Gray and brown are considered neutral colors in interior design, but don't mistake neutral for boring. Their quiet powers can anchor a space, and when paired, their complementary cool and warm tones become more dynamic. In terms of color psychology, gray represents feelings of elegance, and brown, comfort. Together, they can help a space feel both cozy and elevated.
For a room that's serene and minimalist, simply incorporating different shades and textures within this pairing is enough to create a polished look (with perhaps the addition of white and/or black). Think of a bedroom with coffee-colored walls, a bed with a beige linen headboard and layered white and greige bedding, and dark wood side tables. You really don't need much more.
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But these two anchor neutrals can also create a foundation for layering on bolder colors. A brown leather couch paired with gray walls, for example, could fit right in with just about any color palette or design style. You could go traditional with a Chesterfield and add in a patterned area rug in muted red and blue tones, or go midcentury boho with a more low-slung sofa and a jewel-toned shag rug.
As for which accent colors to choose, the best options have less to do with the actual hues than with specific shades. While designers like to bend and break these kinds of rules, beginners will have the easiest time marrying grays and browns with colors that have similar undertones, and by keeping all their colors within a consistent intensity (for example, pastels, brights, or jewel tones).
"I think the key to using brown and gray in your interior spaces is to find the right shade of the color," says interior designer Ali Henrie. "If your home is warm [in color], look for warmer shades of gray and brown. If your house is cool, find grays and browns that lean cooler." Henrie says she likes using creams, rusty reds, greens, and blues with gray and brown — and advises to "think beyond paint. Brown and gray can be seen in decorating as woods, leathers, and other textured materials." Read on for more inspiration.
13 Color Combinations for Gray and Brown
1. Gray, Brown, and Beige
As a very light shade of brown, beige is a clear choice to pair with darker shades in the same family, as well as gray. What you achieve with this combination is a balanced, sophisticated-yet-cozy, neutral room. Designer Ashley Stark does it flawlessly here by mixing textures and pattern in just the right measure. An energetic pop of greenery helps, too.
2. Gray, Brown, Mustard Yellow, and Olive Green
Mustard yellow accents and warm brown wood tones mirror one another in the loveliest of ways in this bathroom by Ali Henry. The gray cabinetry and olive green accents in the wallpaper bring the temperature down just so, for a perfectly balanced color palette. Mixed metal fixtures continue the warm-and-cool theme.
3. Gray, Brown, and Pink
This room by Sarah Sherman Samuel is unabashedly feminine and glam, while still giving off a cool and modern vibe. That's not an easy feat when you're working with fuzzy textiles and pastel pink and purple. It's the neutral colors and sharp angles — in the form of a modern broken stripe gray rug and light brown furniture — that keep the room looking sleek. A rounded lavender accent chair and greige sofa add just the right amount of softness.
4. Gray, Brown, and Black
If brown and gray are a perfect pair, then adding black takes it to the next level. Beautiful and sophisticated, this dining area by Crystal Sinclair Designs is proof of just that. Pale gray paneled walls create the perfect moody backdrop for a light brown leather bench and cane chairs. A stunning black table takes center stage, echoed by black light fixtures and textiles.
5. Gray, Brown, Yellow, Red, and Slate Blue
How can you play with color in a way that's safe but not stuffy? Take a lesson from the designers at Residents Understood, who went neutral with the big stuff so they could add in fun pops of saturated primary colors. In this eclectic reading room, a light gray tufted leather couch and chocolate brown leather sofa face off in the center. The white walls and black built-in shelves add extra dimension. All of these shades play well together while not shouting too loudly, leaving room for the playful addition of a multi-colored rug and pillows.
6. Gray, Brown, and Orange
Is the leather chair an orangey brown or a brownish orange? Both are correct, and it's a question that illustrates the close relationship between these two colors. It also explains why they work so beautifully together in this living room. Note that the brown woods here all lean a bit orange — thats important, and not accidental. The charcoal sofa adds a welcome cool note, as do the lighter gray rug and walls.
7. Gray, Brown, and Seafoam Green
Ali Henrie's bathroom design here is more complex than it might first appear. The light brown wood cabinet contrasts with the slate gray herringbone tile. The silvery sconces balance the matte black hardware. And the masculine plaid plays off the more feminine seafoam green wainscoting. It all adds up to a pretty, modern-traditional bathroom that's sweet but not saccharine.
8. Gray, Brown, and White
Brown and gray are perfect for adding depth to a crisp white kitchen. Amber Lewis shows us how to do it in a way that's just a bit boho. Against all the bright white elements, the warm gray kitchen island feels extra inviting. Rich brown wooden barstools complement it beautifully, while and blue runner adds just a touch of coastal color.
9. Gray, Brown, and Sage Green
Just like in nature, green and brown tones will forever look perfect together. The beauty of the combo is fully on display in this kitchen by designer Jacqui Seerman. The sage green with cool undertones plays equally well with both the gray and the brown elements throughout the space.
10. Gray, Brown, and Cream
This bedroom by Pure Salt Interiors is all about mixing and balancing tones and textures. The white walls, cream area rug, and pale hardwood floors set a soothing neutral foundation, on which furniture and textiles in various shades of cream, brown, gray, and greige are layered. A pair of charcoal gray table lamps add weight, while a pretty beaded chandelier accentuates the high ceilings.
When you've got a room with a dreamy, soaring dark-wood-beamed ceiling, you want to accentuate it, as designer Jaqui Seerman does here with beautiful statement lighting. But you also want to bring the eye back down, and how better than with a bold navy blue couch? Seerman's deft use of color expertly draws the eye around the room but never overwhelms.
12. Gray, Brown, and Brick Red
This boho-ish loft designed by Codi Ann Backman has a perfectly imperfect vibe. Backman's use of neutral grays and wood tones allows her the freedom to layer on the color with accent pillows, wall art, and hanging lanterns and plants. What's cool about brick red, especially the way it's used here, is that it functions as both a statement color and a neutral — hence why pink and purple don't look too busy layered over it.
13. Gray, Brown, and Purple
In case you thought neutral tones couldn't be dramatic, this entryway by Living With Lolo sets you straight. The deep charcoal wall is truly a mood, but it's also a necessary counterpoint if you're going big with color elsewhere, as with this vivid purple area rug. The rich burlwood console also plays a key role here, breaking up all that charcoal with just the right amount of warmth.
Colors That Go With Gray and Brown
Gray and brown are truly the workhorses of interior design. They're the perfect neutral backdrops upon which you can add color pretty freely. That said, it's helpful to pay attention to undertones, in order to ensure harmony within your palette. There are so many wonderful ways to complement gray and brown. Here are some of the best colors to pair with these versatile neutrals:
- Mustard yellow
- Olive green
- Slate blue
- Seafoam green
- Sage green
- Navy blue
- Brick red