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Gray couches have been a popular choice for living room designs for quite a while. And given the classic hue’s versatility, it’s no surprise. “A gray couch is so incredibly versatile,” says Mindy O’Connor. “It can stand out or fade back depending on the depth of tone and other elements in the room.”
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we produce our content alongside interior design and home decor experts. In this guide, you’ll advice from:
Brook Sherick, senior interior designer at Forum Phi
Grace Hoffend, senior interior design specialist at Maiden Home
1. Create a focal point
The neutrality of gray couches makes them pros at showcasing the bolder design elements in your living space without overwhelming them. “A gray sofa will give you the opportunity to emphasize a focal point in the room like a piece of art or a colorful accent chair near it,” advises Amy Youngblood.
Gray couches are also nice because you can easily layer on pops of color through throw pillows that draw on other elements in your space. “Since gray is considered a neutral color, you can do so much with it! You can add colorful and different textured throw pillows that match the rest of your look.” You can also pair a gray couch with bolder furniture pieces, like a colorful accent chair, to create a dynamic design.
2. Neutral Walls
Neutral living room wall colors and gray couches are a match made in interior design heaven. The pairing lays a soft, neutral foundation on which you can build just about any look you can dream of. “Gray is a perfect backdrop for playing with color in your space,” says Brook Sherick. “Since a gray sofa is a neutral backdrop, you can infuse seasonal colors with throw pillows and coffee table objects.”
You can also punch up neutral paint colors with a textural finish to give them more depth. “For added spice, opt for a limewash to create dimension that strays a bit from the flatness of some gray colors,” advises Grace Hoffend.
3. Layer with grays
Gray is one of those unique hues that you really can’t have too much of. It also fits right in the middle of the black-white spectrum, so you can play with all sorts of shades and tones within that color scheme.
“One quiet, sophisticated approach is to really lean into the gray color palette and stay in the realm of blacks, whites, and grays,” says Mindy O’Conner, “allowing pattern, texture, and contrast to create interest and a minimal, elegant feel.”
4. Embrace seasonal hues
If you like to change up your home decor as the seasons change, then you’ll love having a gray couch. The classic hue can pair with just about any color palette, so you can easily swap in home decor and other interior design elements as the seasons and your moods change.
“This season I'm loving golden hues, muted jewel tones, and blush tones,” says Brook Sherick. “But feel free to have fun playing with the colors in your space. When you swap in small seasonal accents it helps to keep your space fresh, and it can give your gray sofa a whole new look every couple of months.”
5. Pair with warm tones
Speaking of tones, if you’re rocking a warm gray couch, then it’s helpful to pair it with similarly warm throw pillows, rugs, and walls. “Warm gray pairs best with other warm tones for wall paint colors, rugs, and curtains.” says Megan Torres.
For instance, you can couple warm white walls with home decor pieces that rock warm, organic accents, like a jute rug or rattan accent chair. But virtually any color that leans warm can work well to complement a similarly warm gray couch.
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6. Incorporate blue
Many gray sofas have blue undertones, especially those that fall on the cool side of the warm-cool spectrum. And since there are so many different shades of gray and blue to work with, you enjoy lots of possibilities for your living room design.
“Blue and gray are endlessly workable,” says Mindy O’Connor. “You can incorporate different shades of blue, like adding aqua throw pillows against a light gray sofa. Set it on a vibrant blue area rug of a slightly different shade, and your living room design will be grounded and casual.”
7. Add textures
Since gray couches are so neutral, it’s easy to add texture to them without overwhelming your look. “When I use gray, I make sure there is a textural element to soften the color choice,” says Lucy Small. “Gray in tweed or woven upholstery is a great choice to add a modern but comfy touch to any room.” Adding a gray velvet sofa is another easy way to cultivate a textural living room design.
You can also pair a simple gray couch with furniture pieces and home decor in other materials to create more texture. According to Grace Hoffend, “Gray is a great color to use with mixed materials, such as iron or steel framed chairs, a wooden coffee table, or ceramic vases and other home decor.”
8. Consider deep gray
Light gray couches are definitely popular choices, but if you prefer a moody or dramatic interior design style, then consider adding a sofa with deep gray upholstery to your look. Adding this hue into your living room design can make your space feel incredibly rich and cozy while paving the way for lots of texture play.
“Deep, charcoal gray is cozy on a couch,” says Mindy O’Connor, “especially with textured blankets and accent pillows.” Mindy also recommends pairing your gray couch with “black accents to deepen the moodiness even more, as well as light and darker pinks, and neutral whites and beige to fill in.”
9. Pair with a rug
Area rugs help to define and ground a design while cozying up the space with soft texture. And thanks to the versatility of gray couches, you can couple them with all sorts of different area rug designs.
“The addition of a textural, tone-on-tone area rug underfoot can highlight the beautiful gray hue of the sofa,” says Anna Popov. However, you can also easily add an area rug with pops of color or compelling patterns beneath a gray couch.
10. Add accessories
Gray couches practically beg to be paired with lots of different accents, so don’t be afraid to have fun with your home decor. “Including a fun design element, such as a knot pillow in a darker hue, can add a point of reference and contrast,” says Anna Popov.
You can also pair your gray couch with bold colors, like vibrant throw pillows and blankets to make a strong style statement. “I tend to recommend using brightly colored throw pillows or rugs under a gray sofa,” advises Grace Baena.
Of course, don’t forget how much personality textural accents can add. “A textured accent pillow, throw blanket, or area rug goes a long way in making a space feel extra luxurious,” says Brook Sherick
11. Embrace Jewel Tones
Jewel tones, like emerald, sapphire, and ruby, have long been popular living room design elements, and they just so happen to pair perfectly with gray couches, especially those rocking dark gray upholstery.
“Dark gray is rich and will play well with jewel tones,” says Karen Billman. “Perhaps a purple area rug paired with a striped Womb Chair and Ottoman in a variety of purple tones and grays. Using accent pillows and a throw on your sofa can also bring color to your gray color scheme.”
12. Consider your type of gray
In case you haven’t heard, there are many different shades of gray. Gray couches can also be cooler or warmer toned. “While gray is a neutral color, there are varying shades of it so it’s important to pay attention to whether it’s a cool or warm gray,” says Amy Youngblood.
If you’re building your living or family room aesthetic around your gray couch, consider where it falls on the warm-cool spectrum and choose other design elements that match the tone. “Stick with cooler colors around a cooler gray couch and warmer colors if it’s warmer,” advises Amy.
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Colors to avoid pairing a gray sofa with
While there aren’t any hard and fast rules in interior design, some colors pair better with gray than others. And much of that depends on the particular tone or shade of gray you choose for the sofa. “If it’s a warmer gray,” advises Amy Youngblood, “don’t pair it with cooler colors like navy blue or green. If it’s a cooler gray, stay away from yellows and pinks.”
Additionally, if your color scheme leans neutral, consider that not all neutral colors necessarily complement one another. “There are certain neutral tones that don't always play well together,” says Brook Sherick. “Sometimes beiges and grays can clash. Take the time to get the neutral palette of the room working well.”
In other words, carefully assess your color scheme and the various tones and shades within it. Generally speaking, if the tones match, the colors probably play well together. So if you have a warm gray couch, then you can pair it with a warm beige to match. However, a cooler gray couch might look a bit disjointed when sitting next to warm beige accents.
Kelly Weimert is a writer, editor, and interior design expert with 10 years of experience writing about design and home decor. She's written for interior design publications such as MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, Domino Magazine, and Hunker. When she's not writing or editing, she's probably busy obsessing over how to beautify her home.
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