The Right Way to Decorate With Gray

This house tour from HGTV Magazine proves you can have an upbeat, personality-packed home even if you fill it with a tried-and-true neutral.

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

Photo By: Lisa Romerein (Styled by Christina Wressell)

When Gray is Your Favorite Color

Gray may be the “it” neutral, but it’s not the easiest color to decorate with. Go too dark and a space looks blanketed by storm clouds; too light and it reads dingy. Luckily homeowner Megan Breen found just the right balance for her Chicago home. When she and her husband, Patrick, bought their three-bedroom townhouse in 2012, Megan quickly swapped out its beige walls and worn-out carpeting for finishes and furnishings in silvery hues. “I probably went through 50 shades of gray picking paint,” says Megan. The roughly half dozen grays she settled on—from steely blues to taupe-y tones—demonstrate the color’s versatility and prove that done right, it looks anything but drab.

Finding the Right Balance

In fact, the Breens’ home is decidedly happy, thanks to its crisp white trim and many splashes of vibrant color. Example: This antique cabinet that got lacquered white, then lined with metallic Schumacher wallpaper. “I tried to mix the gray with cheerful greens and blues,” says Megan, who worked with designer Alexandra Kaehler to pull everything together. The result is “peppy and so livable,” says Alexandra. Now that’s a sunny forecast! 

Dining Room

“I’m hardly Goth, but I do love black,” says Megan. “With gray it looks so polished.” Case in point: Although three totally different chair styles (black Windsor chairs, slate-color skirted chairs, and geometric-print side chairs) live in this room, they go together like a set. To supercharge the color scheme, Megan topped the Ballard Designs buffet with a pair of Robert Abbey gourd lamps in zingy lime. 

Living Room

A tweedy gray sectional from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and an Arhaus ottoman upholstered in black Sunbrella fabric anchor the living area. The fun is in the accents, including punchy pillows and wingback chairs covered in a botanical print from Calico. The framed art is from minted.com.

Kitchen

With its classic white cabinets and gray-black granite counters, the previous owners’ kitchen already suited Megan’s style. Her only changes: new cabinet hardware in brushed nickel and a fresh coat of misty aqua paint (Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore) on the walls. A flat-woven wool rug from overstock.com softens the refinished hardwood floors. 

Breakfast Nook

After seeing a similar plate display in a restaurant, Megan re-created it in her breakfast nook with family hand-me-downs, plus newer finds from Etsy and Anthropologie. “I wouldn’t say I hoarded plates for this wall" says Megan. "But I got aggressive with my collecting!”

Bedroom

Dressed almost entirely in neutrals and cocooned in floor-to-ceiling drapes, the couple’s bedroom “is a seriously relaxing space,” says Megan. She found the headboard at Pottery Barn, then had it monogrammed by a local seamstress. A taupe ikat duvet from Biscuit Home warms up the gray and white bedding. The mercury glass lamps are from West Elm. 

Maeve’s Nursery

Wanting her daughter’s nursery to feel as soothing as her own bedroom, Megan stuck with similarly toned-down colors. “As much as I love plain gray walls, they wouldn’t have worked here because the room is small,” says Megan. “The stripes jazz it up.” The crib is from Newport Cottages, and the knit mobile comes from Blabla.

Playroom

In the playroom, a gallery wall—which features a stuffed giraffe head from Serena & Lily—hangs above kid-size furniture. The section of the wall under the molding is coated with chalkboard paint for scribbling.  “Maeve says ‘hi’ to the giraffe every morning––it’s the cutest thing.” 

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