There’s a big difference between using gray in kids’ bedrooms as foreground color and using gray in kids’ bedrooms as a background color.
Color psychologists are overwhelmingly negative on the idea of exposing children to gray walls, gray ceilings, and gray floors. Broad expanses of gray are depressing. It makes people feel old but in the sense of senility, not maturity. It saps energy and encourages passivity.
But interior designers love gray as a background color. Gray can be used to paint a base for other colors to stand out. It can “tone down” other colors so their effects on your child’s psyche are not as dramatic. Here are some examples of what color experts are talking about:
- Painting walls with a matte red with no neutral accents encourage hyperactivity. But a gray background with red accents makes it easier for children to pay attention to detail.
- Walls, floors, and ceilings in uninterrupted blue encourage communication, sometimes too much communication. But a gray background with blue accents encourages communicativeness, not just chattiness.
- Large amounts of yellow go beyond sunniness to anger. But gray with yellow accents encourages optimism.
- Green is calming, sometimes too calming. Gray with green moves a child’s mood from calm to rest.
Gray backgrounds can make a boy’s room seem more masculine and a girl’s room seems more feminine. That is because kids’ bedrooms usually have color themes associated with gender, and gray brings those colors front and center.
Mid-toned grays can make your child’s bedroom a place more conducive to reading. A dash of peach of fuchsia in gray paint activates the cones of the retina so they are more responsive to light, helping your child see both print and pictures more clearly.
When you want a bedroom to be gender-neutral, perhaps when a younger brother and sister share a bedroom, painting walls a stone or slate gray gives you a base for making each child’s individual colors pop. Stone and slate gray walls work well with high-gloss white ceilings, making it easier to see objects placed higher in the room, with gray floors of a different shade. Throw covers on the beds can be used to provide each child’s favorite colors.
Plain gray works for teenagers’ bedrooms because they have accumulated more, usually colorful items of their own. Plain gray forms a background that redirects the eye to those items that are uniquely their own. Gray is also a good color for storage cabinets and storage boxes that children need as they grow up and accumulate prized possessions.
Teenagers often prefer gray laminate flooring to carpet. Gray laminate blends well with wood and makes bedspreads and wall posters stand out. Just be sure to coordinate your choice in gray laminate for the floor with your choice of gray for the walls.
How do you bring all your color choices together? Bed linens in just the right shade of gray will work. Maybe you will look for gray bed linens with just a splash of pink for a girl’s room. Maybe you will look for bed linens with just a splash of blue for a boy’s room. Pillowcases and bedspreads and duvets can work together with your choices of paint for walls, floors, and ceilings to harmonize your decor and to subtle changes in mood.
Table of Contents
- Best Gray Paint for a Spooky or Mysterious Feel: Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25
- Best Gray Paint for Focusing Attention on Stories: Behr Curio MQ3-22
- Best Gray for Small Bedrooms: Behr Dreamscape Gray T15-6
- Best “Fabulously Feminine” Shade of Gray: Behr Gentle Rain 790E-2
- Best Background Gray for LEGO Fans: Behr Silver City MQ2-59
- Best Gray Paint for a Balance of Warm and Cool: Behr Classic Silver PPU18-1.
- Four Grays for Painting an Entire Room: Behr Evening White N460-1, Behr Seagull Gray N360-1, Behr Silver Marlin N360-2, or Behr Painter’s White PPU18-08.
- Best Background Color for a Child’s Trophy Wall: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60
- Best White with a Warming Gray Undertone: Behr Close Knit T17-01
- Best “Greige:” Behr Burnished Clay PPU18-9
- Best Gray Paint for Kids Who Have Vision Problems: Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029
- Best Gray Paint for Eclectic Furniture Collections: Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray SW 7015
- Best Gray to Complement Dark Floors with White Trim: Sherwin-Williams Dorian Gray 7017
- Best Gray to Complement Blues and White: Sherwin-Williams Dovetail 7018
- Best Charcoal Gray: Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray 7019
- Best Gray for a Jungle Theme: Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043
- Best Gray for Toning Down a Room That Is Too Bright: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172
- Best Grays for Making a Small Bedroom Seem Bigger: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170
- Best Warming Gray without Beige Undertones: Benjamin Moore Collingwood Gray OC 28
- Best “Just Gray:” Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray HC 168
Best Gray Paint for a Spooky or Mysterious Feel: Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25
If you are looking for a shade of gray that has a spooky feeling (maybe for a Harry Potter-themed kids’ bedroom) but that isn’t really fear-invoking, consider Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25. It’s light and airy as well as mysterious. It has a blue undertone that encourages kids to talk out their fantasies in a playful way rather than in a fearful way.
Best Gray Paint for Focusing Attention on Stories: Behr Curio MQ3-22
Behr Curio MQ3-22 has the mysterious feel of Behr Marquis Gray Shimmer MQ3-25 with some calming greens and aqua mixed in. It’s a great shade to have in the background when you read stories or when your kids tell stories. It’s also a good shade to have in the room when children watch videos. They will have more fun but less fear. This gray complements both green and white.
Best Gray for Small Bedrooms: Behr Dreamscape Gray T15-6
Behr Dreamscape Gray T15-6 is a brighter gray that integrates brighter colors and keeps a small room from feeling like a closet. It works best with blues. It can be combined with slightly darker shades of gray to give a boy’s bedroom a steely, masculine feel.
Best “Fabulously Feminine” Shade of Gray: Behr Gentle Rain 790E-2
Here is a gray that is almost blue but that is distinctly feminine. The absence of red and yellow undertones in Behr Gentle Rain 790E-2 make it a great choice for a girl’s bedroom. It makes blues in furniture and wall decoration pop out in a cheery way that connotes happiness and fantasy.
Best Background Gray for LEGO Fans: Behr Silver City MQ2-59
Did you know there have been scientific studies of the best background paint to encourage playing with and displaying creations made with LEGOs? Behr Silver City MQ2-59 is the paint of choice for LEGO displays. It is dark enough to convey the feeling of orderly space and geometry. It is bright enough to reinforce al the colors of a LEGO set.
Best Gray Paint for a Balance of Warm and Cool: Behr Classic Silver PPU18-1.
Sometimes you need a room for the grandkids, but you don’t necessarily pile all of your grandkids into the room all at once. Behr Classic Silver PPU18-1 is a gray that brings out yellows and greens instead of pinks and blues. As a “true gray,” it can also be used to balance steelier grays with lighter grays to bring the entire bedroom together.
Four Grays for Painting an Entire Room: Behr Evening White N460-1, Behr Seagull Gray N360-1, Behr Silver Marlin N360-2, or Behr Painter’s White PPU18-08.
Harried parents don’t always have time (OK, most parents really don’t have time) for interior decorating. They want colors that work for their kids’ bedrooms that they can always modify later. There are four Behr paints that work well for painting an entire room, all the walls and the ceiling in the same shade: Behr Evening White N460-1, Behr Seagull Gray N360-1, Behr Silver Marlin N360-2, and Behr Painter’s White PPU18-08 (which is really a gray, not a white).
All of these shades of gray work with any combination of pastel colors because they all contain varying amounts of white. So why wouldn’t you just paint your kids’ bedroom white?
The problem with bright, white walls in a child’s bedroom is they tend to overwhelm the child’s developing eyes with light. They make it harder to see outlines. They wash out colors. They reduce attention to task and encourage daydreaming. Don’t just slap white paint on the walls to be done. At least use one of these four lighter grays to soften the light in the room and to make the colors of their toys and personal possessions stand out.
Best Background Color for a Child’s Trophy Wall: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60
Source: Benjamin Gray
Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60 can’t really be considered a “gray” It is so bright that it could be classified as a white. Benjamin Moore Gray Owl 2137-60 can bring out blues and greens and give a kid’s bedroom a calming atmosphere, a little too calming if the bedroom does not have enough windows. This shade is suitable for bright white trim or to be used as a trim itself for bright white paint on a trophy or art wall.
Best White with a Warming Gray Undertone: Behr Close Knit T17-01
Behr Close Knit T17-01 is a nearly-white gray or a nearly-gray white with just a hint of yellow for warmth. It’s the perfect color combination to encourage kids to relax. It is bright enough to inspire a cheerful, optimistic mood without pushing the child’s expectations over the top.
Best “Greige:” Behr Burnished Clay PPU18-9
Can’t decide whether to paint your kids’ room gray or beige? Try “greige.” Behr Burnished Clay PPU18-9 a popular “greige” promoted by Martha Stewart Living. This shade of gray works with accents of sky blue, ocean, and muted purple. If your child is a fan of purple fantasy characters, this is the shade to put behind their toys and posters. Behr notes that this shade has especially low levels of volatile organic compounds so your kids’ room will have better air quality.
Best Gray Paint for Kids Who Have Vision Problems: Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029
Sherwin-Williams Agreeable Gray SW 7029 is a beige-ish shade of gray that helps children with vision problems maintain binocular vision. It’s a shade for children who have crossed eyes or amblyopia. Painting the room in this shade provides subtle reinforcement for the treatment your child gets at the eye doctor. Agreeable Gray works well with green or blue complements.
Best Gray Paint for Eclectic Furniture Collections: Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray SW 7015
Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray SW 7015 is a light gray with undertones of brown and purple. It is bright enough to be used in all but windowless rooms, and it will bring out browns, violets, and purples. It lets other colors stand on their own without adding to their effect, which can be just what you need when you have a kid’s bedroom with an eclectic collection of furniture and decorations.
Best Gray to Complement Dark Floors with White Trim: Sherwin-Williams Dorian Gray 7017
Sherwin-Williams Dorian Gray 7017 is a “greige” that you can apply to walls and ceilings to complement dark floors and white trim. It’s more of an “adult” gray than it is a gray for a child’s room, but it is a good choice for rooms that are soon to be repurposed. This color works best where there is lots of natural light. It’s not light enough for a room without windows and may not work well in rooms that only have northern exposure.
Best Gray to Complement Blues and White: Sherwin-Williams Dovetail 7018
If your child’s team colors are blue and white and their bedroom is festooned with blue and white team mementos, then the best gray to tie everything together is Sherwin-Williams Dovetail 7018. it’s a darker gray so it should only be used in kids’ bedrooms that are well-lit.
Best Charcoal Gray: Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray 7019
Charcoal is an unusual choice for children’s bedrooms, but when you want charcoal, you want Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray 7019. It’s best suited for cabinets wainscot, and trim. It’s not a good choice for walls and ceilings.
Best Gray for a Jungle Theme: Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043
Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043 has browns and greens that bring a camouflage or jungle theme together. Sherwin-Williams Worldly Gray 7043 has a soft, non-threatening feel that makes the room just a little more relaxed. It’s also a good shade of gray for rooms where children listen to and tell stories.
Best Gray for Toning Down a Room That Is Too Bright: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172
Source: Benjamin Moore
If your kids’ bedroom gets too much natural light, or if you live in a desert, you can tone down bright sunlight while still getting a lot of the reds and yellows with Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172. This is a good gray to use with white trim, but it is not a good selection for kids’ bedrooms without windows.
Best Grays for Making a Small Bedroom Seem Bigger: Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170
Source: Benjamin Moore
Source: Benjamin Moore
Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray HC 170 adds depth to walls and closet doors. It can make relatively small areas look farther away than the surfaces around them. This shade of gray is similar to Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172 except it also reflects blues and greens. If you would like just a bit more blue or a bit more green, consider Benjamin Moore Gray Owl OC 52. Just avoid using Benjamin Moore Gray Owl OC 52 in a north-facing room. It won’t reflect enough light to keep the room from becoming sleep-inducing.
Best Warming Gray without Beige Undertones: Benjamin Moore Collingwood Gray OC 28
Source: Benjamin Moore
Source: Benjamin Moore
Do you want a warmer shade for your kids’ bedroom without beige or greige? Try Benjamin Moore Collingwood Gray OC 28. This warming gray ha undertones of purple instead of yellows and beige. If you like the color but you want a decor that makes it easier for children to read or do homework, consider Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist OC 27. It’s Benjamin Moore Collingwood Gray OC 28 with a touch of pink. It blends well with cherry wood.
Best “Just Gray:” Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray HC 168
Source: Benjamin Moore
Overwhelmed by all the shades of gray? Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray HC 168 is what you ask for when you just want “gray.” It actually has a small amount of green to make it a welcoming color, but it is probably the most versatile of all the gray paints on the market. It’s a shade used in college classrooms and academic libraries all over the world.