If you love the look of basic neutrals such as cream, beige, and white, but long for a color palette that's a bit more unexpected, charcoal gray could be the answer. A bit less dramatic than black, yet almost as mysterious and powerful, charcoal gray is an enduring and practical hue, endlessly compatible with a variety of other colors and design styles. Basically, it's a go-to shade if you're looking for a color that has a presence but won't create visual noise.
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Like all colors, charcoal gray has an associated energy, and it represents neutrality and balance, likely a result of it falling between the two extremes of white and black. It can also connote feelings of sadness or loss, but without the emotional negativity often associated with deep shades of black. And while a charcoal gray paint color might be the most obvious way to welcome the moody hue into your home, there are virtually endless ideas to accomplish the same goal, such as tile, wallpaper, or flooring. Or, if you want a less permanent solution, you can focus on pieces of home decor that can be easily changed, such as accent pillows, blankets, and accessories.
There's no shortage of colors that play nice with charcoal gray, including under-the-radar shades of yellow, green, and blue, as well as more predictable options like white, cream, and black. In fact, because charcoal gray is so easy to work with, it's a fail-safe choice for expert and novice designers alike. "I love charcoal gray for its moody and burnt wood essence. Charcoal does come from burnt wood, after all," says interior designer Becky Shea. "My personal favorite colors are Iron Mountain and Graphite by Benjamin Moore ... I really love using these charcoal hues in both paint and millwork applications — they [provide a] truly timeless finish."
Ready to get started? Here are 20 of our favorite shades to use with charcoal gray.
20 Charcoal Gray Color Combinations
1. Charcoal Gray and Red
Breathe life and energy into a neutral space by pairing charcoal gray with red. This living room features an eclectic mix of furniture and decor, but the kilim rug anchors the setup and serves as a stunning focal point.
2. Charcoal Gray and Sage Green
Sage green complements the cool undertones of charcoal gray, creating a soothing and relaxing combo. This classic bathroom by Studio McGee pairs the two shades together, with the help of wainscoting and floor tile, and the result is an airy and comfortable space perfect for starting and finishing each and every day. Wood accents add a touch of warmth.
3. Charcoal Gray and Brown
Shades of brown are always a good idea, especially when they come in the form of natural textiles and wood furniture, lending texture and visual interest. The color brown also adds dimension when paired with charcoal gray, which can occasionally come off as flat. An expansive woven rug, a pop pom-fringed throw, and a smattering of accent pillows bring warmth and an organic vibe to this minimal living room.
4. Charcoal Gray and Lavender
Lavender is a versatile color that's equally appropriate in rooms designed for children and adults. When paired with charcoal gray, the purple hue takes on a sophisticated vibe fit for refined spaces, like this powder room by Beth Haley.
5. Charcoal Gray and Orange
Charcoal gray is popular for use in bedrooms thanks to its calming, cozy effect, while maintaining elegance and a sophisticated appearance. But when you pair it with warm tones, like the orange channel-tufted headboard in this bedroom by Raychel Wade, you add an earthy, soulful element. Crisp white bedding and traditional sconces keep the overall look polished.
6. Charcoal Gray and Cobalt Blue
Charcoal gray is the perfect partner for vibrant shades of blue, creating soothing contrast that's less stark than white. For example, the gray furniture and area rug in this colorful library by Chango & Co. don't distract from the high-gloss cobalt blue walls and ceiling, but they do offer slight variation.
7. Charcoal Gray and Beige
Brass accents and weathered stone bring soul and old-world charm to even the newest of spaces. In this showstopping powder room by Amber Lewis, charcoal gray walls serve as a backdrop to the gorgeous beige-colored sink and lustrous brass hardware.
8. Charcoal Gray and Blush
Elevate blush tones and barely-there pinks by pairing them with a more masculine hue like charcoal gray. Take inspiration from Stefani Stein, who injected a subtle dose of color into this well-appointed living room. The pair of pale blush club chairs pops thanks to a charcoal gray accent wall.
9. Charcoal Gray and Black
Add a graphic punch and amp up the drama without distraction by opting for a monochromatic palette. Despite the absence of color, this pared-down bedroom by Freudenberger Design Studio retains welcome tension and interest thanks to the clever use of charcoal and black in an abstract wallpaper pattern, linear rug, and contemporary accents.
10. Charcoal Gray and Canary Yellow
The color yellow is a vibrant, look-at-me hue that infuses a bit of cheer to any surface on which it's applied. In a hardworking space like this bathroom by Brandon Architects, a vanity coated in canary yellow reads playful and charming, while a backsplash of elongated charcoal subway tile complements the modern flat-front cabinetry.
11. Charcoal Gray and Caramel Brown
Roman clay and limewash give walls a mottled, texturized appearance that allows the interplay of light. The cool gray walls in this living room by Leanne Ford get an added dose of character and warmth from a pair of camel leather lounge chairs and weathered wood flooring.
12. Charcoal Gray and Burgundy
Include shades of burgundy for an of-the-moment look full of luxury and drama. This curated scene spotted on Maisons Du Monde offsets charcoal gray walls with wine-colored velvet drapery and a blush-hued lounge chair and rug, resulting in a space that's refined yet cozy.
13. Charcoal Gray and Light Gray
Opt for a chic, tonal look by gracing walls and furniture in similar shades of gray, as seen in the painted mural of this cocoon-like bedroom. The key to making this neutral color idea work is ensuring there is enough contrast to add interest and to vary the texture.
14. Gray and Rust
If you aren't convinced that charcoal gray is the right color for your bedroom, just check out the dreamy setup belonging to photographer Kara Rosenlund. Here, the rust-colored bedding tempers the cool gray linens beautifully, and also acts as a nice complement to the pair of antique window frames behind the bed.
In addition to adding visual weight to a room, charcoal gray makes it easy to coordinate furniture and decor since it goes with so many colors. For example, in this moody bedroom by Anna Navier, navy blue bedding set against dark gray walls creates a tonal look that's bursting with drama. The large window allows plenty of light to flow in so the space won't feel too dark.
16. Charcoal Gray and Emerald Green
Imbue sophistication and elegance by pairing charcoal gray with an accent color such as emerald green. This traditional living room by Jean Stoffer features gray-painted walls and a pair of lush velvet settees for a look that's equal parts buttoned up and welcoming. A silvery rug adds a measured dose of pattern and interest.
17. Charcoal Gray and Fuchsia
Keep bright colors like fuchsia looking au courant by pairing them with equally saturated tones. Angie Hranwosky got the mix just right in this contemporary dining room, featuring walls covered in charcoal grasscloth and midcentury modern chairs upholstered in the vibrant pink shade.
18. Charcoal Gray and White
Stick to a tried and true pairing of charcoal gray and white for an enduring color scheme that will never look dated. A warm shade of white, like the one used to coat the upper cabinets in this timeless cook space, is the perfect companion to offset the lower set flaunting charcoal gray. Warm brass hardware unites the contrasting scheme.
19. Charcoal Gray and Greige
Balance the coolness of charcoal gray by including plenty of wood tones and another one of our favorite neutral colors: greige. This dining room by interior designer Amber Lewis demonstrates just how powerful the muted color combo can be. Complete the sultry scene with contemporary lighting and white flowy curtains.
20. Charcoal Gray and Burnt Orange
Like the color gray, orange comes in a variety of shades. Burnt orange, for example, is a deeper and more saturated tone that pairs beautifully with a dark hue like charcoal gray, and this bedchamber by Ashe Leandro proves it. Here, a bold duvet draws all eyes to the bed while the matte gray walls offer a rich yet quiet backdrop.
Best Colors to Pair With Charcoal Gray
Whether you're craving a soothing space or favor one with a bit more energy, charcoal gray is a shade that's easy to use and it's available in a variety of applications. Plus, the practical alternative to black will impart a bit of edge without overwhelming your room. Pair it with almost any hue, including:
- Sage Green
- Cobalt Blue
- Canary Yellow
- Light Gray
- Caramel Brown
- Navy Blue
- Emerald Green
- Burnt Orange