How to Choose the Perfect Gray Paint

Prior to this move, we were never allowed to paint the walls of our home. Even though every single place we lived had white walls (which I kind of loved), we couldn't touch up the paint or even paint it a different shade of white. Nothing. So, naturally, one of the things I was MOST excited about owning our own house was choosing paint colors. I absolutely LOVE white, but I was excited to have the option to paint the walls another color.

At first, I thought I would opt for white again, but due to its orientation, our house doesn't get a lot of natural light. White would have looked dreary and dirty and gray in our home, so instead, I wanted to go with a darker white. :) 

And ya'll. If I had of known what I know now about gray paint, I honestly might have run the other direction. Because choosing the right gray for your space is HARD. Like. Really hard. There are 103948309 different options, each with it's own unique but oh so subtle undertone that looks slightly-but-significantly-different in different light at different times of day depending on whether or not you tilt your head or squint your eyes. :) And just when you think you've got it figured out, you second guess yourself and realize all of your life choices up until that moment were wrong. 

But. After a very long and agonizing process, I finally settled on a gray for our house and I love it. I learned a few things along the way, and I thought I would share those with you today! 

1. Buy sample pots and paint sample upon sample on the wall

While many experts recommend NOT painting samples on the wall (and instead using poster board or scrap drywall) because it may change the texture of your wall, I didn't have an issue. I just made sure to feature the edges so there were no raised blotches, and then I went to town. I have to admit... I was kind of a crazy person about this. I painted almost every square inch of our living space in various shades of gray. I wanted to see what they looked like in different rooms with different light and drove myself crazy staring at them. We lived with our splotchy walls for months before I finally chose a color.

2. Consider the light

Because of the positioning of the sun and the way it streams through your windows, different rooms will have different color temperatures. Rooms with north facing windows tend to have cooler light, while rooms with south facing windows have warmer light. This means a true gray will look blue in a room with north facing windows, but more beige in a room with south facing windows. This is important to know so you can choose a color that balances with the color temperature of your room and allows the paint to truly look gray. In a room with north facing windows, you typically want to choose a warmer gray, and the opposite in a room with south facing windows. For rooms facing east or west, you can typically do whatever you want because you receive more direct sunlight.

3. Paint a room you care a bit less about first

I'm SO glad we did this. I settled on "Gray Owl" from Benjamin Moore because it looked like the truest gray on the sample card, but I decided to paint the office first. Because it was less of a commitment. After a full day of painting and intense concentration, I took a step back and everything looked blue. Not gray. Blue. I was distraught, and SO happy that I started small. (Sidenote: That story has a happy ending because our south facing window in the office makes the blue undertone go away in the day, which means the office looks true gray most of the time. But it would not have worked in the living room.)

4. Stay away from grays with a blue undertone

Because it's SO easy for a gray to look blue. I learned this lesson in our office and guest room, so I went for a warmer gray in the main areas of the house and I'm so glad I did. On the sample card, our gray (revere pewter) looked straight up beige. Not gray at all. But once it was on the walls, the light and colors surrounding it magically transformed it to a true gray and we love it. We love that it changes colors, depending on the time of day - sometimes it looks more gray and sometimes it looks more beige, but it always looks gray-ish and it never looks blue. I wanted our home to be warm and inviting, not cold and stark, so this was a win for me.

5. Give yourself PLENTY of time

This is super important, because I found that this whole process takes WAY longer than expected. I think I took three or so months to finally decide on a gray. Ya'll - I stared at those paint blotches for a LONG time. I asked everyone who came in our house which one they liked best. Multiple times. But, at the end of the day, I'm glad that I took my time to ensure I made the right choice, because we LOVE it... and we'll probably never paint again. It's just too stressful. :)