Wednesday, 23 March 2016

(One hundred and) fifty shades of grey...

We have a love affair with grey. And it doesn't show signs of abating. It's been coined the colour of the decade and its not hard to see why. Everything from fashion to lingerie to office wear and sports attire has been given the grey wash. Interior design has followed suit and due to demand, many paint companies are increasing their range of grey shades. Dulux now offers 557 shades of grey in its paint range and of the 132 Farrow & Ball paint shades, at least 20 could be classified as greys - a 10% increase, according to the company, in the past 7 years. There's even a beautiful new book dedicated to the subject: "Shades of Grey" by Kate Watson-Smyth. 

But why the grey obsession? What is it that makes the colour so appealing? 

Grey has had a mixed history. It was originally the colour of undyed wool and so not really considered a colour at all. In 19th Century Paris it was worn by women working in factories - those who had little status and who would not stand out in a crowd. However, in art during the Renaissance, grey was used as a the perfect background colour to emphasise gold and skin tones and was used to highlight the faces and costumes of the sitters in the paintings. 

It's this quality which makes it so appealing in interiors. Grey as a colour is neither black nor white, it is 'absent' of colour and so sits well when other colours are placed next to it. Grey as a backdrop allows the other colours and elements in a room to shine: 'Grey goes with everything and everything looks good against it. It's also much easier to change the furniture in a grey room because so many colours go with it', said David Mottershead, Managing Director of Little Greene. Interior designer Abigail Ahern – whose house has been featured in countless interiors magazines since she painted it in varies shaes of inky grey over 6 years ago believes she will never go back to white. "Anything set against grey looks more beautiful, more grand," she says. "It cocoons you and turns the room into a space you really want to hunker down into. It feels intriguing and sophisticated and glamorous."

Here are some photos to inspire from her East London flat:

These rooms look good because the grey colours are carefully chosen. They are then balanced with lots of natural light, texture, other colours in the room and even plants. 

It's important to get the right shade for your room. And it's important to work out what kind of grey you can live with, as there are many shades to choose from. You'll notice that there are some greys which seem softer and warmer, whilst others are a lot cooler and sharper. Warm greys tend to have yellow or brown undertones, whilst cooler greys will have a black or blue base. To see the difference, have a look at this:

I appreciate this might be easier to see here than when you've got a colour card in front of you! Don't be shy in asking for help at the paint shop, most companies will help you identify which of their greys are on the cooler or warmer end of the spectrum. 

And it's worth the headache as choosing the right grey will give you a stunning effect. What do you think of these below?

'Blackened' - Farrow & Ball

'Polished Pebble' - Dulux

'Cornforth White' - Farrow & Ball

'Chic Shadow' - Dulux

'French Grey' and 'Dark Lead' units - Little Greene

If you like the way a grey room scheme looks, but are unsure how to start, the first thing to think about is the natural light coming into your room. Painting a dark, north facing room grey will accentuate the lack of light and might not create as welcoming or liveable a room. Our UK light tends to also be 'cooler', intensifying any cold tones! If you have a light-filled room or a more west or south-facing room, this would be an ideal place to paint grey and would make a gorgeous room scheme. 

The second thing to consider, as with any room, is adding texture. By this I mean the other materials and soft furnishings in the room. Don't skimp on the texture! Wooden furniture, rugs, sofas, chairs, book cases, pictures, curtains/blinds, cushions - all of these add up to the overall effect.

The reason why these room schemes work is because they think about the room as a whole. Look at this living room below:

The overall room looks elegant, inviting, comfortable. Why? Firstly, you'll notice a limited colour palette was used: grey(s), cream, white, touch of blue. Even the photographs on the wall are limited to black and white, but placed all together in a structured way, they look great. It's light and bright without the lights being on, so there must be lots of natural light coming into the room. The main element which really brings the scheme together though is the use of texture. There are 3 different types of cushion on the sofa - one plain (but in a luxurious fabric), two patterned grey and two white with hints of blue and shimmer. There are also two throws, one grey, one check. All together, the sofa looks soft, warm and cosy because these furnishings break up the cream of the sofa and the complimentary colours and patterns tie in with the whole colour scheme. The white lampshade really stands out against the grey walls, as do the side tables, with their criss-cross pattern. These echo the cushions on the sofa. The upholstered coffee table, flowers, candles help soften the grey colour and bring warm to the room.  This use of texture to add warmth is important here, as the grey used on the walls is quite cool, so all the furnishings in the room bring a softness to the overall look. Lovely!

Are you planning a grey makeover? I'd love to see your finished rooms! 

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