As anyone who has done a home renovation will tell you, it can seem like it will never end. When we redid our kitchen, it took six months of living in a dust ball with no kitchen sink and a jackhammered concrete floor until we finally put the finishing touches on our newly renovated kitchen. I couldn’t be happier with the results, down to the very last detail — until I realized we were left with ONE HUGE problem: our Olive Branch Green living room walls.
When we first painted our living room, it was 2001. I loved earthy tones, so I chose a gorgeous green for our walls. It was a different time — nearly two decades ago! So much has happened since then. It was time for a change!
It took renovating our kitchen for me to take a closer look at the living room. I’m obsessed with the custom grey that we selected for the kitchen walls. They make the space feel open and inviting, especially when paired with dove white cabinets and chrome details.
So, our green-walled living room — which spills over from our kitchen — had to go! I wanted a classic color that gave our space an elegant, luxurious, and timeless feel. I saw how grey walls could do just that in our kitchen. Why mess with success? I ultimately decided to go one shade darker in the living room with Benjamin Moore’s Allure CSP-70. Both have a hint of taupe in the undertone, which helped the two rooms flow together.
Designer Tip: When painting with grey, don’t choose your colors at the paint store. The industrial lighting of the paint store can make these color swatches look totally different and washed out. Once I brought the sample paints home, I painted a large patch of the wall to see what they would look like under natural light. After I painted the wall, I didn’t decide immediately. I wanted to see how I felt about it as the light in my room changed — or before my first cup of morning tea.
Designer Tip: If you don’t find a color you absolutely love, you can bring your inspiration piece (a designer print, a pillow that you love, a throw blanket or a fabric swatch) to the paint store. They can color match it. Home Depot can do the same for a fraction of the cost — I won’t tell if you won’t 😉
After the walls were painted, it fixed the flow problem. But when I stepped into the living room, I ran into an unexpected problem: SO MUCH grey made the room feel sterile — definitely not the look I was going for. I love hosting — my kids love bringing their friends over — so I wanted a room that felt cozy and welcoming.
My goal was to create a retreat that was inviting and comfortable with a touch of fun. Warming up a grey space can seem like a daunting task — here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Don’t be afraid of darker accent colors
I always have an inspiration piece when I start decorating a space. For my kitchen, it was a piece of fabric I found while shopping for window treatments. For my living room, it was my black and navy accents. They give some visual interest and contrast to the walls, especially when they’re combined with different textures like microfiber, stone, and faux fur. I choose these navy ottomans as one of my staple accent pieces. Not only are they cute, they’re functional! The top opens for added storage and they work as additional seats when we have friends come over. When it’s just family, they double as cozy footrests.
Designer Tip: You don’t need to go overboard with your accent colors. Just a few pieces will be enough to anchor your room.
A good way to add accent colors is with smaller pieces throughout the room.
Two words: Throw pillows.
My throw pillows are purposely mismatched, both with each other and with my couch (which has a more neutral tone). I have a few that I love, including a linen navy blue cheetah print and a navy blue velvet one. My leopard print throw pillows have removable covers — a good tip if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on buying brand new pillows or time spot cleaning. I wanted pillows that I could switch up or throw in the wash. So far, my pillows have remained happily stain free.
Designer Tip: Always use down and feather pillow inserts. They’re softer and waaay more moldable than poly-fill. Even better: They lend a designer feel to pillows without having to spend more than $100 per pillow.
Think creatively about your accents — you’re not just limited to furniture. When I was designing this space, I also looked for artwork that had these darker colors. It doesn’t just have to be dark frames! I used this canvas print as one of my accents — it reflects how I feel about my family and my home. It’s a mantra that I always carry with me whenever I’m designing or decorating a space. It reminds me that I want this space to reflect our story.
Designer Tip: If you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to DIY your accents. You can paint your own accent pieces — whether that be furniture, chairs, or artwork (DIY blog coming soon on how to create this canvas art yourself)
2. Add Texture
Textures and softer shapes are key here to making grey walls feel warmer. If I relied on sharp corners or metal, I would highlight the coolness of the walls. And since you already have a few pops of color, thanks to your accent pieces, you can stick to neutrals. But they don’t have to be boring! I added a horsehair throw pillow (also with a removable cover) as well as a faux fur throw blanket, which I borrowed from another room in the house. I can’t wait for the weather to turn cooler so I can snuggle up with it and a glass of red wine.
I also added some texture to the space with my bigger pieces of furniture. I’m obsessed with this coffee table from Pottery Barn — it has an unfinished look with a grey tone to match the walls. It makes me think of a rustic getaway in Vermont. And our sofa, which we bought from Ashley Furniture, has a multitone fabric that highlights the taupe from the grey walls. These tactile fabrics also make these grey walls look warmer and cozier.
3. Repurpose First, Buy Second
Before I went to Amazon to buy another set of coasters or another throw pillow, I looked in the other rooms of my house first. Whenever I’m decorating a space, I always start at home and ask “What can I repurpose?” You’d be surprised what you can find! I love finding pieces that show off my personality and family’s story. I had a set of Vogue magazines I’ve held onto for ages. I’ve kept Vogue magazines from the month and year my children were born as well as some recently published ones. I stacked them under one of my end tables and they are always a conversation starter.
Designer Tip: Check Ebay or secondhand bookstores for back issues of your favorite magazines from specific years. You can usually get them for a steal!
Once you’ve exhausted your search for repurposed items, you can turn to your favorite stores to pick up some new pieces. Knick knacks are a great way to incorporate your accent colors. My agate coasters incorporate my accent color — navy — as well as adding a visually interesting texture. They are also proof that coasters don’t have to be ugly. You can also pick up items like candles that lend some warmth to the space, both thanks to the light they give off as well as their relaxing aromas.
4. Fill the space with big pieces
For both my coffee table and couch, I went big with these pieces. The couch looks like you can sink into it when watching TV (I Can confirm: it’s delightfully comfortable.) and it also uses fabric instead of leather, which gives it a cozier vibe. After school got out — well, before all this pandemic business started — I would find my kids and their friends camped out here. Our table is pretty substantial — It feels sturdy thanks to its size and its wood base.
Designer Tip: Just like with accent pieces, choose your bigger pieces of furniture first and then let the design evolve.
5. Never underestimate the power of Window treatments
Simple or elegant, depending on your design style and budget — Window treatments can add a significant punch of warmth to your space.
Always save the best for last — I knew my window treatments would be the final piece that made this space feel complete. I selected a simpler custom, inside mount roman shade. The pattern on this fabric already had me curled up on my sofa with my hubby, watching the final episodes of The 100 on NETFLIX. I loved how it pulled all my colors together and when I paired it with this playful trim — It became the perfect finishing touch.
It’s been about a year since we made over the living room. And even now, I’m still in love with how it turned out. My family loves spending time in our living room watching movies, reading books, and playing games.
Have you experimented with making your grey walls feel cozier? What has worked for you? Take a photo and tag #EdenInspiredHomes