paint swatches first (see below) and look at them in your home and next to your furniture. Look at them in real life (they look different on the computer) and your home. Colors look different in different places pending on your lighting (and time of day).
See if you like them and once you narrow, go to the store and buy 2 to 3 samples – your favorites – and test them on the wall. DO NOT SKIP this step. It is worth the $5-7 to make sure you like the color on your walls.
Put 2 coats on the wall (just like what you’ll do when you’re actually painting. Test the color on all 4 walls. Look at it during the morning, afternoon and evening. Check it with natural light and in the evening with artificial light.
If your walls have a color on them now (as opposed to a white or light cream), consider buying a sample of Extra White (from Sherwin Williams) to create a ring around the color for a better read.
Note: If you have a darker color on the wall, the colors on the other walls will reflect and may confuse you a bit. If this is happening, consider getting some white foam boards from Michael’s and put the paint testers on there. Note: these boards a sleek and don’t look the same as the paint on the walls. To get a more realistic look of the paint on the walls, use a foam roller (rather than a brush) as this will simulate the look of the walls better.
Please try to limit your sample choice to 3 to 4. If you don’t, you are likely to get overwhelmed and second guess yourself. And, it will make you more confused.
A better paint sample solution
It’s always best to test the paint colors in you own home and own lighting. The colors do look different pending your lighting and can even look different room to room.
You can definitely go to your local painting store to buy some samples (and a brush…be sure to paint with 2 coats), but I have a MUCH EASIER way for you. Check out SAMPLIZE.
Samplize offers 12” x 12” peel and stick paint samples that are EASIER, AFFORDABLE and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY.
Here are a few reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients:
- Samples come right to YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, pending on location
- At $5.95, they’re more affordable than the samples/brushes/foam boards than traditional samples…and of course easier and way less messy
- If you keep the samples on the white paper, you can move them from wall to wall and room to room
They are amazingly accurate as they are made with 2 coats of real paint, so they are color correct.
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE.
Do you need any paint shade fan decks?
Amazon can help with that. It’s so much easier when you have the full color wheels and can see all of these in your own home (vs. going back and forth to the store MULTIPLE times).
Sherwin Williams Benjamin Moore
I wanted to share a VERY helpful video from Sherwin Williams, with some quick and super useful DIY painting tips. It’s just 2 minutes and covers types of brushes and painting techniques. Also, below this article, I share the painting tools and accessories that we use (with links to buy them on Amazon).
Sherwin Williams and Pottery Barn Painting tips for DIY homeowners
Helpful tools if you are going to paint yourself
Here are some painting tools that may come in handy if you’re going to do the painting yourself. Also, be sure to check out my article on the Top 10 DIY Painting mistakes and how to avoid them. The products below can be found on Amazon and delivered straight to your door.
- Painting brush – this one costs a bit more, but it’s totally worth it. It will help you paint faster and more accurately. If you’re going to paint yourself, don’t skimp here. Incidentally, this is Amazon’s Choice as well.
- Painter’s tape – a must have. Use for all the trim as well as ceiling area
- Paint roller kit – this includes a tray. Use the brush for the edges and the roller for main areas of the wall (and ceiling).
- Drop cloths – Yes, you’ll need them for sure. Some people have some on hand, but often not enough if you are doing many rooms.
Related Paint articles:
- 11 Awesome cool gray paint colors
- 9 Amazing warm grays and greiges
- 7 Stylish colors for north facing rooms
- Most popular shades of gray paint
- Best shades of white for base molding and trim