Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Grey Trend

I'm going to stop calling it The Grey Trend and start calling it The Colour Trend instead.
Why? I want this discussion to be less about the colour grey itself, and more about the fact that there has always been and will always be a colour trend of some kind. And as long as there are trends, there will be people eager to be the first to declare them in or out.
The real scoop is that we're currently in the middle of a 10-year neutral trend cycle with grey. Before grey, we were all about brown, and before that, maybe you remember sage green. Many of us can even recall the forest green trend of the 80s.
The reason grey is trendy right now is that it provides a crisp backdrop to the bold, clean and colourful hues we're all decorating with now. The media focuses on grey and whether it's in or out, but the real news is that bright and happy colour is here to stay. Those happy colours need grey as a backdrop because the beiges we were using as part of the brown trend generally die when combined with clean colours. Pale beiges are allowed, but the darker ones mostly look dirty.


Used as a neutral backdrop, grey will be on trend for a long time yet. (Exactly how long depends on where you live.)
Use grey to decorate your space from top to bottom, though, and it'll not only be trying too hard to be trendy, it'll also be just bad. Grey by itself is debilitating; it works best when used as a crisp backdrop for colour.
One of my lovely readers recently posted this comment:
"I went to my dentist and was horrified to see that they had re-done the office in dark gray on gray on gray! No color whatsoever, but a gray plaid fabric on some of the walls, and a frenetic-patterned gray carpet.
When I talked with the dentist about it, she commented that they had used an interior designer, and that gray was on trend. It made my heart sink, and I sometimes get discouraged when I hear stuff like this. How much longer do you think the gray trend is going to last?"
If you walk into a room and the first thing you notice is GREY, that's a room decorated entirely in a trendy neutral. It's too much, and will date very quickly.
The same goes for brown. One year ago, a restaurant in our neighbourhood was purchased and re-painted by the new owners. They painted all the wainscotting and the ceiling a dark, oppressive brown. The colour was obviously chosen by someone who had no idea where the trends are and mostly no idea how to work with brown so that it would at least be attractive. The last time I had breakfast there, I vowed never to return. The atmosphere is so bad! Their food quality has gone down because their customers are dwindling, and my prediction is that they'll get through summer with the tourists and then it'll be over after that.
Whatever colour you're using, you need to know what you're doing and why.
Every single decade has its own trendy neutral that most people will use as the foundation neutral for tile, countertops, millwork, etc. Some think brown is still that trendy neutral. If a consumer has been coveting the look of rich brown cabinets and she finally has the money to renovate but doesn't realize brown is out, she will still install a brown kitchen without knowing that it will instantly look over 10 years old, and really, probably closer to 15.
But does that mean we shouldn't use brown at all anymore? No. Brown has always been the colour of dining room tables, consoles, end tables, and coffee tables, and there's no reason to throw all of that out. Lighter (instead of mid-tone dark) beiges will still work with the greys and brighter colours we're seeing everywhere today, but if your home is filled top to bottom with matching espresso brown furniture, or if you're using exclusively distressed, grey-washed wood furniture, that's trendy.

Grey is OUT! The Colour Trend is IN | Maria Killam


Most likely, your home has some brown in it, and maybe some of the trendy neutrals from previous decades, too. And now you want to introduce grey without going overboard.
You don't have to change everything just to be able to use grey, but you DO have to understand how clean and dirty colours work together before you do anything drastic. Grey dies when paired with dull, earthy, muddy colours. You can't suddenly paint your walls charcoal if you have a sage green sofa from the 90s, and you shouldn't buy a charcoal sofa if your carpet is a muted 80s blue. You can't just throw some grey in any room and expect it to look instantly transformed.
What you can do is find a fabric or an area rug that will introduce some fresh colour while still relating to your old colours.
I have curated tons of different colours on my Etsy boards, and I have one board full of pillows with earthy colours that'll also bring in some brights. Start there when creating a new inspiration center for your house. If grey fits in somewhere, you'll know when you find the pillow (or area rug) that brings in the new and the old.
To make it even more confusing, can you deliberately mix beige and grey?
Yes. Here's proof:
Grey is OUT! The Colour Trend is IN | Maria KillamMy favourite image of grey + beige {Barbara Barry}
When you already have earth tones and you want to introduce grey, you'd better know what you're doing. When you already have beige and you want to add some clean and bright colours, you can't do it without some serious advance planning. But you CAN do it.
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Maria Killam is a vibrant Canadian decorator whose website and newsletter are always informative. Grey is a neutral that can be dead-looking without color. Think of blighted trees, they look dead because of their lack of color! I noticed loads of Oak Wilt casualties along the highways and decided grey connotes death! 


  1. Fascinating! Truly! I never will think of grey the same way I used to. Your explanation really works for me. The grey on beige image is my favorite way to use grey. I love to wear grey and if I can pair it with some shade of beige more the better : )
    Thank you.

    1. Hi, Terri. I recently had my colors done and, surprise! One of my palette is grey. It is easy to find that color in clothes, shoes, etc. And, I especially like to add a strong color, also from my palette with it, for grey enhances bright colors. Think of a male cardinal on a grey day for the "pop of color" I like.