The Switzerland of colours, grey is a neutral, balanced hue that traverses a spectrum of shades. At the warmer end, slate grey, dark taupe and smoky grey create a serene atmosphere, while cooler hues like dove, oyster and pearl make spaces feel bright and spacious. Thanks to its associations with nature (think stormy skies, rough seas, pebbles in a pond), grey also works well with natural materials like timber and stone.
There’s no doubt about it, Kiwis are feeling grey – in a good way. Davina Harper, colour expert at Dulux, says it’s second only to white when it comes to their most popular paint shades. Versatility is one of its biggest drawcards. “It’s chameleon-like,” says Davina, “which means it can suit nearly every style of home.”
Grey is used increasingly as a hero hue, not only in living rooms and bedrooms, but in the bathroom too. There’s a shade for every mood; soft, silvery hues with undertones of mauve and blue lend elegance to any interior, while greys with warm, reddy undertones create a cosy feel.
Grey is a much more complex colour than most people imagine, explains Rachel Lacy, colour category manager of PPG paints. “They are not simply varying mixtures of white and black but a combination of pigments. Greys, like whites, can be cool or warm. They range from warm, umber-greys to much cooler blue-greys,” she says. With that in mind, which mood you’d like to create and how you use a room will determine which shade of grey you should choose. “The available light in a room – is it natural or artificial, whether you are going to be in the space during the day or mostly at night, and how you want the space to feel, are the drivers for colour choice.”
For rooms with plenty of natural light, a cool grey such as stone, pewter or concrete is a good choice, as they make a small space appear brighter. Warm greys – such as taupe, pebble and smoke – work best in open-plan areas and where you want to create a cosy ambience.
Grey pairs well with myriad colours, from jewel tones to citruses and soft peaches and pinks, while a monochromatic interior combining light and dark greys is also impactful. “The wonderful thing about greys is that they work well with pretty much any other colour,” says Rachel. “A cooler grey with a deep yellow, or a warm, umber-based grey with the red/pink shades of orange, are combinations that have stood the test of time.”
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a trend away from some of the cooler shades towards warmer, earthier greys on both the inside and the outside of the home,” says Davina Harper, adding that a mixture of grey and beige tones in particular is becoming increasingly popular.
This rings true for stylist Michelle Halford who loves incorporating grey in her interiors. “I find that soft shades of grey with beige tones create a particularly warm and calming feel.” ‘Greige’ colours are easy to live with and pair beautifully with warm whites and neutrals, especially organic, earthy shades such as sand, tan and putty, she says. Michelle has also been experimenting with grey paint colours that have textural finishes for added depth and interest.
A failsafe exterior colour, grey suits a variety of house styles, from modern to period-style homes. Darker tones – charcoal, concrete, slate – add an air of drama to an exterior, while lighter greys such as silver, dove and oyster create a tranquil feel. Softer hued light greys offer an alternative to traditional white exteriors, while mid-tones are a practical choice, as they tend to conceal marks and dust.
Greys will tend to appear a few shades lighter in bright sunlight, so you may need to go a shade or two darker to get the depth of colour you need. As always, use sample pots and observe the results at different times of the day and night, under artificial light, before you buy.
1 PPG Gray Flannel
2 British Paints Metal Links
3 PPG Fog
1 Dulux Baltica
2 PPG Hampton Inn
3 British Paints Cold Metal
Add a splash of grey paint into your home. Start by picking up everything you need at your local Bunnings.
Photo credit: Brigid Arnott, British Paints, Taubmans.