cornforth white
cornforth white
elephants breath
elephants breath
sail white & light rain
sail white & light rain
Night Jewels
Night Jewels
dusted moss
dusted moss

Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: Lauren Coleman

No, this isn’t a post about the upcoming film. I have seen the trailer and it was everything I thought it would be. I do think Beyonce sounds hot though singing her new version of Crazy in Love. Anyway, moving on.
Judging from a few conversations I’ve had recently, finding the right grey has also been a complete pain in the bum for people. As one of the newest and most elegant neutrals, grey has become very popular but it’s quite difficult to find the right shade.

My first dalliance with grey proved mightily unsuccessful. In my old kitchen (which was probably the same size as your average utility room) we added white subway tiles, replaced the floor with slate and I planned to paint the walls a soft grey to provide a backdrop for all the red kitchen appliances. What I ended up with was a sickly lilac colour after a mishap with the dulux paint mixer. The name escapes me unfortunately but as I watched the tints squirt into the tin I noticed a particularly large dollop of red paint go in, hence the purple undertones.

That’s the thing about grey. They are actually very few truly grey paints out there, most have another note in there. For example B&Q’s Light Rain has a very blue undertone. I’ve used it on some of my lounge furniture as you can see above and it has a very cool appearance. I’ve used F&B Elephant’s Breath in my dining room and can report it takes on a greige tone in some lights and a purplish hue in another.

I’m going mention a few paints I’m aware of if you’re looking for a grey-grey(!) but I would love to hear about your experiences. All of these shades are UK based so no more mentions of Behrs or Glidden’s paints that are impossible to find in Blighty.

Dulux Night Jewels 3

I used this in my old bathroom and loved it. It was a modern new-build with no windows so I thought why bother to fight the lack of light and instead went down the charcoal grey route. The shades at the lower end of the Night Jewels spectrum are rich and deep. In some lights you will pick up a very dark blue undertone though with but it still manages to have a intimate persona rather than a cold one. Helen used this in her bedroom in her One-Bed Cluster Home and it looks stunning with white accents.

Farrow & Ball Cornforth White

If anyone ever asks me to recommend a pale grey I will always suggest F&B’s Cornforth White. I haven’t used it myself but a few years ago I was bowled over by a friend’s nursery painted in the same shade. In Danielle Moss’ lounge it looks really crisp, fresh and contemporary paired with white woodwork.

Dulux Dusted Moss

Apparently Dusted Moss 2 would give Cornforth White a run for its money. Personally I prefer the finish of Farrow & Ball and find you need less coats but Dusted Moss is gorgeous soft shade. It works really well in low light spaces and is perhaps a little warmer than Cornforth White with a slightly greenish hue (seen here varying intensities in Kimberley Hughes’ lounge and Abigail Aherne’s bathroom).

For a the faintest whisper of grey I would recommend Crown’s Sail White. For more about choosing white paint have a read of our Finding the Right White article.

Obviously every individual room has it’s own unique lighting, aspect and style and so it’s impossible to recommend a generic paint colour for every situation. Even though tester pots can seem expensive it’s always worth it. Paint large pieces of paper and hang them up on the wall or paint the inside shoebox so you can see how the light bounces around the walls.

If you’re trying to choose between an array of grey paints then have a look where it sits within the paint chart; is it in the yellow section, the blue, or the red? In north facing rooms, you could choose a yellow based shade to reflect the light and warm up the area, where as in a south facing room you can pretty much opt for any shade you like. West facing rooms look gorgeous in the afternoon light with a ‘greige’ shade and with eastern rooms remember shades can take on more of a blue appearance so this will be amplified.

What are your experiences of decorating with grey? What are your favourite shades and how are you using it in your house? Any grey disasters?

Lauren likes Paris, Prosecco and Paint Charts
Follow Lauren on instagram @mrslaurencoleman
This post may include affiliate links.
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59 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. We used Dulux timeless range in wishing well in our bedroom. Its beautifully matt ands paints on really well. We needed two coats. It comes out slightly darker then the shade on the can but its lush!

  2. We have cornforth white in our living room. It looks stunning with our white shutters, woodwork (skirting boards, bookcases) and slightly red/orange stained shade of wood floor. Such a beautiful colour but can definately recommend it to people. If you contrast it to skimming stone and elephant’s breath (all other F&B colours) it does have a slightly different tone, but I find the key is to paint a large patch on to lining paper, stick it up in the room to be painted and have a look at the paint at different times of day so that you can be sure to like the colour in all lights!

    1. Your living room sounds absolutely stunning Emma. Shutters?! I am so envious!
      Painting a large patch is such a good idea as grey hues seem to change so much during the day.

      1. This is quite an old thread I realise, but quick comment on cornforth – it looks quite different depending on lighting! It’s a beautiful white grey in our Victorian living room with large bay window, but disappointingly brown in our bathroom. We’re investigating another grey for the bathroom as I just can’t bear the brown… Laura Ashley pale dove grey anyone?

        1. Bella – Laura Ashley pale dove grey is the only grey in our house that looks grey and not beige or blue (F&B skylight looks baby blue in our spare room). It is very subtle in our bedroom, almost looks white on some walls. Thanks to other ‘grey’ unreliability we also opted for the slightly darker Laura Ashley dove grey on the bottom of hallway walls last month with a blush pink on top x

          1. Thank you Siobhan! I think we’re going with Dulux Rock Salt for bathroom (as it’s closer to white) and LA pale dove grey for the bedroom. Fingers crossed!

  3. Love this post! Will remember the shoebox tip. When we did up our spare room last year and our bedroom a few weeks ago, I googled grey paints and bought sample pots/tester cards, then googled some more and bought more sample pots. We had a whole wall of tester pot squares at one stage (I now think this was maybe a mistake as we compared them against each other rather then in their own right). In the end we went for F&B Skylight in the spare room – it looked a gorgeous grey-blue when it was wet, but dried very blue. Then for the bedroom we went for Laura Ashley’s pale dove grey. I didn’t want a brown grey, or a lilac grey, or too deep a grey, and actually this is the first colour that has turned out as I expected! It stands out just enough against the white fireplace and white wooden blind. I prefer F&B’s finish (found LA a bit gloopier?) but overall happy with the result for a slightly beachy style bedroom!

    1. Siobhan I often forget about Laura Ashley paints but a few of my friends use them and their homes always look gorgeous.
      I love the sound of your beachy style bedroom x

  4. I have a slight obsession with grey at the moment after staying a lovely B&B in Wallasey over the bank holiday. Our room was the most perfect dove grey with white furniture and gold accessories. The grey and gold looked so luxurious together – I would have thought it would almost clash and would have gone for silvers with grey but my eyes have been opened.

    Anyway after a lovely break I came back determined to get grey paint into the house. My husband has come home so many times to find a room has changed colour so this time I was kind to him and painted my dressing table instead. I used Annie Sloan chalk pain in Parisian Grey, added a touch of Annie Sloan dark wax in places to give it a slight aged look and then covered the whole thing with a clear wax finish. The paint alone was a lovely pale grey but a wax finish gave it a bit more depth. I love the results and am now trying to resist the urge to paint everything in sight!

    1. B&B’s and hotels are always great inspiration aren’t they Claire?
      I think Charlotte used the same Annie Sloan shade on the furniture in Mabel’s nursery – it’s gorgeous x

      1. Perfect colour for nursery furniture. I now need to trawl car boots sales in to find some furniture to bring back to life

  5. I’m looking for a very pale grey to paint the outside of our house. I like the F&B cornforth white but I think it might be too grey, so we’re going to look at the F&B Strong White or the Little Greene Slaked Lime.

    We have a grey living room but it’s papered rather than painted – Laura Ashley ‘Josette’ in pale grey. It’s very restful and is warmed up by the fact that all our furniture and shelving is oak.

  6. I hate choosing paints so this is perfect. In truth my downfall is that I can never be bothered to by tester pots, epic fail, but I never learn! I just peruse the charts for days (if not weeks) and then wonder aimlessly down the paint aisles until I decide. I recently painted my bedroom grey and went through 3 different ones before I settled on Dulux Pebble Shore which is kind of a minky grey colour which works well as it’s nice and warm. Even better they did it in an eggshell so I chose to do some of my woodwork in the same colour to blend in. I found a lot of greys too bluey and cold in my big Victorian rooms and almost gave up. On woodwork elsewhere I’ve used a variety of F&B paints which range from French Grey which looks green to Pavillion Grey which I swear is bright blue in my house!!! Honestly, I wish they only made one of each colour and it would make my life so much easier!! x

  7. Perfect timing as we have just bought a new Victorian house. We like the idea of using Farrow & Ball paint…is it suitable for a house with a two year old and a big dog? Finger prints and dog slobber need to be easily wiped away without the paint rubbing off or marked. Opinions on F&B, is it worth the price?

    1. I too have toddlers running around so feel your pain! I always use F&B on woodwork as I think it covers better than anything else and has a lovely finish. For the walls I always try to find a cheaper alternative if I’m honest as the price of F&B emulsion keeps going up plus it’s never on offer. Generally you can match the colours quite closely. For example I used Dulux Almond White which looks exactly the same as F&B Slipper satin in my house. It wears well and cleans easily! x

  8. Snap! I have elephant’s breath in my dining room and slaked lime in my kitchen and am obsessed with grey at the moment. My dad keeps telling me that my home will look like a battleship soon but I can’t get enough of it! I have recently painted my bathroom in Crown’s eglise grey, which I really liked as it’s a proper grey grey, rather than bluey or pinky. I decided to be a bit bold in my bathroom and did one small wall in Cole and Son’s flamingo wallpaper (the grey and pink one), in line with my other slight obsessions at the moment – flamingos and grey and pink together! I’m really pleased with it. I’m deciding which room needs to go grey next now!

    1. I’m enjoying that you are all as obsessed with grey paint at the moment as I am! We have just installed a new kitchen and flooring and am needing to redecorate. Have painted the kitchen FB Wimborne White which I love(never been a ‘white’person before. Now I need to do the back hallway and sitting room. Tried FB Elephant’s Breath, way to purple! I found that Little Greene ‘Portland Stone’ is too brown. What is Slaked Lime like, sounds interesting?

  9. Literally my whole house is white and grey!
    I’ve just painted my hallway in Dulux – Engraved Locket. My sis painted her front room in it and I loved it so much I did one side of the hallway on our gallery wall. It’s a really lovely pale grey. Much paler in the tin though so will dry darker.
    Have to say though so many people comment on it and end up touching it with grubby hands(!!) so I’m now considering getting it mixed into a washable paint. High traffic areas always end up getting a bashing!

    1. Oh no Becca! Might be worth getting a washable version mixed. We’ve just had to redo our hall because there were grubby mitt marks all over it!

  10. F&B Elephants Breath is my absolute fave! It has been our go to colour of late – our last flat we had stripey (all in one colour though if that makes sense) wall doctor wallpaper (this is amazing – straightens old bumpy walls and looks so regal!) then painted all three walls in elephant’s breath. Recently we were hunting for a “warm grey” and at one point my husband actually mixed his own paint and even got to name it! After the initial excitement though, it looked a bit bleh on the walls. So back to elephant’s breath we went.

      1. The Paint Shed! I think its a trade place. don’t ask my how he actually got over the counter to use the mixing computer… he is a bit of a blagger! But yes, made up the name (Glenturret) and even got it printed on a wee sticker. It’s still in the shed ha ha.

  11. All 3 bedrooms in our house are varying shades of grey! We used Laura Ashley Dove Grey in our bedroom and I love it – it looks beige on the colour charts but it’s definitely grey on our walls and a lovely matt finish. I was tempted to paint the spare room the same colour but as a money saving option we bought Crown Snowfall as Crown paints were on offer at the time and it’s actually very similar! A lovely soft pale grey. Then we have Crown Sail White in the nursery and it’s a lovely shade, definitely a grey-white rather than grey, but somehow manages not to look cold.

    1. I think I need to get myself a Laura Ashley paint chart Sarah. There’s a lot of love for their paint on this post.

  12. Thanks so much for the mention! I am forever being asked about the paint colour in my living room – it’s such a lovely shade of grey. I used Dulux Nightjewels as well, another gorgeous grey I always recommend. It looks amazing in that bedroom! Oh and just a note, I only have ever needed 2 coats of the Dulux paints, I find the coverage is really quite good considering it’s mid-range price 😉 xxx

    1. Hi Kimberley, *waves* I need to talk to you about your painting technique. I think we take ‘thin coats’ to the extreme and often need three coats!
      Love your living room, especially the idea of painting above the picture rail – very chic x

  13. Hi! I bought Dulux Feather Flock as tester, painted it on a big piece of white paper, stuck it up in various parts of my bedroom… It was perfect. Off I went; bought a couple of tins and started painting. It was sickly lilac! I held my piece of paper that showed a lovely shade of grey against it and it looked nothing like it! Off to get a Dusted Moss 2 tester now.

  14. Oh this is such a welcome post to find! I’m just starting on my grey paint journey – I have an east facing kitchen that I’ve painted grey, but it looks blue to me. Such a disappointment.
    Can anyone be kind enough to recommend a proper grey (with no undertones) that will coordinate with the charcoal drawings I have framed?

    I’m lost. Thank you.

  15. Hiya, thanks for the thread! We’re deciding on a pale grey paint for our kitchen which will have white and pale metallic blue grey units and limed oak look floor. I’ve tried tester pots Dulux White mist which is very pale indeed, and pearl grey which seems like a good option. Any other comments, how deep is ‘engraved locket’?

  16. I am having huge dilemmas choosing a grey for my hallway/stairs/landing. We have already chosen our carpet (a lovely grey stripe) but after buying and trying 10….yes 10 testers I can’t find a suitable grey. They ate either slightly blue or lilac and do not go with this lovely carpet at all! I need one with a slight brown undertone I guess. It’s driving me a bit crazy!!!!

    1. Claire, I feel your pain!!! I have tested over 20 greys and can’t find one that doesn’t give off a blue or lilac hue. I’m actually losing my mind! I think it must be the light in my south-east facing room…. If you find a grey that just looks GREY please let me know. xx

      1. hi I have tried so many tester pots for a warm grey to go on my south east facing lounge. Elephants Breath is too purple and skimming stone is too blue. Some of the Dulux paints are too industrial and slate-ish. My sofas are a camel velvet – I want a warm grey which is not too dark and adds to an ambient warm atmosphere. Any recommendations? I am so stuck!

      2. Hi

        I want to change my cream apartment in to a grey one and having nighmares with getting it to look grey at all times of the day.

        I have Dulux Chic Shadow samples hanging all over my home at the moment and so far in all rooms even my south facing lounge it looks grey 🙂

  17. Having rejected various shades of grey for my bathroom because of their lilac and blue undertones, I spoke to a painter who said I needed a true grey and gave me Johnstones princess grey. Perfect. Lovely rich colour with no undertones of anything.

  18. Now need a light grey for my bedroom. Going to try a sample of Johnstone’s misty grey now for bedroom as it uses the same colours ! Fingers crossed. Had tested dulux night jewels (blue undertone) and chic shadow (lilac undertone)

  19. Hi I have a west facing bedroom and want a lovely soft pale grey which does not look to cold or industrial, can anyone please recommend a mid range paint like crown or dulux

    1. This post, although dated now, has been so helpful. I am trying to find a warm grey for my north facing sitting room. Tried revere pewter by Benjamin Brown but it looks muddy in my room. I’m no stranger to grey as my south facing bedroom is painted thimble case, dulux. My back sitting room, which is south facing, looks great in engraved locket and my hall is Egyptian cotton which appears light beige in the darker downstairs and grey in the lighter upstairs. Oh, and my dining room is sail grey, I think that was crown – a lovely colour but too light for my north/east facing room. Any suggestions on a nice light to mid grey with yellow/brown undertones would be much appreciated.

      1. Hi Amanda, hope you get this message!! I have the same problem north facing lounge and need a yellow grey. What did you choose in the end? X

  20. I never thought choosing a light grey paint could be such a painstaking venture. I have been searching for the perfect light grey colour for the walls in our living room and a darker grey for the alcoves. After spending far too much on samples from Farrow and Ball and later Dulux with a wall that now looks like a bad patchwork quilt I am still at a loss. We have little natural light in the room and so dont want anything too cold, so far the best option seems to be Dulux White Mist with Urban Obsession for the alcoves. However I am still concerned that overall the White Mist will look a bit cold. F&B Elephants Breath and Strong white are a bit too dark and putty like where as Dulux Grey Steel 4 is a bit too blue. Any ideas on the overall look on White Mist or advice on alternatives would be greatly appreciated!

  21. I’ve tried all kind of paints (and pains!) and I still can’t find a TRUE gray. They all have greenish, blueish or (argh!) PINK! undertones! I’m just desperate to find one that looks like a proper gray for my Victorian flat 🙁

  22. Oh dear, I am having my home re-painted and thought I would opt for varying shades of grey for each room, so that I have continuity throughout, now I’m fully confused with all of these undertone comments! Having said that, I have noted colours mentioned above that sound like they have the ‘undertones’ that I’m after……I think.

  23. I had the same ‘grey’ dilemma – loved Egyptian Cotton in a friends house so much and promptly painted my kitchen walls. I couldn’t help hating the slightly purple tones though and re painted in Valspar putty white … perfect! A pale true grey at last!

  24. We have chosen F&B’s Cornforth White for our West facing living room walls. Any recommendation on what to choose as feature wall wallpaper?

    1. Hi Kalpi, Firstly I’m loving this blog and the fact that the discussion on grey paint has continued for years.
      I live near the sea and wanted a light airy beach hut feel, albeit with grey paint and very colourful curtains. I’ve been trying testers of F&B Cornforth White, Ammonite, Elephant’s Breath, Skimming Stone and Purbeck Stone in my east facing living room, but because it is an L shape different paints look good on different walls, but not great on all. I’m going to try LA pale dove grey and The Little Greene’s Welcome (deep) as I want a warm soft grey-grey and as the post above suggest, the blue undertones show in an easterly facing room.
      How does Cornforth look in your west facing room? what type of finished look are you going for? It might be worth painting some lining paper and taking it with you to a quality wallpaper stockist, then you can hold it up against the sample book, before borrowing it to see it in situ.

  25. Can anyone help!?!
    I have a south facing living room and I want to paint it grey. I’m having a feature wall of slate grey. The only problem is I can’t find a grey to use on the other walls that doesn’t look blue!!! I’ve used so many tester pots now. Including polished pebble, chic shadow, steel grey but they all seem blue in the sunshine. Any advice would be greatly appreciated…

    1. I feel your pain! We have Dulux rock salt in our bathroom and it definitely doesn’t look blue. Avoid: Laura Ashley powder grey (too blue), F&B cornforth white (too brown), and Dulux pebble (which I think you tried). F&B pavilion grey could be ok too but we’ve only painted furniture in this colour so it’s hard to tell. Good luck!

      1. Bella- what do you not like about Dulux polished pebble? I am currently debating between F and B Blackened, Dulux polished pebble and Fenwick and Tilbrook Dolphin!

        1. I really can’t remember! Perhaps because it was too blue or too brown? Two years on and I will say that I’d definitely, definitely recommend F&B over Dulux. The leftover Dulux paint went manky very quickly, whereas F&B is still doing well. Blackened is also a gorgeous shade, go for it!

  26. Super post and comments – currently looking for a true pale grey paint to go with a steely grey carpet. I’m using the Dulux trade colour palette for professional use, but getting testers mixed at Homebase – so hopefully the colours will be the same!

    I’ve tried 30BB 72/003, 27YY 77/042 and delicate cobweb, but they have been too blue, too purple and too pinky in my south / west facing room.

    I read somewhere about checking the RGB colour balance for grey and selecting one with equal numbers – but this doesn’t seem to work for my samples.

    So… from the posts above, I’m thinking of trying rock salt and pearl grey. Fingers crossed!

  27. Can anyone help? I am thinking of using a blue based grey wallpaper Romo Floris Sefina Terrazzo (shade06) with some gold in it… on 2 feature walls but am looking to paint other walls in grey also, but much paler. Will I use a true grey or another blue based grey? Don’t want the effect to be too cool. Should I use off whites ?

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