It is the most fashionable paint colour of the moment and, if my blog analysis is to be believed, the most commonly researched shade on the colour wheel. But grey can be hard to get right and does need a bit of careful planning as our cool Northern light can make some grey tones too icy and flat.
If the comments and questions on previous posts are anything to go by, many of you are struggling with choosing the right shade of grey paint for your north, or east, or south-facing rooms. So Mad About The House is here to help. And by that I mean, I have asked some experts for their opinion.
A spokeswoman for Fired Earth says: “Grey is one of the most on trend and flattering colours for the home. It provides a neutral backdrop whilst injecting character into a room. “The spectrum of greys on the market is now vast with most of the Posh paint brands offering many tones of grey – from dark battleship greys to the merest whisper.”
For those of you who have been wrestling with the various shades of Farrow & Ball, here’s what they have to say on the subject.
Rooms that face north are the most difficult to decorate – especially if you are trying to create light and space. Sometimes it is better not to fight nature in a dark room – instead work with it, and use strong dark colours. However if you want to use lighter tones avoid anything with a green or grey base in a north facing room.
Rosie Stirret, of Farrow & Ball, says:”Opt for yellow based colours and creamy neutrals to bounce as much light around as possible. Strong grey Down Pipe is also popular, much used as an accent colour we’re seeing a growing trend for this rich shade to be used as the ‘new neutral’ on walls in a space, the perfect backdrop for flashes of pinks, yellow and oranges.
If you don’t want to go that dark then, Farrow & Ball suggest using colours with a yellow base which will make for a warmer grey. “Off-White No.3 is a versatile grey which takes on the properties of the colours around it. Shaded White No.201 is a more true grey and Elephant’s Breath No.229 has the most contemporary feel, with a purple undertone.”
“Try Pavilion Gray No.242 and Lamp Room Gray No.88 for a Swedish, Gustavian look. Cool greys such as Cornforth White No.228 and Blackened No.2011 are particularly good with stainless steel and can be used to great effect in kitchens.” But are best in a south-facing kitchen. I have stainless steel worktops in a north-facing kitchen and Cornforth White was a little chilly in there. Having said that if I had wooden worktops and softer lighting that would have warmed it up a lot; grey is very easily influenced. I also had Pavilion Grey in a south-facing bedroom for a while and it was delicious – but give it lots of warm natural wood to sit with. My default white is Wimborne White which I have all over my house in north and south-facing rooms and which I first used when we moved in in 2010 and is still there in 2021 with no plans to change it.
A spokeswoman for Zoffany said: “For North facing rooms, you should choose a warmer grey – less blue based such as Zoffany Smoke or Harbour grey. Our Paris grey is also one that we use over and over again as it is very versatile and seems to adapt to the light in the room. The darker greys like Storm tend to feel warmer as they reflect the light less.” But, she added, for a more contemporary look try the cooler greys such as Glacier and Silver.
South facing rooms are a joy to decorate because the quality of light allows one to use both warm and cool colours. All colours will look good. In order to maximise the feeling of light it is best to use a less coloured palette – pale tones for a light and airy space. Warm greys like Elephant’s Breath and Skimming Stones are very popular as they are easier to live with than the more definite greys. But dark greys will work really well too as they are great under electric light and, because the light will be streaming in, the room won’t be too dark.
The light in east facing rooms can appear to be a little blue so it is best to work with this and choose greens or blues. Blue-green greys are also growing in popularity; French Gray is one of our key colours. It’s underlying organic tone makes it perfect for both interior and exterior decorating.
Obviously white walls are natural light reflectors and will flatter any colour of furnishing – this is particularly true in west facing rooms where white will enhance both natural and artificial light and give you a wonderful airy feeling. Wimborne White and even the greyer neutrals like Slipper Satin should retain a feeling of light – although the colour will change from morning to night – cooler earlier and warmer later.
Back to Fired Earth who offer the following advice: “For North and West-facing rooms we would advise choosing a grey with just the slightest hint of beige such as Pier Point or Keychain, both of which are made up of pigments which draw in the light and warm up as the evening draws in, with the introduction of artificial lighting turning the grey tones from cold to cosy.
“East and South facing rooms can get away with slightly more blue toned grey paints. However it is important to bear in mind that the UK tends to have cooler light so layering up tonal greys is another useful way of making a room not look too cool and clinical. By laying up tones such as Fired Earth’s Peace and Quiet and Modernist White you can use the lighter paint to bounce some light around the room. We would suggest keeping your wood work just off white by using a Eggshell such as Fired Earth’s Silica or Aunty Maud to highlight.”
Finally I asked Dulux for their advice and this is what Marianne Shillingford, the Creative Director, had to say: “A higher saturation of grey in colours gives them a mellow appearance. Have a look at Polished Pebble, Chic Shadow, Misty Mountain and Urban Obsession as well as the wide selection in the ‘Calm Neutrals’ section of the Dulux colour unit at your local DIY superstore.”
I hope this has helped a little. Remember everyone’s computer will show colours differently so you will still have to use sample pots but perhaps this will narrow down the choices a little. And finally, grey is so on trend that we have had to acquire a grey kitten. This is Enid.
And if you want to know more you can pre-order my book Shades of Grey which is due out on 11 February 2016. Lots more information, lots more experts, lots more advice and help