I know I’ve read somewhere that the gray paint trend is dead. And, thank God, I thought. But, then, a few months ago, I stumbled upon your post from January that says the gray paint trend is not dead because it’s not a trend. Well, something like that.
I will admit, after I finished reading your post about gray paint colors, I adored every image so much that I wondered if perhaps I’ve been gaslighting myself all of this time? I’m only half-joking. Although, I get your point regarding why it is that I’m so over the “gray paint color trend.”
By the way, I’m a decorator, but I’ve only been in business for seven years. I’d like to tell you, if you’re interested, about this awful experience I had about three years ago. I had a young, pregnant client who wanted a “pure gray” paint color. I say “had” because they blessedly fired me.
This is the cool gray paint color true story:
The young clients wanted a PURE GRAY nursery for their male fetus. So, I went over TWICE because hubs wanted to weigh in, and he couldn’t be bothered to attend our first paint meeting even though he works from home. The color we chose is Benjamin Moore Oyster Gray 864, which I now understand is the same as Wickham Gray hc-171. However, on my fan deck, they look slightly different.
Anyway, a week after the paint consult, I got a panicked call from my former client that the walls looked GREEN.
She was beside herself, practically hysterical as if someone was critically ill. I know, Laurel.
I went over to their home the next day. The house stunk of paint fumes to high holy heaven. That struck me as odd because I specified Benjamin Moore Regal Select, which has virtually no smell at all. I used it in my own home, and it was fantastic. Plus, I always spec it, and my clients love it too.
Then, I went into the nursery, and yes, the paint color did have a slight green tinge to it. However, it was late afternoon in the summer with lots of greenery around. I took out my fan deck and pressed it up against the wall. And, the color looked like the one ABOVE Oyster Shell–PEARL GRAY 863.
That color definitely has a slight greenish cast. By comparison, Oystershell (directly above) looks like a pure cool gray paint color. And, if anything, it appears to go ever so slightly purple on the fan deck. I would never select a color from anything online! It does look a touch green here, but this is a computer monitor.
So, how in the hell is it possible that it looks green?
I asked to see the paint can. The painter pointed to a plain white can. I took a whiff and knew instantly that this was not Benjamin Moore paint. It appears that her painter used an off-brand, and computer matched it. Ugh, I have not had good luck with that.
Oh, Laurel, I hope you don’t mind this long-winded note.
I asked the painter where he purchased the paint. It was a store I’d never heard of, several miles away. I spoke with the manager and asked him about the paint. He was quite defensive, insisting that it’s IMPOSSIBLE for there to have been a mistake.
I said, “if a human was involved with the paint, it is indeed possible for there to be a mistake.”
He was a complete ass, and that told me everything I needed to know about the so-called Benjamin Moore paint. He was a jerk, I reckon, because he was most likely lying to cover up any culpability.
But, it gets even better. The client blamed ME for the color looking green and expected ME to pay to have the room re-painted. I told her that she, her husband, and I looked at numerous shades of cool gray paint, and we all agreed that Oyster Shell was the best choice. Since I did not purchase the paint, and it appeared to be an off-brand, I told her it wasn’t my responsibility.
And then I got out of there as quickly as possible, praying all the way home that she and her icky-poo husband would fire me.
Blessedly, God heard my prayers, and later that evening came the great news that I was indeed dismissed! Yipppeee!!! However, she asked that I return their $1,000 non-reimbursable design fee.
I wrote her back quickly and said, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, however, the design fee, per our letter of agreement, only covered the first ten hours, and I have spent over 20 hours measuring, drawing up plans, researching, planning, and visiting your home SEVEN times. However, I am waiving any further billing, and I wish you and your family the best of luck.”
But, do you think that was the end?
No, Laurel. It was not the end.
Princess writes me back and demands that I either return the FULL DESIGN FEE or return and help them further with their paint colors. Otherwise, I would be in “breech” of contract.
I wrote back and said:
Thank you so much for the kind offer. However, I prefer to remain fired.
All the best,
My husband quipped to me after I shared her email with him:
“Hun, I think she meant in BREACH of contract. The breech is what will happen to her baby if she’s not careful. Hehe.”
Oh man, I needed that laugh.
Anyway, I ignored her, but then, like a painful pimple returning after a long absence, I discovered that she had posted negative reviews all over the freaking internet about me. They were obnoxious defamatory rants filled with lies, half-truths, and glaring omissions. She raked me over the coals but good.
Thank you for listening, Laurel. I feel so much better now.
If you use this for a blog post, I have a couple of questions.
What are the best shades of cool gray paint, and is there a cool gray paint color that is PURE GRAY, with no undertones whatsoever?
By the way, I purchased your fantastic paint guides a few weeks ago and love both parts I and part II, those gorgeous palettes! Laurel, you should be charging at least triple for it. It’s like at least two semesters’ worth of interior design school! And, they’re charging tens of thousands!
Thanks so much for all of your wisdom and blog info.
Oh wow! Thank you, Aleta, for your kind words and for sharing that unfortunate story. I’m so sorry you had that happen to you. For the other readers, this is a true story from a real person; however, “Aleta Gray” is not her real name. :]
This topic of the best Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors is terrific, and I love Aleta’s questions.
I will also share nine of my favorite Benjamin Moore light to medium, cool gray paint colors.
So let’s dive in with Aleta’s first question.
Is there such a thing as a cool gray paint color that does not read as any other color?
The short answer is, “No, there is no such thing.”
For sure, some will say they’ve found “the one,” the one perfect shade of gray with no visible undertones whatsoever. And, that might be partially true.
For example, this magical shade of gray might look like the perfect shade of gray in the middle of winter at 10:00 in the morning in a south-facing room. But, here’s the problem.
What happens to that perfect shade of cool gray paint with no visible undertones when it’s:
- 8:00 PM in the summer?
- 1:00 PM on a sunny fall day?
- 10:00 PM any time of the year?
And, what happens if you try that same color in a north-facing room and it suddenly looks baby blue?
Or, you move to a new home using that perfect shade of cool gray paint, and now, it looks ever so slightly golden beige?
I can pretty much guarantee that this perfect shade of gray with no visible undertones will not look like it has no undertones in each of those situations.
It’s even possible that if Princess would calm the freak down, that “green” paint might very well look slightly lavender six months later on a cloudy winter day.
WHY does this happen?
Oh, I know that you already know. Yes, it’s the sun! Often it’s yellow, but no wait, now it’s orange…red, brown, purple, gone. Now, we need to turn on the lights. What color are they, white, yellow, pink? Tomorrow the sun will be obscured by clouds, so the sun will be gray, and then six months from now, the sun will be shining through masses of green leaves.
In addition, there are the other interior colors at play:
- the color of your floor
- direction of the light… The variables go on and on and on.
And, those light changes will change the perception of the paint color, from one thing to another.
Another factor that’s really freaky is one person’s perception of color is not the same as another. We all see colors slightly differently. Remember this fun experiment where we looked at a shade of blue thinking it was a pure blue? Please go here to check it out.
So, here’s what I suggest and as I have before, when trying to figure out how to control the uncontrollable.
I mean, you’re going to drive yourself nuts.
Gosh, I drive myself nuts, too, sometimes. However, it’s not necessary. There are some things we can change, but most things (and people), we cannot change. That goes for paint colors, as well.
The harsh reality about the best cool gray paint colors is that 99% of the time they are going to look more like:
green, blue, purple, or a combination of those.
And, here’s the super yucky part. Sometimes, a cool gray paint color will look slightly lavender on one wall and slightly gold on another. I’ve seen this numerous times, including in my own home, as evidenced in this post written shortly after I moved to Boston about my changing Benjamin Moore Classic Gray walls.
But, the freaky nature of paint colors on the wall is why you must test, test, test! And in all kinds of lighting situations.
However, there is one situation where the paint color will be pretty constant.
There is, Laurel?
Yes, the color should remain fairly consistent in a room with no windows.
In fact, I have a windowless room with one of my favorite Benjamin Moore Cool Gray Paint Colors. (Yes, it’s in the Laurel Home paint and palette collection!)
Coincidentally, my upstairs WINDOWLESS bathroom was already painted MARILYN’S DRESS. It was already in the LH Paint and Palette collection, but I never used it for myself. Anyway, I love it! I feel it’s probably one of the most blue of these cool gray paint colors, but it’s a very ethereal pale gray-blue.
Hold on a sec please; suddenly, I am sitting in the dark. haha. Hang on; I’ll be back in a jiffy. ;]
The Best Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors.
Isn’t gray, by definition, cool? Well, some are, and some have a warm tone that goes slightly brown, beige, lavender, or khaki. We’ll be getting to the warm grays, too. However, today, we are focusing on the best Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors.
You might enjoy this post about someone who’s wondering if their warm color scheme is going to look dated, one day.
By the way, I do realize that Sherwin Williams and Farrow & Ball make some lovely shades of gray; however, for now, I’m focusing on Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors. However, numerous posts discuss many wonderful gray Farrow & Ball paint colors. You can see them here.
Nine fabulous Benjamin Moore Cool Gray Paint Colors
(colors marked with a hot pink asterisk * are in the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.)
* PAPERWHITE 1590 – Paper White is a very soft, verrrrrry pale gray. It is so pale that it might look white in some lights, especially in a brightly lit room. Or, if juxtaposed next to a deep color. It is actually not terribly cool, but not warm either. It’s a very pale dove-gray and a wonderful choice for anyone wanting to give a pale gray room a go.
Of all of the cool pale gray paint colors, Benjamin Moore Paper White has very little undertone that I can discern.
However, it’s a chameleon color that can go slightly lavender or blue. It looked beautiful in my little New York bathroom.
My bathroom again. This was my crappy paint job from several years earlier. However, Shoreline is a beautiful cool, gray paint color.
Please enjoy this old post about great pale gray shades for bathrooms. Shoreline did have a subtle blue undertone, and at night, it went a little more green with the lighting. Either way, I loved it. It reads just a shade deeper than Paper White but is still quite pale.
Above is a much better image by the always fabulous Loi Thai, who now has a thriving Instagram account. Please follow him there, if you’re not already.
This image is the perfect lesson in using gray so that it’s stunning and NEVER boring.
Loi layers his soft pale gray paint colors with whites and other shades of gray. He introduces a touch of green with the plants. And, what I think is an essential element, is an accent or accents of warmth. Here it is with the terra cotta, pots, and collection of vintage wood-stained rolling pins.
A common mistake, in my opinion, when doing a room with a lot of gray colors is to make EVERYTHING gray.
Otherwise, it’s like flying through the clouds.
Another image I swiped from Loi Thai’s exquisite Insta account is this beauty from his exquisite summer home in Maine. I love the contrast between the vibrant green and gray fog. Gray LOVES green! In fact, it’s a color that loves all colors.
* STONINGTON GRAY HC-170
Stonington is a favorite amongst gray aficionados. It is a lot like Shoreline but a touch deeper. It does have a touch of a cool blue or sometimes blue-green or slight green undertone. However, this color can read as a pure gray in some lights.
Another popular cool gray color is Benjamin Moore Horizon. Before selling our home, I had painted our master bedroom and bathroom in this soft color. I think this color is fabulous for bathrooms, especially with Carrara Marble.
Our bathroom only had a small skylight, but I liked the color, as it looked lovely with the Carrara marble in there. Horizon looks darker than on the chip. In the bedroom which faces south-east, and is quite bright, I was less impressed.
However, that doesn’t mean that this is a bad color. The bedroom was devoid of architectural interest. So, in a room with lots of moldings, I think it would be a great color! It is a pale gray with a bit of blue-green in it. But, it is not at all icy!
Wickham gray is a beautiful pale gray with a lovely blue-green undertone. It will not read as pure gray, but it doesn’t look like baby blue. I used it in a very dark entry, which was a great choice.
Wickham Gray is the color that Benjamin Moore is saying is the same as Aleta’s Oyster Gray. And yes, in my fan deck, it also looks slightly different from Wickham Gray.
Let’s see if they look different on the internet.
Above is Oyster Shell
And, above is Wickham Gray.
They look pretty close, but when I look at them side by side, Wickham does look a bit more blue-green to me. But, we’re splitting hairs.
But, the fan deck issue reminds me of an important point, about cool gray paint colors and all colors, for that matter.
Paint colors can and often do appear slightly different from other fan decks with the same color. This is because there are also dye lots in the chips AND the paint itself. Plus, if one fan deck is five years old and the other one is new, the colors could be different.
That is another reason why we need to CHILL. ;]
* MOONSHINE-OC 56
Moonshine is a pale gray with slight green undertones. I’ve never used it, but there are folks who adore this soft shade.
* PEBBLE BEACH-1597
Several years ago, I specified this color for a master bedroom, and the client loved it madly! It’s one of those that changes a lot with the light. Sometimes it reads ever so slightly lavender and sometimes goes a bit blue, but a very nice grayed-out blue. It’s a very soft color and wonderful for a bedroom.
This lovely is on the Affinity fan deck and a bit deeper than Pebble Beach, with blue undertones. If you don’t know, the affinity colors were the first low VOC colors that came out at least 15 years ago.
* COVENTRY GRAY-HC-169
Coventry is a bit darker than eternity. It is a little deeper than Stonington Gray and a bit bluer, as well. Again, I’ve never used it, but it has gotten rave reviews.
For your Pinterest boards, below is a recap of the Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors.
I hope you enjoyed this post about some of my favorite Benjamin Moore cool gray paint colors.
Eternity did make the shortlist for the Laurel Home paint collection. However, I chose a couple of others for the paint collection that are not in this post. I decided to not use Eternity because it is in a different fan deck. Most of the colors are in the two big fan decks. There are 144 colors in total in the collection.