Do you remember when grey really took off as a colour? One minute we were all happily sloshing on the magnolia and then, suddenly, we had all, as it were, faded to grey. I wrote a feature for The Independent in 2009 after interviewing a Dulux spokesperson whole told me that grey was the new neutral (I have linked to it here). Reader, I was dismissive. And then I painted my house grey. And wrote a book on choosing the right shade of grey. And 11 years later, it may not be the most fashionable of shades but it is certainly a new classic.
Why am I telling you this? Because recent events have raised the awareness of nudge theory – a concept in behavioural economics which suggests positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals (stay home save lives etc).
It struck me that this is probably how trends work. We individually thought we were being fashionable or making interesting choices when it came to choosing our own particular shade of grey. This was reinforced for me about three years ago (after the grey book) when chatting to my neighbours who revealed they had decided to be very bold and paint the back half of their sitting room grey. But then they discovered during a walk along the street at dusk – that magic hour before the curtains are drawn but the lights are on – that almost every house they could peer into had some form of grey visible (they were unaware of the book and my job and it seemed rude to point it out).
In it, I wrote that it was probably a combination of the power of Dulux (it’s a global company), the fashion for the Scandi noir thrillers and, said Marianne Shillingford, the creative director of Dulux, the changing light from warm tungsten, a friend of magnolia, to cool LED, which hates magnolia and prefers to play with grey.
And so we come to this week. During my strolls through the corridors of instagram, I like and comment and bookmark the images which catch my eye. And this week, for some reason, I was drawn to lots of pale rooms. I thought they were calm and relaxing. As we enter the eighth week of lockdown (and I am writing this before the much anticipated Government announcement that probably nothing much will change!) I wonder if I am the only one?
But then, in the Saturday papers I read a fascinating piece by my friend Kat Burroughs (and I link here but you may find you can’t see it without a subscription) on the future of kitchen design following the pandemic. One theory, put forward by Jack Trench, who creates bespoke kitchens, is that we will move away from the maximalist kitchens that were gaining in popularity at the beginning of the year. They are, he said, cluttered and hard to clean and, now that we are all more hygiene aware, we may see a return to the all white kitchen which is easy to wipe down and clean.
Another designer, Gemma Dudgeon, raises the possibility of open shelves dying out for similar reasons, with separate handwashing sinks and integrated sanitisers being added. Another theory is the rise of the pantry as we have all been forced into meal planning to reduce the number of times we need to venture out to supermarkets which means we will need more, and better, storage.
I thought it was a fascinating piece and – come on it’s been a while since we had the Sex and The City voiceover – I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been drawn to white interiors because I was ahead of the curve or simply being nudged along it.
What do you think?