You may have noticed that grey is by far the leading neutral colour within Interior Design. Beige and whites are a thing of the past and although it was widely thought that grey would be a phase, it looks very much like it’s here to stay. We are even moving into ‘greige’, which until recently was a big no no. Mixing grey with beige? how could that ever work?!?
So the question is; Why grey?
It’s a fairly nondescript colour. Using it in your home should not work, yet nearly 90% of the homes I visit are grey. If we look at grey it is neither black or white, making it a virtually absent colour. It draws no attention to itself, it keeps its distance and remains separate. Grey provides a very ‘safe’ look, nobody can judge it and when it come to our homes, I find this is first on people’s wish list; what will the neighbours think? Despite being nondescript and virtually absent, grey is seen as trendy and fashionable and even inspirational, it gives a sense of belonging, inclusion and acceptance.
Looking at the Psychology of grey, the colour itself isn’t a positive colour. It’s a colour we wear to be discreet, it almost evokes a lack of confidence. This is not something you would want to cover your home in, however, when used in Interior Design, it can be used as an advantage. The colour grey provides the perfect back drop for your personality to shine, or, grey can be the subtle, cool, calm colour that doesn’t encroach and blends well. As grey doesn’t have a personality of it’s own, it is a colour you can make work in almost any room and can create many different atmosphere’s if used in the right way.
Although it sounds like an easy colour to throw at a room, I am of the opinion that you need to work with it to make it work. I believe in many rooms that I’ve seen throughout my career, it hasn’t been thought through properly and therefore not used to its full potential. This can make a room feel flat, dark and potentially dingy. I always confuse people when I say ‘pink grey’ or ‘blue grey’, because to most people, grey is grey. This however could not be further from the truth. Grey’s are made up with many undertones; some greys can be perfectly colour neutral with no obvious undertones but most lend themselves to a certain palate of colour. Understanding the undertones is vital in make the right decisions for a room; knowing the difference between a grey with blue or brown or even green undertone’s can help you match colours like a pro! We cannot refer to this colour as simply ‘grey’ as it is so much more than that, each shade of grey is so unique on its own. If you are looking for the warmer greys these almost certainly will have the pink / brown undertones, where as blue and green undertones provide a much cooler ambience. The two should rarely be mixed but following the undertone in grey and allowing them to work together will create the ideal tone of a room.
Kirstie Allsopp created a storm on Twitter when she told her follower’s that although grey is ‘fashionable’, she is yet to see it done successfully, especially with regards to enhancing natural light. Her tweet was controversial and generated a string of photos posted on social media trying to prove her wrong. Kirstie’s opinion is; grey indoors swallows light, we’re a Northern hemisphere country, we need to maximise light in our homes, do not eradicate it. Like me, Kirstie visits a lot of homes’ and one of the most frequent requests’ is how to make a room lighter or look bigger. Making the most of natural light is without question one of the most important aspects of design. Dark rooms need to be thought about. Clever lighting will create the perfect atmosphere for any room and I would suggest that the lighting is the first thing that should be considered before any colours are considered.
However, I would not say that grey wouldn’t work in any room. Kirstie is right in that it doesn’t reflect light as well as the white tones but I think this shadow colour is a colour that really benefits from being well lit. Grey has so many natural undertones that is can really come to life in the right light.
I have noticed that grey can change colour quite dramatically with different lights so it is so important to consider the use of a room as the shades will change throughout the course of the day. For example, a dining room should look its best at night whereas a kitchen/diner should be at its best in the morning.
When considering the right grey for your home I would always ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with the design of the room. Light grey can be allowed to hang silently in a room like a shadow. Its effect’s feel more keenly that they are seen. In other words grey can create a base for a space or colour, rather than being the focal point. This is why it is used in a lot of museums and art galleries as the grey backdrop allows the painting to shine, enhancing the colours of the artwork and allowing them to stand alone. This technique of using greys to enhance colour can be used in the home. I always suggest using neutral tones for the things you won’t change and using ‘splash’ accent colours in a room. These can then be changed with little fuss or expense when you get bored, fancy a change or even inline with your fashion preferences. Equally, if you are looking for a dramatic look and have the room and lighting to do so, I am a big fan of the powerful, deep grey features. They give a dramatic, theatrical effect, and give us what I call the ‘wow factor’. It is brave but when it is done successfully, it can transform a room and scream personality.
If none of these work for you, I love experimenting with layers and textures, providing a calm, cosy feel, giving the room depth without having to use the dramatic techniques. Different texture and tones work well together with grey. I would suggest trying to find interesting pieces of furniture that can stand out and ‘pop’ in the room or the space could become flat and uninteresting. Most importantly do not over kill the textures and tones as this just makes it uncomfortable and disjointed.
In summary, given the different shades and tones that the colour ‘grey’ encompasses, you can be sure that there is a grey to please everyone. Whether your style is classic, eclectic, modern or traditional there is a shade of grey for you. Think about your personality. Are cautious or edgy? Are you reserved or out going? There will be a shade for you. All colours can work well with grey, so try to express yourself and your personality within your own home. After all, it is your space and it should reflect you. Draw inspiration from Pinterest and magazines but make your room yours and consider the room itself as they are all different. With good vision and an understanding of colour it will look fabulous!