Dream Homemakeovers and Grey is Back

We made it back at last. What with Sophie having to do the voiceovers for her show, me on a book deadline and Covid striking our producer it took longer to get going than we thought and it was back to the duvet dens  last week for our recording of The Great Indoors Podcast …

madabouthehouse grey kitchen by Pau Craig
madabouthehouse grey kitchen by Paul Craig

To kick off the new series I introduced Sophie to the delights of Wordle and, in return, she told me about her moth infestation. Which was nice although we did talk about deterrents for this common problem. We also discussed her new show and the return of grey… specifically Elephant’s Breath which was, apparently, Farrow & Ball’s most searched for colour last year. I know!

This soft grey shade was launched in 2005 and has been hugely popular ever since. In 2009 I wrote a piece for The Independent in which Dulux announced that grey was overtaking the traditional magnolia and shades of taupe to become one of its most popular colours. Oh how I laughed. I was laughing less by 2016 when I wrote my first book Shades of Grey and my entire house was painted in, well, three shades of it.

madaboutthehouse grey bathroom by Paul Craig
madaboutthehouse grey bathroom by Paul Craig

By 2018, grey was starting to pass on and when Sophie and I launched the podcast in October of that year she declared it dead. I, with more prescience – even if I do say so myself – said it was merely having a lie down.

And so it has proved. Grey is BACK. Apparently. Or rather it has never gone away. The Times wrote a piece on its return and the new issue of Living Etc has just dropped through my door with a glossy trends pull-out featuring, yes, grey.

madaboutthehouse grey bedroom by Paul Craig
madaboutthehouse grey bedroom by Paul Craig

Farrow & Ball are tipping Elephant’s Breath to be their best-selling shade of 2022 while Coat Paints, founded in 2020, say grey is massive for them as it finds a new audience. So what do you think? There is no grey in my house any more but I have written about how to pick the right shade in this, the most popular post of all time in 10 years of the blog, if you fancy a go either for the first time or a return. Or perhaps you haven’t changed your décor and have just sat out the cycle and find yourself back at the top again.

madaboutthehouse grey bedroom by Paul Craig
madaboutthehouse grey bedroom by Paul Craig

Now in complete contrast, for a word about Sophie’s Dream Home Makeovers (Channel 5 Wednesdays at 7pm). Not just a chance to fill this post with more colour but also because, for once, it’s an interiors programme that has no element of game show to it. There’s no competition and no winners or losers. Applicants bring their own money and ask for help with their décor (there’s no building either beyond carpentry).

pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson
pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson

And if you’re worried that Sophie is a little colourful for your style I present exhibit no 1: in the first episode she created a black room. In the third a room of neutrals (which she found quite stressful to be fair!).

“It’s not about making telly for entertainment – although clearly that is a factor – but about working with the client to come up with something they want,” she says.

“From the first visit I’m looking for little clues and a hook to hang my scheme on. What didn’t make the final edit of the black room was that the owner had just ordered a black kitchen so I knew they would like it. I was working with them and listening to them all the way through although a lot of that doesn’t make the final edit.

pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson
pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson

“It was a huge room, with a massive telly and they wanted a speakeasy vibe. It was the first time I had ever wrapped a room in black.”

In the second episode, Sophie tackles colour blocking for a professional set designer who was very particular about the quality of the paint used. They opted for Benjamin Moore who have a range that will cover both walls and woodwork which will save money as you don’t have to buy a separate tin for the skirting boards and end up with lots of leftovers.

pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson
pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson

“Other people need a lot of hand-holding with their schemes but we look at mood boards, and planning and I hope the show educates viewers on colour and layout and gives the homeowners the knowledge to do the rest of their homes.

“Obviously on tv we need the reveal so it’s about spending a lot of money in one go but you don’t have to do that. You can save and do a bit at a time.”

pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson
pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson

And, of course if you invest the time you will plan and get it right and you won’t have to spend money doing it again because you will taken the time to get it right first go so any changes might just be a question of repainting the walls rather than having to move them.

But of course last night was all about John and Leslie, whose home was in several shades of grey with the odd colourful cushion.

pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson
pictures courtesy of channel 5 Dream Home Makeovers with Sophie Robinson

“I thought they might be afraid of colour so I presented a gentle scheme to them and, in a first for me, they said: ‘that’s a bit disappointing’ so we went for it! And I will say that when I first met her she was tight and anxious and by the time we had finished her whole body language had changed.”

Mind you if grey really is back, I wonder if Leslie will feel tempted to get the brushes back out? And on that note I will leave you but keep an eye out for a fleeting appearance of The Mad House in episode 5.










Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Grey hasn’t been gone long enough for me! As a firm believer that colour and pattern really elevate the mood, the thought that grey is back really concerns me. Even though greys have undertones of other colours in them, most of them read quite flat and deaden a space in my opinion, especially when teamed with other greys. I’m all for encouraging my clients to step away from the safer neutrals and to explore the joy that the right colours for them can bring to their homes. Please keep grey at bay!

  2. Re:grey… sometimes,in some places,in certain lights, a few particular shades… mebbe. Mostly though grey repels me & I loathe the ubiquity of it.

  3. oh lovely, that’s a podcast to look forward to on my evening dog walk.

    Kate, can you tell me which grey did you use in your bathroom above? It’s dreamy and I can see it working very well in our grown-up den. And, if i can trouble you some more, which white did you use for the windows/fire surround?

  4. A timely post, as I am just about to paint my bathroom in Elephant’s Breath. However – controversial opinion incoming – I don’t think it’s a true grey! At least it doesn’t read that way in my north-facing room. It comes across to me as more of a warmish mushroom brown shade with pink undertones, and Google Images confirms that I am not alone. I tried out a couple of slatey bachelor-pad greys as well and they just looked cold and depressing. Perhaps that’s why it’s become popular – we don’t need our British rooms to look any chillier than they already are.

  5. Great to have you both back. TGI has won me around to things I thought I would never open the pocket door to: pattern, upholstery, and even (a bit of) grey. Just ask my hair! Thanks Kate.

  6. I agree with John. Grey, like white, is a classic. I don’t think it ever went away – people with vested interests in selling us things tried to convince us grey was dead but we weren’t having any of it.

  7. I don’t think it needs to be a stark choice between using grey or being anti-grey. I have a mix of strong colour (LG canton, mid azure green, leather) with greys – F&B Railings, Downpipe and Lamp room Grey. These colours all work together and I love the mix.

  8. A grey renaissance is not for me, thank you very much. But looking forward to listening to the podcast while I redecorate a bedroom (Little Greene Delicate Blue or Brighton, the jury still out – but it certainly won’t be grey, now or ever!).

  9. Thanks goodness for that. GREY is back. Anything else is merely a fashion fad promoted by those with vested interests. Grey is calming, sensible and timeless. Just what’s needed in theses trying times.

  10. Really looking forward to hearing you both on the podcast again! You made my day when you had your upholsterer Vintique on and she was talking about loving Parker Knoll chairs done in bold velvets because as I was listening, I was slip stitching the back of a velvet PK! I felt very on trend, and that doesn’t happen to me all that often. 😊

    But in the meantime…. I have just lost my heart to that headboard fabric! It’s grabbed my heart with both hands and I have to have it! I could make something out of it or resurrect an old thing maybe. Do you know where the fabric was from, by any chance?

    1. I know Sophie has been posting details of each room on her blog so the fabric might be listed there. Good luck with the hunt!

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