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The evolution of grey

From the Resene decorating blog

Grey. It’s a colour that sometimes has a bit of an image problem when it comes to featuring in modern, stylish interior design.

Too often it’s consigned to the exteriors where it’s traditionally done an outstanding job on roofs, window frames and weatherboards of our beloved bungalows and villas. It’s use has tended toward the functional rather than the design-focused.

It’s time to change all that. Used with some creative thought and flair, grey has the potential to be one of the most stylish, versatile and hardest working colours out there.

A grey bedroom

A grey bedroom with one yellow toned wall

These two different bedrooms both have walls in Resene Eighth Stonehenge, a floor in Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash, skirting in Resene Ebony Clay and a headboard in Resene Double Stonehenge showcasing how versatile different grey tones can be as a neutral backdrop for different space. In the first image the shelf is Resene Ebony Clay, the bottom of the tote is Resene Corvette, the vases are Resene Double Stonehenge (tall), Resene Half Barely There and Resene Rakaia (medium) and Resene Cinnamon (small). The return wall is Resene Half Gin Fizz. In the second image, the return wall is Resene Stinger. The lightshade is Resene Nero and the hook rack is Resene Half Barely There. Projects by Kate Alexander, images by Bryce Carleton. Duvet cover, pillowcases, bedspread, mirror (painted), rug and canvas tote bag (painted) from H&M, waffle throw, cushions and slippers from Collect Living, artwork by George Sands from endemicworld. Face vase and bedspread from H&M Home, cover and pillowcases from Citta, charcoal quilt and cushions from Collect Living, Tangaroa and Ranginui artworks by Oslo from endemicworld All other props are stylist’s own.

Which grey is OK?

Grey works extremely well as a neutral, and there are many versatile shades included in Resene’s White and Neutrals collection from cool pale shades like Resene Half Concrete to bold blue-grey Resene Grey Friars.

What becomes quickly apparent is that where white and black neutrals have a range of subtly different options based on their base tones, but generally they can still be easily recognisable as ‘white’ or ‘black’. Grey, on the other hand, runs the full spectrum from icy pale Resene Half Black White, to the deep charcoal of Resene Double Cod Grey, with elegant dove tones like Resene Grey Chateau and steely shades such as Resene Silver Chalice along the way. There are blue-greys, brown-greys, green-greys… it soon becomes clear just how versatile “grey” actually is.

So just as you might ask which white is right for your interior space, you should also ask, which grey is OK?

A home office with a monochrome colour palette

Bold use of shapes and contrast within a monochrome palette carve out a dramatic space for this home office. The main wall and floor are painted in Resene Ravine, office square in Resene Pumice, desk and bookshelf in Resene Blue Smoke, chair in Resene Harp, rubbish bin in Resene Armadillo, ladder in Resene Pewter, magazine file and plant pot in Resene Yucca and vases, bowls and smaller accessories in Resene Napa, Resene Yucca, Resene Blue Smoke, Resene Pewter, Resene Ravine, Resene Haven, Resene Pumice and Resene Harp. Pot from Allium, artwork from from Etsy/Noamaart. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

To narrow it down, think about what kind of effect you want in your space. Are you after a warm and cosy retreat in a bedroom or sitting area, or are you after a cooler, airy finish?

Next, think about the room itself. How much natural light does it get? Is your artificial lighting warm or cool toned? Is the room on the south (cooler) or north (warmer) side of the house?

To warm a room up try smoky, or charcoal greys such as Resene Eighth Masala or Resene Half Nocturnal. If your room is filled with warm natural light, experiment with cooler tones such as Resene Surrender or Resene Seashell.

Grey is also a colour that can completely change in different lights, so Resene testpots will be your best friend. Try different shades in different parts of the room, and under different artificial lights to see how the colour changes.

Top layering tip:  The other way to warm up grey rooms is with plenty of textures. Thick dove grey or cream wools, wicker, charcoal velvets, and rough timber or brick finishes that all add depth and softness to the room. Floors in natural wood tones work particularly well with warm greys. For a cooler effect wash floorboards in Resene Colorwood Greywash.

Top lighting tip:  As a general rule when it comes to grey rooms, the cooler the grey you choose, the warmer (more yellow) the lighting should be. Check it still feel cosy and welcoming at night, rather than dark and cold.

A tonal grey bedroom

Layers of tonal greys put an elegant spin on a classic black and white monochrome, made even more eye-catching with the sparingly used splashes of orange. These bedroom walls are painted in Resene Half Stack with a circle feature in Resene Surrender, door in Resene Surrender with a circle in Resene Half Grey Friars, bedside table in Resene Double Stack, floor in Resene Silver Chalice, tall vase in Resene Blackjack, smaller vase in Resene Desperado and tealight holder in Resene Cape Palliser. Waffle euro pillowcases from Allium, printed pillowcases and throw from Homebody, rust linen look throw from The Warehouse, linen duvet, pillowcases and cushions from Adairs, floor lamp from Citta. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Wendy Fenwick.

What the heck is greige?

You don’t have to spend too much time researching grey shades before you come across greige, which describes shades that are a blend of grey and beige. It’s a word that’s been around for a long time, but has been having a modern resurgence… with good reason.

The warmth of these brown or beige-toned greys makes them extremely versatile. They’re very user-friendly when you’re looking for a hardworking colour as a background that will work with multiple other shades, from muted naturals to bold brights.

Some popular Resene greige shades include Resene Half Napa, Resene Triple White Pointer and Resene Quarter Stonehenge. Give them a lift with bright whites and accent colours in a nautical blue like Resene Spinnaker or try tonal layers in Resene Sepia and Resene Stonewall.

A dining room with soft grey and dark blue walls

Cool, soft greys mixed with sky and dark blues create an airy, summery feel in this casual dining area.

The walls are painted in (from left to right) Resene Bunting, Resene Flotsam and Resene Polo Blue with arch and floor in Resene Alabaster, chairs in Resene Link Water, large vase in Resene Time Out and bud vase in Resene Frozen. Trolley from BoConcept, table from Jardin, garden tools from Father Rabbit. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

A dark grey bedroom with magneta accents

Magenta accents and touches of paler greys make this deep grey space inviting and cosy.

Bedrooms walls painted in Resene Quarter Bokara Grey, floor in Resene Eighth Bokara Grey, cane headboard and side table in Resene Virtuoso, pendant light and ladder in Resene Ethereal, slender vase, tealight and hex wall planter in Resene Dreamtime and the cork tealight holder is in Resene Rebel. Duvet and plum/pink cushions from H&M Home, waffle euro, grey throw and cushion from Allium Interiors, robe from Ezibuy, lounge chair from Early Settler, tote bag from Citta, wrapping paper used as framed art from Father Rabbit. Project by Vanessa Nouwens, image by Melanie Jenkins.

Other grey moods

While the versatile grey/beige combination of greige gets a lot of attention, there are plenty of other fun parts of the grey spectrum to play in.

Stormy greys with blue/green or even slight lavender tones look sleek and urban. Some can run towards cool, so test different shades on your room to see how best they can be used. Some examples are Resene Emerge, Resene Clouded Blue or Resene Duck Egg Blue.

Charcoal is the drama queen of the grey family, particularly when used fearlessly on walls with lighter tonal layers and a contrasting accent. Try Resene Bokara Grey with a fresh touch of Resene Tusk and Resene Truffle.

For a softer, calm grey mood try true or mid-grey shades like Resene Grey Nurse, Resene Concrete or Resene Half Stack. Add warm tonal layers in shades like Resene Freestyling and a dark contrast such as Resene Indian Ink.

Did you know?  Grey is thought to enhance creativity. Why not give it a try in the home office or in a study area?

In its natural habitat

Grey has long been used as a staple colour of our exterior decorating, particularly for weatherboard houses and corrugated iron roofs. It’s ability to blend with its surroundings makes it a perfect shade to use in other areas like walls and fences, or make outdoor living areas feel sturdy and cosy.

How about a bold charcoal or deep greige front door, in Resene Ironsand or Resene Baltic Sea; an eye-catching dramatic spin on the trend for bright front doors.

Darker grey shades also work well on outdoor furniture, to give it a concrete-like, sturdy feel. Then surround them in lush greenery, and add a few brightly coloured cushions for a sophisticated tropical vibe. The flip side of this is to paint a mid-grey screen or backdrop for your outdoor seating area, which would match perfectly with natural wood or lightly stained furniture.

Grey colour combinations to try:

Resene Ethereal

Resene Dreamtime

Resene Colorwood Mid Greywash

Resene Eighth Bokara Grey

Resene Virtuoso

August 10, 2021

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