Gray can be tricky in interior design. It's neutral, so it goes with everything. Until you try to pair it with, well, anything. Something seems off, but how can that be? Gray is universal, isn't it? Can it really be that hard to find the right sheets to match a simple gray comforter? Have no fear, we've sorted it all out for you.
Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Lots of colors work with gray, but there are multiple tones and shades of gray. Mixing the wrong tones in your colors will create that unpleasant, mismatched effect that you're trying to avoid. Simply put, you'll want to use:
- Blue-grays with:
- pink (shades of blush or hot pink)
- cherry red
- bright orange
- sun yellow
- Warm or "muddy" grays with:
- lime green
- electric or navy blue
Read further for more help identifying the tone of your gray and the appropriate color to coordinate with it. You'll also find advice on getting your bedding to match, how to mix and match with style, and how to tie the ensemble in with the rest of your bedroom.
What Tone And Shade Of Gray Do I Have?
There really are about a zillion different levels of "gray" in design. Gray is not just gray; all colors have different saturation levels and undertones. A dark shade of gray does not pair well with black; it's just too similar, and there's no contrast to keep things interesting. On the other hand, dark gray paired with another dark (but unrelated) color such as navy blue can be intense and exciting.
The undertone also matters. Often, the easiest way to determine the undertone is to hold the mystery color next to another color swatch. How does your gray look with red, or blue? Warm colors such as red will set off the warm tones in the gray (if there are any). Conversely, they can also make icy-blue tones apparent by the obvious contrast.
It's important to be aware that your gray may not be a simple, clear case of one or the other. Gray can be tricky, as there could be both warm and cool tones in play. The key is identifying, by comparing to other known warm or cool colors, which tone is the most dominant.
Cool Or Blue Grays
Grays with a cool undertone may seem a bit sterile or metallic. For this reason, they pair well with warmer colors. Setting a blue-gray comforter against a brilliantly bold sheet set really makes the whole thing pop. Some ideas are:
Use a light gray together with this lovely blush pink for a romantic look that is sweet without being nauseating.
This is another one that can work with any shade of gray, although you'll want to use it carefully. Dark shades of gray create a more intense and dramatic effect. In a large and well-lit room, it can be exciting without becoming overpowering. However, in a smaller space, you'll want to dilute the overall effect with a lighter, calming gray.
This bright red breathes vibrant life into gray, a color that could easily become dull and drab.
An eye-catching color, and one that is unexpected with gray, makes a fun and playful pairing. Best paired with a lighter gray.
Bold and bright orange will certainly catch your attention. This orange can pair with gray in almost any shade. With a dark gray, the appearance will be more urban and contemporary. Next to a lighter gray, it can give off a more easygoing and cheerful vibe.
Light gray with yellow carries calming, cheerful currents. This is great for a relaxing, laid back space where you just want good thoughts and happy feelings.
Gray with a warm undertone is best displayed alongside a cool color. This creates more visual interest by inciting a playful give-and-take between the warm and cool.
Neutral colors such as white, black, or taupe can be placed with gray for those who like a calm and simple bedroom. Neutral colors are most appealing when paired with warm, not cool, gray. Two neutral colors such as gray and taupe might seem sterile and drab otherwise.
When you want to bring a bright pop of color into your room, aqua can be a great choice. By setting it against a soothing gray, it keeps the overall effect in line.
For a thrilling and stand-out choice, lime green with a light gray is both unique and modern, yet simple enough to still look classy.
Royal blue is a versatile color that is deep, vivid, and engaging. It pairs great with gray, as the neutral gray balances the intensity of royal blue well.
A dark gray and navy blue combo is classic. It's stylish, simple, and timeless. The dark colors together are refined and strong, but not overwhelming.
How Do You Mix And Match Bedding?
If you're not very confident in your ability to mix and match bedding well, then one easy key is to use hints of one main color throughout. For example, if your comforter is all gray, then perhaps your sheets can be another color, with gray stripes. A bed skirt might be trimmed with gray lace. Now everything seems orderly and unified, as it all contains some degree of gray. No matter what other colors are also used, each piece seems to work together.
In decorating, it's typically best to stick to three colors. If you absolutely must, you might use as many as five - but no more. Otherwise, the overall appearance is just too busy and disheveled. With those three colors, identify one to be the main color of your color scheme. Use that color in approximately 60% of the room, and the other two supporting colors about 30% and 10%, respectively.
If these rules are applied, then you are certain to create a polished decor that seems deliberate and intentional. By following these helpful guidelines, most of the mystery and puzzle behind decorating should be solved. This way, you can focus on finding the right mood and appearance for the room, without being distracted by minor details.
Should Your Sheets And Comforter Match?
Your sheets do not have to match your comforter, but it is crucial that they coordinate. Coordinating means that there are elements or themes in common between the sheets and comforter so that it's clear they've been paired together on purpose. No, you didn't have a laundry accident and spill bleach on the old sheets - those sheets belong there.
Coordinating does not require you to use the same color. You can incorporate small amounts of color that match between the sheets and comforter, or you can choose to coordinate an entirely different way. Maybe the comforter and sheets both have a similar pattern or shape on them. Maybe they are both made of a glossy, silk-like material. There are lots of elements, besides color, that you can use to create a bond between both items.
Do Shams Have To Match Your Comforter?
Shams, like all other bedding items, do not have to match. In fact, matching the shams and comforter runs the risk of creating a bed surface that is all one color - dull, boring, and the same. There's no depth or interest. Nothing stands out.
It's better to find elements that can be re-used between the shams and the comforter, such as a pattern, fabric, or unique accent. If you really want to incorporate the same colors, make the color of the comforter be an accent color in the pillows - but not the only one.
Should The Bedding Match The Wall Color?
Much like matching everything on the bed, the same problem occurs when the bedding and the walls match too closely. The room lacks any sort of visual interest. Eyes have nowhere to focus, nothing to grab attention, as everything is too similar. Instead, pick colors that contrast or that pair well together - but not necessarily all the same color.
There are many great colors that pair well with a gray comforter. For example, red, pink, bright orange, coral, and yellow complement cool gray. A warm-toned gray looks nice with neutral colors such as taupe, aqua, lime green, and electric or navy blue. The most important part of finding the right color to complement your shade of gray is to identify if it is a warm or cool color. Mixing the wrong tones between colors will have less pleasing results.
For even more decorating inspiration, check out these posts: