How NOT to mix Neutrals: Transitioning from Brown to Gray

Gray has been a trend in interiors for a while now, but I still have helped several clients make the transition from a brown color palette to a gray one just this year. The process can be daunting, and most of us don’t have the ability to make big changes to our cabinetry, countertops, and flooring every time we want to change color schemes. The good news is, neutral colors can be mixed. BUT, it must be done properly in order for it to look cohesive and harmonious.

I’m a big believer in training your eye when it comes to design, so to start off, let’s look at some poor design selections. These pictures are from a hotel room I’m currently staying in. The hotel is in the process of remodeling and updating their decor (from brown to gray) so I can’t be too upset with them for the hideous colors. We’ll cut them some slack.

PicMonkey Collage

 

What’s wrong with these pictures?? The problem here is Undertones, which is the secret to making your mixed neutral color scheme work. All colors on the color wheel are either a cool color or a warm color.

warm-cool-colors

Reds, oranges and yellows are warm colors while greens, blues and some purples are cool. Have you ever picked out a paint color at the Home Depot, brought it home and rolled it on your wall, only to have it look more yellow than you wanted? Or more blue, green, etc.? This is because all colors have undertones. These undertones are usually not very obvious and require some work to uncover, but neglecting to recognize them can totally ruin your color scheme. So how can you recognize them? The best way is to compare your swatch or sample to something from the same color family. This will help you determine if your chosen color leans more toward the warm side of the color wheel or the cool side. Is your gray paint looking more blue? This means it’s a cool gray. Is your white paint looking a little pink? This means it’s a warm white.

So what does all this have to do with changing your home from browns to grays?  The trick to a successful blend of neutrals in design is to stick to either a warm color palette or a cool one. DO NOT mix the two! This is what was wrong with the above pictures from my hotel room. This does not mean that going with a warm color palette means you can’t use any blue. It means that you will look for a warmer blue, maybe one with some red undertones.

Let’s look at some successful examples to demonstrate my point. Remember, training your eye is key here!

Warm Neutral Color Scheme

This is a perfect example of using warm neutrals cohesively. Notice the undertones!

 

This is a great example of using cool undertones. Can you see the blue? The use of black also makes the overall feel a little cooler.

This is a great example of using cool undertones. Can you see the blue? The use of black also makes the overall feel a little cooler.

 

Here's another example of using warm neutrals. Are you starting to see how this works?!

Here’s another example of using warm neutrals. Are you starting to see how this works?!

So when transitioning from browns to grays, try to stick to either a warm or a cool palette. If you don’t have the luxury of replacing large items, opt for accessories and easy changes like paint that work with the items you can’t change. (Use a warm gray on your walls if you have a warm cabinet color, or warm gray pillows on a tan couch). I hope this helps! You can contact me {sidney@kandgrayinteriors.com} with questions or any help you may need.