How to decorate with Peppercorn – tips for using this popular grey paint color

Peppercorn is one of Sherwin William's most popular colors, so we asked the experts to reveal the best ways to use this grey in your home, from feature walls to woodwork details

A neutral kitchen with a patterned geometric rug and an island with light grey cabinets
(Image credit: Thistlewood Farms c/o Sherwin Williams)

It's undeniable that grey is one of the most popular colors to use in the home. From monochromatic schemes to smoky woodwork accents, designers everywhere have embraced this versatile shade - and it's not going away anytime soon. Finding the right shade is a different story altogether. 

One particularly popular paint color is called Peppercorn, a timeless shade from Sherwin-Williams that often trends online. The rich color is one of the brand's most loved, and there's a clear reason why. 

Peppercorn takes its name from the earthy tone of dried black peppercorns. This cool, moody neutral is a comforting addition to the home, reminiscent of stormy skies and wintery weather. Used in design, the paint color idea creates a sense of luxury and sophistication, especially when paired with more warming neutrals like cream and beige. It also works just as well as an accent color within a more playful and bright color palette. 

While grey is a versatile shade, perfecting the right tone can be notoriously difficult, and it's important to consider your room's natural lighting. When it comes to decorating with peppercorn grey, there are a few common design mistakes to be aware of. From finding the right paint finishes to deciding the ideal room to introduce this ashy shade, we've asked the experts for their best tips on how to use Peppercorn (and similar shades) in the home. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. She regularly shares color stories with readers to help them keep up-to-date with ever-changing trends that promise to add personality into the home. For this piece, she spoke with color experts to learn how to incorporate a smoky peppercorn grey into our homes. 

How to decorate with Peppercorn

1. Start off small 

Grey alcove shelving with neutral decor including a paper lamp and sketched artwork

Grey alcove shelving painted in Black 02 by Lick.

(Image credit: Lick)

'Peppercorn’s rich, charcoal shade is a color that’s friends with everyone,' says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. 'Whether it’s paired with white-washed brick or wreaths of greenery, this color instantly adds depth thanks to its dark hue.'

Although it's an adaptable color, Sue acknowledges that many of us are hesitant to be brave and bold with our use of grey. This is understandably so, given the risks involved in saturating a room with such a dark color. 

'If you’re looking to infuse some bold color into your space but the idea of saturating an entire room has you on the fence, just start small,' says Sue. 'An accent wall is a great way to introduce dark colors like peppercorn grey into your home’s palette without going all in.'

Use peppercorn grey in an alcove to add depth and dimension. Consider only painting the bottom two-thirds of the wall, as shown above in the design by Lick, if you want to play around with perspective for heightened visual appeal. As Sue adds, 'you can create a look that’s even more dramatic by contrasting this grey with crisp shades of white'.

2. Consider the room and its natural lighting 

A grey themed bedroom with grey walls, grey bedding and a grey crushed velvet headboard

A grey bedroom painted in Elephant in the Room by Valspar

(Image credit: @manchester_midterrace c/o Valspar)

There's no escaping the fact that peppercorn grey is a dark shade that can sometimes prove tricky in design. When not used correctly with the wrong lighting, dark colors can make a room feel imposing and oppressive. For this reason, it's important to know how to use embrace a dark interior design effectively.

'Peppercorn is a dark, off-black color, like a charcoal,' explains Tash Bradley, director of interior design at Lick. 'It’s such a dark color that you want to avoid anything too bright and clinical, so I recommend this color for a formal living room that you’re wanting to make very cozy, but also with a bit of drama.' 

For a warmer feel, Tash recommends avoiding north-facing rooms which can make a peppercorn grey feel cooler. 'When you’re trying to get an ambiance and mood to the room, warm, low-level lighting will go well with this color,' she says. 'Imagine a library or reading room with sofas that have a bit more color and pattern to them within a lamp-lit room.'

Grey can also be an excellent way to experiment with perception. 'A dark hallway would also look stunning in a peppercorn shade,' says Tash. 'Keep the woodwork light and do the rest of the hallway in grey to make the rooms leading off the hallway feel much lighter.' 

A grey bedroom idea may not be your first choice, but Valspar's senior product manager, Charlotte Radford, says it can be used to create comfort. 'As a versatile neutral, the shade works particularly well in bedrooms to create a luxurious sanctuary,' she says. Try using the color for an accent wall behind your headboard because, as Charlotte adds, 'peppercorn grey creates a natural focal point that gives the eye a place to rest.' 

3. Pair with neutrals

A pink a grey living room with a grey accent wall and soft neutral lounge chairs

A feature wall painted in Campground by Valspar

(Image credit: @theperkinsresidence c/o Valspar)

Although there are plenty of colors that go with grey, if you want a peppercorn shade to stand out, try pairing it with neutrals. 

'White accents work well to break up the intensity of luxurious deep grey walls,' Charlotte says. 'White woodwork, stonewashed fabrics and light accessories will compliment the richness of this intense grey shade. Painting features such as cornices, radiators and skirting boards in warmer whites will foster a sense of balance in the space.'

For a more natural effect, use organic furnishings and decor to add a softer contrast to peppercorn grey's boldness. 'I think it really comes to life with softer, oatmeal and beige colors for furnishings,' adds Tash. 'Natural woods and stones would go very well with the grey.'

4. Don't overlook the finer details

A bohemian bedroom painted Nevermore by Valspar

A grey bedroom in Valspar

(Image credit: @bohomaximalist c/o Valspar)

Peppercorn grey needn't be reserved for your walls. From woodwork to cabinetry, there are plenty of other ways to incorporate this color into your home. 

'This color really suits paneling,' says Tash. 'If you’ve got a room with wall paneling or a boot room that has tongue and groove detailing in it, or a downstairs bathroom, this moody, rich, deep color will come to live in these spaces.' 

As such a versatile color, peppercorn grey can also appear different depending on what you pair it with. 'Combining wooden furniture, natural metals and ample foliage with peppercorn walls will create a refined feel and natural ambiance,' explains Charlotte. 'Alternatively, you can opt for a more industrial look by combining peppercorn walls with exposed brick using gold accents to add depth.' 

When it comes to decorating with this color, you should also consider the paint finish. As Tash notes: 'this color looks really stunning in an eggshell because it has more of a sheen which means that it helps reflect more natural light.'

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.