Modern grey living room ideas - stylish ways to add a contemporary vibe

When it comes to modern living rooms, going grey is the way to go

Gey living room with sofa, coffee table, artwork and bookshelves
(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Thanks its versatility, few schemes work quite as beautifully as modern grey living room ideas in any manner of rooms layouts and sizes. From barely-there whisper grey or mid-toned gunmetal to steely grey and darkest charcoal, there’s a shade to suit all schemes. 

Plus, when it comes to living room ideas, grey is the perfect foundation colour to build a scheme around, sitting well with bold brights and calm pastels or equally well with rugged neutrals and dusky darks.

The biggest-selling paint colour after white, grey is fast catching up. Part of its popularity is that grey is pretty much compatible with any other colour so works as a neutral, while packing more of a punch than 'safe' neutrals like beige and magnolia. 

And grey’s chameleon-like qualities means that it can take on a different mood or effect depending on what colours are put with it, so a grey living room scheme is easy to switch up or change around without involving any major redecoration.

Modern grey living room ideas

‘Grey scores the number one spot in the most-searched-for sofas category and second position in the living room colour breakdown,’ says Ben White, design and trade expert at Swyft Home

Grey living rooms are a popular colour choice as it’s the most versatile of all the neutral colours. This allows homeowners to change up the colours of their living room more often (if they like to redecorate) by introducing different accessories and wall colours, at a lower cost than replacing large pieces of furniture.’

1. Go dark for a moody vibe

Modern grey living room ideas with dark grey walls and green sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

While a pale or subdued grey may be the safe option, using a darker grey for your living room paint ideas will result in a cosier and more dramatic space with extra character. In a contemporary scheme like this, use the same shade of grey throughout an open-plan space on walls, woodwork and floors to create continuity and give the space a sense of flow.

Dark modern grey living room ideas provide the perfect background colour for displaying artwork and artefacts, making more vibrant colours sing out. Try a standout piece of art as a focal feature in a grey living room scheme, echoing the same jewel bright tones of the sofa, soft furnishings and statement rug for a co-ordinated look.

2. Pick the perfect wall colour

Modern grey living room ideas with pale grey sofa and yellow and blue pouffes

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jo Henderson)

Choosing the right shade of grey is key when it comes to grey living room ideas. Sunny, south-facing living rooms will benefit from greys with cool blue-based undertones which help balance out the room’s natural glow.

However, north-facing spaces can often feel quite cold, so avoiding cool-toned modern grey living room ideas is best. Instead opt for warmer mid-toned greys with undertones of yellow which will cast a greenish tinge and take off any chill. 

Mid-toned greys are the perfect way of creating a cosy, enveloping mood in a living room. In terms of colours that go with grey, you can then bring in in pops of mustard, khaki or warm-toned pinks to act as a complementary accent colour.

3. Choose tonal greys for a calming scheme

Modern grey living room ideas with tonal grey sofa and armchair

(Image credit:

Make your modern grey living room ideas an oasis of calm by choosing a tonal scheme in soft, soothing shades. Tonal or monochromatic colour schemes work by using just one colour but in varying tints and tones, so are easy-on-the-eye and perfect for rooms where you want to create a restful and relaxing mood.

Tonal schemes are fairly simple to put together, as using variations of the same tone should mean that there will be no harsh or jarring colour contrasts. That being said, some visual contrast will keep a tonal scheme from looking boring, so mix it up with different textures and finishes so that the room doesn’t merge into one. 

And adding just a hint of accent colour here and there is perfectly acceptable in tonal spaces - burnt orange, black or pops of navy will add a smart touch to these living room colour schemes.

4. Use dark grey as an accent colour

Modern grey living room ideas with leather sofa and black feature wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Wall-to-wall colour isn’t the only option if you want to include grey in your living room scheme. Grey makes a great accent colour and a little goes a long way.  

Use dark matt grey paint on an accent wall in a modern scandi living room. Grey partners well with black and white and acts as a foil for more rustic finishes, from wood grains and weathered timbers to natural stones and tan leathers. 

And with any scandi scheme, tactile textures are key, so work in lots of contrast finishes to soften grey’s darkness, from faux furs and knits to twiggy foliage and greenery.

5. Strike a contrast

Modern grey living room ideas with dark painted alcove and wood panelling

(Image credit: Snugsofa)

Darkest grey will add impact in a modern living room, but if all-over colour is too intense, compromise by reserving it purely for accent areas. Pale-toned timber panelling looks striking on a chimney breast wall with the effect intensified by contrast alcoves painted a dark matt grey.

Showcase a collection of artwork and greenery by setting shelves against a grey-painted backdrop. Bright colours, bold patterns and shapely silhouettes will stand out against a dark contrast colour and make an artfully arranged display more eye-catching. 

6. Build your scheme around key pieces

Modern grey living room ideas with ikat wallpaper and orange accents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Having one of the best sofas is a must and it’s easy to see why grey is such a popular colour choice. Grey works with pretty much any colour combination, so it’s no problem switching things around and tweaking the colour scheme with new cushions and throws whenever you want a quick room refresh.

Changing the wall colour is another quick and easy update idea, either with a new paint colour or a boldly-patterned wallpaper. Try introducing a modern eclectic vibe to a grey living room with an eye-catching Ikat, teamed with co-ordinating cushions, rug and throws. Work in accents of burnt orange and black around the room to add a subtle splash of contrast colour. 

‘Grey is an incredibly versatile colour, forming an ideal base from which to expand your palette,’ says Kelly Collins, interior designer and head of creative at Swyft Home. ‘When looking for wall colours to go with grey sofas, you can get away with pretty much anything from light to very dark, but try and avoid bright tones. Think classic white, a rich dark navy, and other shades of grey or muted green tones. Colours with a cool undertone (blues and other greys) will complement grey well, while colours with warm undertones (terracotta or burgundy) will contrast the shade and bring a touch of warmth into the space.’

7. Channel modern country style

Modern grey living room ideas with corner sofa

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

Ditch chintzy florals and farmhouse furniture and try a contemporary take on a classic country scheme. Soft grey is the perfect colour palette for a modern country look, with chalky tones that are easy on the eye and a calming effect that cancels out the stuffiness and formal style of more traditional country living room ideas

In east and west-facing modern grey living room ideas, lighter greys with warm yellow or red undertones will help diffuse light at sunrise and sunset, but bring warmth at other times of the day. For accent colour, introduce touches of yellow and earthy green or try brighter corals and peachy tones. 

8. Show a softer side

Modern grey living room ideas with black sofa and pink cushions and throw

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Offset the seriousness of grey by partnering it with softer accent shades. Focus on pink and grey living room ideas, using light pinks, soft blush or fruity berry tones will complement a tonal scheme and help to warm cool greys and cancel out any harshness.

‘Pink can be a bit cheeky but it’s ultimately warm and super-relaxed,' says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux. ‘It captures a sense of gentle fun and is perfect for warming up north facing rooms where soft pale shades and blush pinks look amazing teamed with houseplants and greenery.  Alternatively, petal pinks and rosy tones are perfect for a contemporary look with a bit of energy.’

9. Calm a busy scheme with grey

Modern grey living room ideas with grey sofa and grey bookcase

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

In living rooms where there is lots going on, grey can be a calming influence that works quietly in the background rather than being the star of the show. Painting walls, bookshelves, doors and trims in the same colour throughout will have a unifying effect in a busy living room, blurring any breaks in colour and making the room feel more cohesive. 

Use shelves and walls to add visual interest to your modern grey living room ideas, with artfully arranged collections, brightly-covered books and catchy wall art adding splashes of colour against a grey background.

10. Go neutral with calming 'greige'

Modern grey living room ideas with panelled wall and green sofa

(Image credit: Swyft)

If you’re undecided about needing a cool or warm-toned colour and wondering which grey is best for your living room, then ‘greige’ can offer the perfect solution. A combination of grey and beige, greige offers the coolness of grey, with the warmth of beige, and strikes an even balance between the two with all the qualities of both.

Calm and muted, greige makes a restful background colour for a living room that will draw the eye to what's in front of it, rather than taking the attention itself. Layer greige with other neutrals and bring in natural elements like polished wood and stone, woven basketware, burnished metallics and lush plants and greenery to bring depth to a greige living room scheme.

What colour goes best with grey in a living room?

Grey is a super-versatile colour with many different tones, so it can lend itself to lots of different colour combinations. A failsafe way of finding a colour that goes with a particular shade of grey is to partner it with one that has similar undertones. If you look at a fan of grey paint charts, you’ll see how widely the tones vary. The cool end of the spectrum has blue undertones, passing through tints of green and yellow, ending up at warm shades with red bases that give them brown, pink or purple tints. 

For cool, blue-toned greys, look to blue and grey living room ideas - or create a bold contrast by partnering them with splashes of rich yellow, orange or pink to pop against them. For warm greys with touches of yellow, opt for shades of mustard and ochre, or for pink-tinted greys, try coral and peach for a warm and  harmonious scheme.  

How can I make my grey living room look warm?

Avoid dark greys with cool undertones in cold, north-facing rooms, which will only accentuate the coldness of the space. Instead, opt for warm, dark greys with yellow or red undertones that will take off the chill and make the space feel cosy and enveloping.

Reserve cool, light greys for sunny south-facing modern grey living room ideas, where the light can sometimes make deep colours feel too intense. In east and west-facing rooms, warm light greys are a better choice, helping to diffuse light when it's at its brightest, but adding gentle warmth when it's not.

Lisa Fazzani
Deputy Editor

Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.