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What Color Is Charcoal?

A charcoal sofa. Image via Patti Roberts Design Co.

Charcoal is a color term that’s commonly thrown around by interior designers, architects and other design-savvy types, but if the term leaves your wonders what color is charcoal exactly, you’re in the right spot.

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Here, I’ll explain this popular color and how it’s commonly used in homes and interiors. I’ve also got plenty of photos and tips for using charcoal at home.

So first….

What Color is Charcoal?

Charcoal can most easily be described by looking at its carbon-colored namesake. It’s dark shade of gray than ranges from a deep slate hue to nearly black. The color is most often used to describe shades of gray that are almost black, but not quite.

Charcoal is made up of black and white, but you’ll often find various undertones like blue or green mixed in, which give charcoal its wide range of shades.

Is Charcoal Black or Gray?

Charcoal is a shade of gray, but in certain light, some shades can appear almost black.

If you’re looking at paint or upholstery (i.e. sofas) for your home and the color “charcoal” is an option, know that most companies will consider it a dark gray.

Charcoal is very close in color to, and can overlap with, colors considered “off blacks,” or shades that are slightly softer than a true black.

Is Charcoal Warm or Cool?

A charcoal lamp and throw pillows. Image via Patty Roberts Design Co.

Charcoal generally has blue or green undertones, which make it a cool-toned color, however, charcoal can be neutral-toned too, which means it has no visible cool or warm undertones.

A charcoal hue with prominent warmer undertones starts to become more of an espresso/dark brown color.

Is Charcoal in Style?

As far as interior design trends go, charcoal was an extremely popular color for things like sofas and dining chairs in the 2010s. It seemed like every major furniture store sold a charcoal sofa.

While cool gray tones like charcoal have been overtaken by warmer neutral tones, charcoal is still a classic neutral that still has a place in today’s decor.

The key is to surround it with colors that feel current, like warmer neutrals, olive greens, etc. Which brings me to….

What Colors Go with Charcoal?

A charcoal wall color. Image via Collectiv Co.

If you’re planning to decorate your home with charcoal, whether it be via a paint color or your home decor, you’ll have plenty of options for coordinating shades.

Natural fits for charcoal include:

  • White and off white (as long as the off white isn’t too yellow)
  • Tan and camel colors
  • Natural wood tones
  • Brass
  • Emerald and Kelly green
  • Olive green
  • Navy blue

How to Use Charcoal in Your Home

charcoal painted wall
A charcoal accent wall via McGee & Co.

Charcoal is a dark color, which means it’s best used in smaller doses in your home decor.

Charcoal works well as an accent color for things like throw pillows, vases, bedding, art and decorative objects.

It’s a natural fit for modern spaces, paired with cool neutrals like true black, white, and other gray and silver tones. But, it also works well in modern rustic spaces, warmed up with rich wood tones, leather, and earth tones.

Here’s a look at a few of the best ways to decorate with charcoal:

Charcoal furniture

It can also be used for upholstered pieces like sofas or arm chairs, but if you take this route, just be sure that you include enough contrast in the space to lighten things up and keep your room inviting. Pair a charcoal sofa with a white or off white paint color, a wood toned coffee table, and a mx of lighter-hued throw pillows, for example.

Charcoal paint

Image via Ashe Leandro

Consider charcoal paint colors for accent walls, lower cabinetry (with lighter-colored upper cabinets), bathroom vanities, or even trim work with light colored walls.

Charcoal paint colors

If you’re looking for charcoal colors to paint your home, there are plenty to choose from. I’ve listed out a few of my favorites to get you started:

Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal

Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal is a neutral charcoal shade, which means it doesn’t have any noticeable blue undertones. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a charcoal color to pair with warmer tones like ivory or tan.

Benjamin Moore Charcoal Slate

Charcoal Slate is a deep shade of gray with blue and Indigo undertones. While it’s a dark paint color, it’s not so dark that you’ll miss its depth and undertones. It pairs well with shades of beige, and off whites like BM Swiss Coffee.

Benjamin Moore Charcoal Linen

Benjamin Moore Charcoal Linen is a slightly lighter shade of charcoal. If you’re looking for a shade that will read more gray than black, or for a room that doesn’t get much natural light, try charcoal linen.

Benjamin Moore Tavern Charcoal

Tavern Charcoal is one of my favorite Benjamin Moore dark paint colors. It’s not a true charcoal, but rather a deep shade of green with a heavy gray undertone that makes it feel unique and modern.