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Shades of grey to elevate your home

From the Resene decorating blog

This versatile neutral might seem serious but will happily team up with any colour of the rainbow for a myriad of schemes.

Decorating with grey Resene wallpaper

An alternative way of decorating with grey is to use Resene wallpaper which allows you to add extra interest with intricate patterns. This wallpaper is Mason Tosca MT01, featuring Resene Rice Cake and Resene Half Delta, from the Masons Handcrafted wallpaper collection which highlights the stunning work of New Zealand artist William Mason. After winning the competition for wallpaper design at the Festival of Wellington in 1961, Mason became a star in New Zealand wallpaper design and his showroom in Wellington’s Marion Street later became Resene’s first ColorShop. The layering of two complementary greys in the paper is echoed by the skirting, table and grey wash on the floorboards.

On the face of it, grey can seem a boring colour, but in the home, it’s anything but. This versatile neutral might seem serious but will happily team up with any colour of the rainbow for a myriad of schemes. The resulting personality and feel of the room will depend on what tone and saturation of this versatile colour you choose and the furnishings and contrasting colours you pair it with.

Originally deemed to be a rather boring, unwelcoming colour, grey has become increasingly popular in home decorating in recent years. It is a calming base which will go with any other colour so it steps into the role as a new neutral well, giving a welcome alternative to the various shades of white which have ruled our roosts for so long. But forming a calm base and letting other colours tell the story is not its only role. This colour can also take the lead when used boldly or when multiple different shades are combined for a sophisticated layered look.

The basics of a good story

Grey is a stronger neutral than white, cream or off-white and that could lead to a more exciting and elegant feel to a room, but before you begin to plan a scheme with grey as a base, think carefully about which shade you want to choose and what end result you’re hoping for.

Pale greys like Resene Seashell or Resene Athens Grey and mid greys like Resene Iron or Resene Concrete can offset vibrant citrus tones adding balance, or they can also blend with soft and watery turquoise and purple hues or materials like glass and metalwork. However, before you consider a colour scheme with grey as a base, it's worth considering the effect you want to create and how much natural light your room receives. A sunny room can carry a deep striking tone such as Resene Tuna while a room that needs warming up will be better with a paler hue with warm taupe or yellow undertones such as Resene White Pointer.

Setting the scene for sleep

Grey can be a restful colour but certain hues such as those without a warm undertone can also be draining so take care using this colour in a bedroom. One option is to go for low-saturated versions of natural tones of pebble (Resene Misty Lavender) and stone (Resene Eighth Arrowtown) which mix well with other natural hues like sand (Resene Safari) and chalk (Resene Chalk Dust), as well as materials like linen and pale wood making for a laidback and restful scheme.

An almost-white pale grey such as Resene Sea Fog can create a serene base which can be gently elevated by using a slightly darker shade such as Resene Half White Pointer on items such as the headboard, window frames and chest of drawers. For warmth in the bedroom using grey, choose a tone with a warm undertone of green or taupe, and bring that undertone out by using a vibrant version of the colour while dressing the bed. If you like a dark bedroom, go for a charcoal grey complemented by window treatments and bedlinen that brings out its undertones.

A bedroom with layers of different shades of grey

This bedroom demonstrates the interest that can be achieved by layering various different tones of grey – with shapes in Resene Silver Chalice adding extra fun and drama and deep taupe accents adding warmth and bringing out the sandy undertones of the base grey Resene Half Stack. Other elements in the room further layer the grey including the bedside table in Resene Double Stack and vase in Resene Cape Palliser and the floor and door in Resene Silver Chalice with semi-circles in Resene Half Grey Friars, echoed by the deep grey of the bedspread, the result is a restful feel with a playful vibe. Euro pillowcases from Allium, duvet cover, magnet euro pillowcase and linen cushions on bed from Adairs, pillowcases and throw from Homebody, rust linen look throw from The Warehouse, moon floor lamp from Citta. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

Living with grey

The room that has embraced grey more than any other is the living space. You might think that grey is a masculine colour and not very feminine but don’t forget the versatility of grey, especially the barely-there, soft hues which will team with almost any colour you can think of allowing you to take your scheme in any direction you choose. Team a soft grey with soft pink and pastel green for a pretty colour palette. Layering different greys also works well, giving a living area depth and interest. Bolder greys look best when teamed with elements like window treatments or a large sofa in a strong colour, think deep jewel-colours for a luxurious feel in fabrics such as suede or velvet. And remember that paint isn’t the only way to add colour to your walls and grey can also look good on Resene wallpaper, particularly if you want to introduce a pattern.

A hint is sometimes enough

Using grey in the home doesn’t have to mean wall-to-wall colour. It also works well as an accent wall or to draw out a feature such as a chimney breast where a strong grey can draw the eye towards the fireplace or to highlight woodwork around the skirting, windows and doors. Pale silvery greys such as Resene Concrete and mid greys like Resene Half Stack against crisp cool whites while greys with more depth contrast well with warm off-whites.

A dark grey bedroom

For those that like a dark bedroom, grey can lend a restful feel that will help you feel cocooned and cosy.

These walls, skirting and shelves are enveloped in Resene Nocturnal while the floor is differentiated in the dark grey-green shade Resene Viktor. This combination is echoed in the bed dressings with a little softness added by the choice of silk cushions, knitted blanket and potted plants. Duvet from Wallace Cotton Throw and olive cushion from Cotton On Home, knot cushion and accent plant, from Farmers, mist cushion from Shut the Front Door, moss cushion from Freedom, plant pots from Bed Bath & Beyond, assorted house plants from The Warehouse.

Grey exterior weatherboards with a bright yellow front door

Grey was a popular choice for exteriors long before it became the neutral of choice inside.

This bright and welcoming front door in Resene Turbo brings out the warm yellow undertones in the grey weatherboards, painted in Resene Triple Concrete. The warm grey of the boards is further lifted and given interest by a bench in Resene Tuna and plant pots in Resene Silver Chalice and Resene Nocturnal. Door from Corinthian Doors, light from Lighting Direct, cushion by Nes Design. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Bryce Carleton.

Weathering it well

Grey is also popular on the exterior of homes working well on both weatherboard and plaster or roughcast clad homes. Resene Mischka is a bold mid grey that makes a strong statement without being too overpowering or cold, or try Resene Stack from the Resene Heritage Range. Perfect for a traditional weatherboard villa, choose a high-gloss version and contrast with crisp white woodwork for a sophisticated look. If your home has a plaster finish you might opt for a stronger slate grey like Resene Gannet Grey remembering that outdoors, colours look lighter and will be affected by neighbouring colours used on window frames, doors and the roof.

Top tips

August 08, 2021

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