Best Gray Paint Colors according to Ryan Gosling

Hey, girl.  Wanna sample some low VOC paint swatches with me while we drink crystal light and i play Twinkle Twinkle on my ukelele?

What. He’s from Canada so he really appreciates the sophisticated yet understated power of this multi-toned neutral. It’s nuanced. It’s both masculine and feminine.  It’s thought provoking, intellectual and yet totally simple.

But, paint colors are incredibly tricky, truly, and i’m not an expert on picking the perfect color the first time, AT ALL.  But i have painted around 50 rooms in the last two years so i’ve definitely made some mistakes and learned a few things.

For instance:  what looks good in a picture can look different in a can, different on your walls, different at night and then different when a blue sofa is next to it.   It can be 100% baffling.  I’m sure if i had gone to art school i would be better at it, but I didn’t so it was a lot of trial and error (and instinct) for me. And i’m finally getting the hang of it.

But its a lot like finding the right guy for you:


Some are great to party with, some perfect for your family, some that just feel like ‘home’, some that make you look really good when you are next to them and some that you have a super unhealthy addiction to and you really don’t want to see them anymore but you can’t help the attraction and you try again and again to make it work and then you swear them off forever but end up slipping up and trying them out again only to be disappointed AGAIN…(this is me with ‘teal’….i am always so attracted to it, but i can’t seem to ever actually live with it on my own walls.)

So here are my favorite go-to’s for GRAY paint colors, a la Ryan. Some of these i’ve used only once and LOVE them so much, and some i’ve used 3 – 4 times and can’t get enough of them.

1. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl.

This gray can do no wrong. Ever.  It’s my favorite and best go-to gray of all time.

It’s like this Ryan:

Super classic and sophisticated, but not boring AT ALL.  It’s a very, very warm gray – meaning that its still a cool tone because its gray, but has more yellow in it than blue so it doesn’t feel crazy blue.  Most of you who have experimented with gray’s know that they go blue very, very fast – often you think you are choosing a blue-ish gray and then when its up on your walls it looks like you are welcoming your first son. In 1992. It goes so ‘baby’.

Its totally bazaar and happened to me a few times before i learned my lesson of erring on the side of a warmer gray (or just going darker and steering clear of anything that is even close to a pastel).

I painted Ian’s living room in gray owl:

And then i just painted the bedroom of the lake house that same color:


They are both like warm cozy gray hugs and i couldn’t be happier with them/him.

2. Benjamin Moore Oyster Shell:

This one is blue-r but its not ever ‘baby’.  It is just a happy, light, soothing, calming, and fresh neutral.  Like him:

My office and master bedrooms are both in this color.  And then i also painted a room in the Lake House and room in a client in LA’s house this color as well.  Everybody has loved it.

See? It’s blue without being too blue.  And the light reflects off it perfectly.

3. Farrow and Ball ‘Lamp Room Gray’.  More sophisticated than the first two – and a bit moodier:

Lamp Room Gray

Lamp Room Gray

I don’t remember when i used this but i remember loving it.

They look different, but they aren’t.

DO NOT look at me like they, R, you scare me. So intense yet elegant.  Sensual yet approachable.  It’s a good color….but its not playful or fun, definitely more dramatic and sophisticated.

Farrow and Ball paints are expensive but they are also very complicated paints – meaning there are a ton of different pigments in each color so they are never ‘flat’ and instead have a lot of ‘movement’.  That sounded crazy ‘decorator-y’ but basically the more colors in a paint the more subtly interesting it is – its like secret texture.  You can’t stare at it and see the different colors, but instead you’ll notice that it looks different in the mornings than it does in the evening, and it changes so much based on what colors you put next to it.

4. Sherwin Williams, Silver Mist

This one is beachier and greener than the other grays.  It has a frenchy-country thing happening with it that i love.  Such a good neutral for a fresh all white kinda house.

There is a good chance Ryan and I will use this in our french cottage. With white shutters…and an art studio for me that he has cut out like 100 paper arrows and put them on the floor to show me where it is. He wakes up at 3am to do it every day.  It’s weird that i can’t just find it, that i hadn’t already stumbled into it, but the house must be just enormous.

5. Benjamin Moore, Gray Timber Wolf:

This one is a darker and definitely ‘cooler.’  It’s a dudes’ ‘gray’, for sure.  Masculine and intense…but still with some youth.

If you put this in your living room make sure to combine it with warm woods or warmer colors because it can feel cold. But, it is also super masculine and modern – very little yellow in it, so when done right it is beautiful. I’ve painted three rooms this color and i’ve loved them all – just add ‘wood’.

6. Serious Gray by Sherwin Williams (for HGTV).

This one has a slight purple tint to it.  I guess if you had gone to design school you might say it has more ‘red’ in it.  It is definitely very cool, but also very interesting and way darker than the others.

Colors for Office - Serious Gray by Sherwin Williams

This shot is totally awesome.

And so is this one:


That was when we were in Oregon together…..Meeting my parents…oh those rainy nights.  We played a duet on the baby grand, drank some diet coke, and watched some early ‘Waiting for Guffman’ style family dinner theater performances.  He fit right in.

And Yes, The Notebook was on ABC family last night and i might have watched it.  Again. It wasn’t my fault. The TV was on and the remote was 6 feet away.  I couldn’t change it even if i wanted to.  And i didn’t.

So those are my (our) favorite grays.

And if these aren’t enough than the blog ‘A Perfect Gray‘ has a whole list of favorites.  Click HERE.

Now tell me (us) yours….. What grays have you used that you love? Or not?


  1. Meaghan

    Great post! I'm studying Interior Design in Vancouver Canada and I wish my all instructors could put together a lecture as cohesively as you can put together a post! Designers are such visual learns and pairing each grey with a picture of it used in an actual space helped me understand your descriptions of each hues subtle differences and uses so easily. Could you do more posts like this with other hues? Especially white…I find them so tricky to pair with each other and with other hues. Their undertones jump out and slap me in the face when I've paired the wrong white with a colour that too closely matches the blue, yellow, red, etc. hiding within.
    As always…you rule!

  2. Meaghan

    Great post! I'm studying Interior Design in Vancouver Canada and I wish my all instructors could put together a lecture as cohesively as you can put together a post! Designers are such visual learns and pairing each grey with a picture of it used in an actual space helped me understand your descriptions of each hues subtle differences and uses so easily. Could you do more posts like this with other hues? Especially white…I find them so tricky to pair with each other and with other hues. Their undertones jump out and slap me in the face when I've paired the wrong white with a colour that too closely matches the blue, yellow, red, etc. hiding within.
    As always…you rule!

  3. Jen

    Ben Moore revere pewter. Taupey undertones maybe a little greige. . Not too light, not too dark, not blue at all and most importantly not purplish or pinkish. Perfecto.

  4. Mary

    I want everything in that last picture.

    Yeah, you heard me. All of it.

  5. sara

    I love vintage gray by benj moore. I have {vintage} gray and white stripes on a wall in my living room. LOVE the "Flannel Gray" – actually I have never tried it, I just want to wrap myself up in it. I need to paint the rest of the gray&white striped room in a warm and lighter gray, and definitely going to look into your first two options. Nice write up!

  6. Erin

    As if I needed another reason to love you and your writing style, you go and do this! I pinned it and hope everyone I know reads it.

  7. Erica

    This is a very helpful post. My apartment is mostly one, big room and it is painted Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray. I love it. Sometimes it looks very gray and sometimes, it looks more beige. I normally hate beige, but this color is very warm and looks great at every time of the day and in different parts of the apartment that get different types of light. It is a bit of a chameleon, but it always looks great. When I painted a sample, I didn't like it, so don't let it fool you. This is a very versatile color and looks lovely when painted over a whole wall.

  8. This is, by far, the best blog post about gray paint ever written. I'm going to go print that last picture and tape it to the inside of my locker. (But first I'll have to get some lockers, install them and assign myself one. Totally worth it.)

  9. Kym N. Beckham

    Hi Emily! Funny that you are posting this super cute paint story! I have Granite Gray on my brush right now. I am painting a fish, yes a wooden fish And if I decide to go a little crazy, I may add some metallic highlights on his scales. Or not.
    I wish you were on the east coast so I could ask you to come help me but alas, not going to happen!

  10. Mmmm gray. I love me some gray walls. And some Gosling. Excellent post.

    My new work office (new to me anyway – it's in a very old building) was just painted Repose Gray (Sherwin Williams). It's very nice, a bit warmish and slightly more pale than I anticipated. Freshly painted white trim and ceiling has helped it pop though, so I'm loving it. Can't wait to move in there and love it daily (waiting for network wiring to be dropped in).

  11. illlap

    I think I went through 6 gray samples and still had to repaint our living room because the one that went up was lavender (well, it wasn't lavender until it got onto the wall!). BUT, Cosmopolitan out of Benjamin Moore's new Color Story line is AMAZING. We painted it in the kitchen as well, and it looks completely different in different lights and different rooms. I think the story was that they're trying to echo the quality of Farrow and Ball.

  12. one fantastic post, girlie. I think 'oyster shell' is new to me so I will have to keep it in mind. After so many trials and errors, I always say that those darn grays are just a medium for undertones. but still. I love them. thanks a million. donna

  13. Vica

    Hands down the best Color Post I have ever read! I love the pics of Gosling AKA "Baby Goose", but who doesn't?

    Just FYI if you ever decide to design in ATL, I will take out a second mortgage on my house to have you design it.

  14. Christa

    Oh, um, was there a question? I seem to be distracted by the Eyes of Gosling… damn, it just isn't fair to put all that sexy into one man. This is a wonderful post, even beyond your awesome use of Ryan! As an artist it has taken many years to truly learn to read and understand color, mainly that ***Color Does Not Exist Without Light.*** The light reflecting off the surface is what makes the color that you see. All cats are black in the dark. Except you, Ryan. You're still tawny.

    Anyhow, because of the light in the room, paint is going to look completely different depending the time of day. Light is cool midday, and warm in late afternoon. And don't forget reflected light – the floor, the ceiling, brick fireplace surround, all of it will be reflecting the light and bouncing it off the walls, changing how you see the wall color.

    If you want to be sure of a color there is no short cut to testing swatches. I prefer to test by painting a big swatch of bristol board paper instead of painting directly on the wall. That way I can move the swatch around, put it next to furniture, near the window, down in the corner, up towards the ceiling. I tape several contenders in place and move the swatches around for several days. I care about this stuff too much, I know. It drives my husband crazy, but I'm sure Ryan would smile gently in understanding.

    Also, no matter what the commercials say, you can't 100% color match paints from one brand to another. They don't use the exact same pigments, so there is no way it will exactly match. None. Forget it.

  15. Mhodell

    We just painted our kitchen/living area Ben Moore London Fog – love it, it's the perfect color like a big linen pillow you could just fall into.

  16. LOL. Best. Post. Ever. So good to know about gray and its trickiness. Oh, and of course, you guys make such a cute couple!

  17. Lauren

    Remember when you asked us what we'd like you to write about? Well THIS is it, but I didn't even know it! I really wish you had written this a year ago when I was picking out my "blue-ish gray" for our bedroom. Yea you guessed it, we have baby blue walls. It's actually a very pretty color, but so not what I wanted. Oyster Shell is EXACTLY what I needed. We're not the type of people who paint our own walls (so embarrassing – I've never even tried, because I'm scared), so I never feel like I can just redo it. We just can't afford to pay someone to paint twice because it's not what I wanted. :( So sad. But, advice like this is so good, so thank you, thank you for sharing! Would love more posts like this. Perhaps a monthly paint color/Ryan Gosling post?

  18. Kara

    We just bought our first home and I did a TON of research and sampling on Gray paint. I ended up with Gray Owl, but in half tint, as I wanted it to be super airy and light. I love it. Like a ton. I'm debating how horrible it would be to paint my whole house in one color. I wont, but I want to.

    You can see it here:

  19. laurielulu

    Huh…….(severely dizzy) we're talking about what?….I am NOT thinkin' about paint. He's yummy.

  20. Gina

    I love Shady by Dunn Edwards.

  21. Katherynn


    I LOVE this post! Only you, my dear Emily, would translate the different moods of grey paints to Ryan Gosling. He's so hot, le sigh*
    Your blog always cheers up my mundane afternoons! Thanks for that bit o' eye candy and fun humor with some shades of gray. :)

  22. Peggy

    We're in the middle of painting our nursery with Dutch Boy Crayola Grey. It's deep, but not too blue, not too yellow- just what you'd expect. The Dutch Boy Refresh Zero VOC paint is wonderful! It's covering like a dream and has almost no smell, which is super fantastic when it's the mom-to-be painting!

  23. Nat

    This post is amazing- 1.Because I'm looking for the perfect gray right now 2.Because who doesn't love a post filled with Ryan Gosling photos! I might have to take a stack of Ryan Gosling photos with me the paint store so I can match him to my gray options.

  24. Michelle

    I am in the middle of buying a condo and choosing paint colors. I have been looking for a light blue- more of a grey with silver highlights and I think – Benjamin Moore Oyster Shell will be just perfect. Thanks for your breakdown of grey, it really helped guide me to what will be the perfect bedroom color.

  25. Sco

    too bad there isn't a "nude gray"…

  26. You are hilarious! I love this blog so much.

  27. Julia Reiersgord
    kind of fun, maybe you've already seen

  28. I don't think this post could have made me any happier. Grey and Ryan COMBINED. It's just soooo right it's wrong. Thank you.

  29. Sara

    Gray owl is my absolute favorite, too! I've used with a few clients and they have all loved it! Thanks for the rest of this list, too!! I think I have the perfect home for Oyster Shell :)!!

  30. Megan

    I used Benjamin Moore's November Rain on the walls of my sewing room. Definitely turned out a little bluish but I still love it. My problem is that all of the gorgeously painted trim in my home is a light beige (It's actually called Botany Beige) and not a white which makes picking out paint colors really difficult. Most grays with any red at all make the trim look kind of purply so I have to be careful. Damn those subdivision developers and their poor paint color choices! And though I love November Rain for the sewing room, I'm still on the hunt for the right warm gray for the main areas of my home, so thanks for your compiled list!

  31. LauraM

    I went through 50 gray samples when I painted my living room a few months ago. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl and Benjamin Moore Intense White were the two that I narrowed it down to. I know what you're thinking: Intense White doesn't sound like a gray colored paint. Not true! I ultimately chose Intense White and I simply love it. It's very subdued and really reads a true light gray and doesn't have heavy blue/purple/green undertones. Make sure you allow the paint to dry (and apply two coats) before you fully judge. It paints on light and dries a perfect gray. I'm in heaven and will re-use as my go-to gray paint!

  32. Jo

    This post was so enjoyable and enlightening. I love how you worked Ryan Gosling into the mix–so clever!

  33. Best design blog post of 2012! Seriously. I don't know if I love anything more than Gray Paint + Ryan G! And you are spot on with BM Gray Owl. Best gray of all time. I've used it in 7 projects because I love it so much and it's fool-proof. I'm a big fan – thanks for the post – you moved me to commenting, which is no easy feat :)

  34. Katie

    OMG this is hilarious! Maybe one of you most entertaining posts. :)

  35. Casey

    Emily could you recommend your favorite"off-whites" and whites? If you have any…Seeing as how you love color so much ! lol

  36. Wendy Lee

    Oh Emily, you rock my face off. This might be the best blog post ever written.
    We have used Ben Moore's "Bunny Grey" in 4 rooms of our house, and it looks completely different in each room. Sometimes it looks white, sometimes blue, and then sometimes actually grey. We love it!

  37. Monica

    Awesome-est post ever. Trying so hard to find just the right grey. You are a lifesaver!!

    How about a "best of navy blues" Emily?


  38. Hey Emily, I love your show. Just stumbled onto your blog and pinterest…eeeek!! This post caught my attention because uh who doesn't love Ryan Gosling and gray is so awesome. I just painted most of my house…wait for it…Gray OWL! And that's before your recommendation. Now I'm feeling all fancy and like I really know my stuff;) Anyhoo so glad to know you are here. I'll be back.

  39. Joshua

    Sherwin Willliams #7641. Collonade Grey. Loverly…it takes on other shades in the room. I've seen it go masculine, feminine, cool and warm. Hope that helps!

  40. Steph

    Best. Post. Ever. Will go down in blogdom history.

  41. Katie

    I wish I had this post a year and a half ago! I bought three gallon's of BM Stonington Gray, painted too rooms, and yes, it feels very baby blue. Still have an entire gallon left that I guess I'll use until getting up the energy to start over!

  42. Lisa

    Loved this post!

  43. Big thanks for the efforts you have put into writing this article.

  44. I am a huge fan of Ryan Gosling and his looks. I really appreciate all this interior design. My plan future plan was to be a interior design but i change my plan.

  45. Sarah Martin

    I'd love to find out about those insect prints! Any source you can give me?
    (and- great post by the way!)

  46. Russell

    I love your post!! What color drapes would you recommend to go with oyster shell?

  47. Casey

    Thank you for this post! I am painting my baby boy's room light gray w/ a light, pastel blue ceiling. I am desperately trying to make sure the gray doesn't look too blue and this post is especially helpful… love your suggestions!

  48. Not only did I find the info on gray paint really useful but I nearly peed in my pants reading this. You made me laugh and it was a great way to end my day! Thanks!

  49. Wendy

    I just searched for this post and am going to get some Night Owl this weekend for my bedroom. Also, I just rewatched Crazy Love last night and WOW! Ryan Gosling is seriously the hotest thing! I am going bookmark this post just for the eyecandy pics of him! The gray explanations are awesome too. Love your blog seriously funny stuff!

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  51. wow…..It's amazing…..I like it very much.
    you have done Great job.

  52. jon

    You Rock! Thanks for such good advice with the added bonus of Ryan Gosling. Just made my decision…I'm going with Serious Gray.

  53. Michelle

    I loved BM Gray Owl in Ian's living room, and used it in my bedroom. The color is really lovely there, and the room has old pine floors, a simple oak dresser, pink/yellow ikat rug, and yellow duvet.

    Then I used the same color in my living room. The room reads… blue. Like dusty, deathly blue. The furniture there is a little more modern and cool: white bookshelves, square metal handles, and a cool dark grey couch. (plus the weirdly red pergo flooring that was already there… but is not in the budget to replace especially since it's in great shape). I'm working on tweaking the room with more warm colors. Hopefully that will bring the Gray Owl walls back in line. Is that hunch right? Any other tips?

  54. Deb

    After purchasing 17 samples of gray paint, I was ready to give up and paint thhe bedoom white. Samples were either too dark, too blue, too green, too muddy… Then I saw this site. Oyster Shell is perfect – absolutely beautiful.

  55. Sarah

    It's rare when I feel so compelled to hug someone through the internet, or in person for that matter, but lady, please let me squeeze you. There is the obvious to love about this post, but really, *truly*, it comes down to this: " I guess if you had gone to design school you might say it has more 'red' in it."

    Yep. Hugging. You. Right now.

  56. Syndi W.

    I had a terrible almondy-ish yellow, they said they couldn't "fix" it, that there was too much yellow pigment. So I took it home, poured some out of the five gallon bucket, and added (gasp) leftovers from other cans of paint I had laying around. I ended up with MY gray. It's beautiful. I live in Wa, there are a lot of gray days, but this gray has a wonderful lavander tone to it (courtesy of my 8 year olds room, behr Cinderellas glass slipper) that just glows when it rains. It also has a wonderful pearly effect (my 4 year olds room, behr pear jade, fave color) on sunny days. So take that Mr. "there's nothing we can do"- Yeah! Thanks for the Post Emily!

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