Color Scheme: Gray and Yellow

by Donna on February 25, 2011

A Little Color Scheme with Big Possibilities

A versatile combination, gray and yellow in a room color scheme can work in many different directions for look, feel, mood and style. The scheme works in contemporary spaces, country charming spaces, fun room designs, traditional rooms, or rooms with an elegant ambiance. It’s a classy, chic combo that brings together a calm neutral with a warm hue. That warm hue, yellow, exists in wide-ranging variations.

Sunny, Tawny, Golden Yellow

Yellow at its fullest saturation is the most intense of the basic hues. Bright yellow, lemon yellow come to mind. Yellow can have red or orange added and still be yellow: marigold for instance. Adding white takes the edge off, resulting in pastel yellows. We can mute yellow with light gray and the color can become downright calm. Wheat and straw colors are light, ‘beigie’ yellows. Sandy beiges have a yellow cast. Mustard is a muted and subdued yellow. Gold tones are varieties of yellow.

Gray: the Calm, Serene Neutral

A pale gray wall can fade into the background in a way that white cannot. White is wonderful in many applications, but a light gray will have a lower light reflectance value (LRV) and therefore be less ‘intense’. How much light is absorbed by a gray wall will depend of course on the darkness, or value, of the gray. Gray paint colors can range from very pale to deep, dark and rich.

A Gallery of Ideas

The charm and sophistication of a gray and yellow color scheme is apparent in the gallery of room examples below. In some cases a third color is involved as an accent color. In other instances that color may expand the color scheme. I’ve included those examples since they show how versatile, even enchanting, a combination of gray and yellow can be. Let’s take a look.

  • In this elegant living area designed by Mary McDonald light gray walls are the backdrop for white upholstery and yellow accents. The bold gray stripes of the curtains add a subtle punch to the space as well as enhancing the crisp look of the space.
  • Room design in gray and yellow by Mary McDonald

  • A showhome living room (Canadian House&Home) uses yellow and gray upholstery pieces and accent pillows against a backdrop of white. The gray picks up the gray color of the fireplace stones. A dash of blue fabric in an accent pillow adds a bit of variety for the eye.
  • Living room in gray and yellow color scheme

  • A playfully and boldly striped petite den designed by Stacy Smithers (also from House&Home) appears larger as a result of that gray-and-white striped wallpaper running up the wall and across the ceiling. The bright yellow painted desk adds to the playfulness. A punch of vivid violet complements the intense yellow.
  • Playful den with gray and white stipes and bright yellow desk

  • Deep gray walls in this bedroom designed by Albert Hadley throw the furnishings into relief. Accent elements — the pale marigold fabric on the English Regency bench, the creamy yellow-leaning bedding, and the golden picture frames — are in warm contrast to the gray. The soft blue of the painted bed adds a soothing complement. Image source: House Beautiful.
  • Master bedroom designed by Albert Hadley in gray, yellow, and pale blue

  • In the next room, by designer Patrick Wade, the paint color of the walls provides the yellow of the color scheme. Gray plays its part in the headboard, the wide stripes of the bed cover, and the black and white photographs of the wall art. Image again sourced from House Beautiful.
  • Guest bedroom by Patrick Wade in gray and yellow color scheme

  • Gray plays out in many textures in an eclectic room from Homes & Gardens. The gray rug is shimmery silk, the sofa is velvety gray, the chandelier shimmers silvery. Pale mustard curtains add the yellowish element as well as further texture.
  • Color scheme in mustard and gray with a variety of textures

  • Adding rusty-orange to a scheme with mustard yellow and sandy beige results in an earthy combination. Touches of gray are part of the scheme in this room by fashion designer Carlos Miele in his home in Brazil. Image source: Elle Decor.
  • Living room in earthy tones of rusty ornge, mustard, and gray

    From the same home, a bathroom with gray-toned Brazilian granite and creamy painted walls.
    Bathroom with Brazilian granite by Carlos Miele

  • An assortment of warm grays interact with lemony yellow and golden yellow in a modern living room. High contrast of dark and light values creates a dramatic space. Image source: Homes & Gardens (see above).
  • From Homes & Gardens a bold and dramatic gray and yellow color scheme

  • A room designed by British designer Kelly Hoppen also contrasts dark and light values for dramatic effect. Deep gray and black elements populate the space set against white walls. Golden curtains, dramatic in themselves, complete the color scheme. Image source: Elle Decor (see above).
  • Dramatic deep gray, black and golden yellow color scheme in living room by Kelly Hoppen

  • An antique pewter charger displayed on the wall along side a portrait painting provide the gray in this cozy country-style living room. Creamy walls, straw-toned natural fiber rug, and muted marigold upholstery fabric provide the yellow tones of the room scheme. Room design by Birch Coffey. Source: Elle Decor.
  • Country living room by Birch Coffey

  • Small patterns of black and white, like the narrow stripes of the country bench fabric, combine visually to read as gray. This entry way is a soothing combination of pale creamy yellow and soft gray tones. Designer: Celerie Kemble.
  • Entryway with country bench; designer Celerie Kemble

  • Mustard and lemony yellow floral patterns and yellow upholstery interplay with gray tones in this Fifties-style living room from Homes & Gardens. Chaise is from B&B Italia. Curtains are from Designer’s Guild.
  • Fifties-style room with floral patterns from Homes & Gardens

  • A room with a deep gray accent wall (it appears gray on my screen but may actually be a deep brown, but we can visualize it as gray for this purpose), rich golden walls and soft yellow upholstery is accented with touches of rose. Designer Gwen Driscoll has created a rich, yet cozy and inviting, traditional-style room with an old-world ambiance as shown in Elle Decor.
  • Gwen Driscoll creates a traditional-style living room in gray, yellow and rose tones.

  • Designer Celerie Kemble creates a traditionally-styled room using deep gray on walls. Pale gray appears in the striped upholstery and the carpet. Pale golden curtains complete the scheme.
  • Library in deep gray and muted gold color scheme

  • A soft gray and pale cream color scheme is accented with a variety of golden accent colors in the graceful living room and seating area in the following two images. Designed Jan Showers has used the color scheme to create a calm elegance.

Elegant living room by Jan Showers using pale gray and pale golden tones.

Elegant seating area by Jan Showers in color scheme of pale gray and golden accents

Gray Wall Paint Color Selections

For a gray and yellow color scheme I’d stick to warmer grays. Grays with yellow undertones, depending on the yellow used in the scheme, can be particularly successful, but not the only way to go. Below is a list of some gray paint colors that, based mostly on paint manufacturer’s chips and ‘fan decks’, I’d find to be good selections for a gray and yellow room color scheme.

Pratt & Lambert
7-30 Moth Gray, a very soft and pale gray.
11-32 Chalk Gray, essentially a grayish beigy off-white.
33-21 Diplomat Gray, a deep gray.
32-19 Field Gray, an almost black gray.

Sherwin Williams
SW 7024 Functional Gray – a medium to light gray.
SW 7023 Requisite Gray, a bit lighter than 024.
SW 7031 Mega Greige, a medium to light gray with more yellowish undertones.
SW 6074 Spalding Gray, a rich deep gray with bluish-violet undertones that would be complementary to orangish leaning yellows. I’ve used this gray in a client’s entryway we found it to be a wonderfully inviting gray.
SW 7026 Griffin. It doesn’t have gray in the name, but it is gray — a deep, dark warm gray.

Benjamin Moore, Classic Colors
1542 Himalayan Trek, a medium to light gray. I’ve used this gray in an expansive, well-lit room, creating a more intimate ambiance to the room (the room was previously white). The warm gray was also a wonderful backdrop to large, colorful paintings and tied elements in the room together in a way that white just did not do.
1548 Classic Gray, an grayish off-white.
1553 Equestrian Gray, a moderately deep gray with seemingly warm undertones.

Benjamin Moore, Color Preview:
2142-50 Gray Mirage – basically a grayish pale olive, would work nicely with greenish leaning yellows.
2107-50 Sandlot Gray – more greige than gray (has mocha undertones). Just goes to show you can’t always go by the name of the color.
2111-40 Taos Taupe – medium in value with warm undertones; appears to have good potential for working with yellows, especially the bright orangish-leaning hues.

Benjamin Moore, Gray Off-whites:
OC-23 Classic Gray
OC-30 Gray Mist
OC-27 Balboa Mist
OC-31 Fog Mist

Benjamin Moore, Historic Colors:
(Just because these gray hues have been developed from historic references doesn’t mean that they can’t be used in any application, including contemporary spaces.)
HC-86 Kingsport Gray
HC-87 Ashley Gray
HC-101 Hampshire Gray
HC-103 Cromwell Gray
HC-104 Copley Gray
HC-105 Rockport Gray
HC-108 Sandy Hook Gray

Ralph Lauren Paints
TH04 Sweatshirt Gray – looks a bit on the cool side, but very contemporary in feel.
TH11 Mombasa Mist – medium deep, darkish, rich.
VM154 Boulder Gray – medium value, warm undertones.
UL26 Lamp Room Gray – medium light, warm undertones.

For paint, if you can’t tell from the paint chip it it’s warm or cool, or what undertones it has, ask what tints go into making the gray you’re thinking of using. Some paint manufactures will indicate on the chip whether it is warm ‘W’, or cool ‘C’.

Grays, particularly the deeper tones, benefit from at least a bit of sheen otherwise they can appear chaulky. Sheen brings out or enhances the richness of these deep neutrals.

In Closing…

In this outdoor patio the combination of gray and yellow tones is charming and inviting. The gray, weathered wood table and silvery chairs are set against a backdrop of golden-mustard colored wall stucco. Designer: Patrick Wade. Image source: Elle Decor.
Patio by Patrick Wade with weathered wood table

Gray and yellow – charming, chic, playful, elegant.

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