Last month I was at a fair for handmade and upcycled furniture and during one presentation the speaker told the audience: “Thank God we’ve moved on from fifty shades of grey”. Really? Don’t get me wrong, I love colour. ‘Colour everywhere’ is my motto and I could never live with a minimalist all white, monochromatic black and white, or all grey scheme. But….grey is definitely still with us! You look at posts on any social media platform, home magazines, style guides, etc. and you will find endless examples of styling rooms with the majority colour being grey.
So, why is grey so enduring and seemingly so universally liked? I mean, we’re never full of praise and rejoicing when it’s cloudy and grey outside. Grey skies and we’re hanging our heads and complain. Although a lot of business wear is grey (think the classic suit), few people would describe that as their favourite thing to wear. And yet, when it comes to interiors, grey never seems to go out of fashion.
Let me make one thing clear: Colour does influence us. Our eyes see colour, send signals to our brain and this influences our feelings and behaviours. Even beyond that, colours are essentially different wave lengths of light, meaning, different amount of energy, which is why even blind people can ‘feel’ colour. However, that does not mean that each of us feels the same or reacts in the same way to blue or green or black. How we are influenced by colour differs from person to person. Which takes me back to the versatility and popularity of grey. Grey can be the equivalent of ‘sitting on the fence’ – it allows us to not commit. Literally, if we choose grey we are not showing our colours. This can be a very desirable quality of grey. Imagine working a stressful job with long hours. When you come home, you absolutely might want a space where you don’t have to make any decisions, have opinions, stand up for yourself. Instead, a grey living room would allow you to just ‘be’ – not committing to anything, communicating little about yourself. Additionally, if you have a large family and different family members have very different tastes, or you like to entertain or invite friends and other people to your home, you might want a space that offers neutrality for everyone to feel comfortable in.
Grey is often classified as a ‘neutral’ colour, alongside such colours as cream or beige, allowing it to be used as a backdrop for a large number of interior schemes. You can easily use it for tone-in-tone all neutral schemes, combining it with plants, natural wood and tactile textiles. Many of the well-loved Scandinavian schemes are prime examples of this.
Grey is also the only neutral colour which can be either warm or cold. A warm grey with brown undertones, can be used for cosy schemes and combined with other warm neutrals.
On the other hand, use grey with silver or blue undertones and it’s very effective for highly elegant, often monochrome, settings.
Or you can use greys on either side of the warm/cold spectrum to form a neutral background against which you can show off splashes of your favourite bright colours. Grey and orange schemes are anything but boring or bland. This adds the colour back in, but can be very effective if you like to change the colour of your accessories regularly, so have different moods in the same room throughout the year.
Interestingly, there is another aspect of grey which I hadn’t considered myself until now: recently, we have moved away from traditional light bulbs and many households now have LED lighting. These emit light on the cooler/blue side of the colour spectrum. This does not work so well with warm neutrals such as Magnolia, previously a firm favourite. A Magnolia wall bathed in the warm light of traditional light bulbs works fine. Use LEDs in the same room, and you get a blueish light on the yellowish Magnolia walls, which can result in a sickly green tinge. Not the most attractive! Grey solves this, as you can easily find a tint or shade which works well with the new lighting.
So, there you go, lots of reasons why grey surely is not going out of fashion any time soon.