Grey. The perfect colour chameleon.

At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to write an article for ‘Country Homes & Interiors’ magazine, I’ve decided that now I’ve had some time to reflect on my latest major creative project – The House – that I should really include a post about it, and what I’ve been trying to achieve.

For me, despite my love of being out and about, travelling and holidays, there really is ‘No Place Like Home’ (as Dorothy so rightly told us in ‘The Wizard of Oz’), and whilst we felt settled in our house (surrounded by our furniture, photos and ‘things’) from the moment we moved in, it is not until I’ve made my mark on a place by decorating it that I can really relax and feel that I’ve created ‘our’ home.

There was nothing particularly terrible about the way the house was decorated when we moved in. There was no swirly carpet or dodgy wood-chip wallpaper. There was  however a great deal of what I labelled  ‘nicotine yellow’. Nothing wrong with yellow at all, but this particular shade just felt a bit grubby and dingy, – like stained off-white walls in a working mens club! So, I set about obliterating that nicotine yellow with light, refreshing, calm, airy, wonderful grey. Lots and lots of wonderful grey.

I used to hate grey. It always made me think of dodgy grey-marl sweaty sports t-shirts and I would never have imagined a decade ago that I would be living surrounded by so much grey.  However, grey now tops the list as the most popular neutral in home decor and I too, have jumped on the bandwagon. ..not because it’s a ‘fashionable’ colour (well, perhaps just a little bit!) but because it’s rise in popularity has led to the creation and availability of a huge variety of shades which I’ve discovered are the perfect backdrop to our home. There have been articles about the rising popularity of grey being linked with more austere times. I’m not convinced. More interesting than white, more modern than beige, I just think that everyone got a bit bored.  Grey co-ordinates well with other materials and other colours. It is the perfect colour chameleon.

Many shades of grey are what’s known as ‘cusp colours’.  “They’re WHAT?” I hear you cry! Well, let me tell you: Our brains store colours under definite groupings. However many grey shades are on the cusp of 2 or more of these groupings, so our brains are unable to store them as an exact memory – you have to keep looking at them to know what colour they are and once you walk away, it is very hard to precisely visualise it again. This is why I love them. They look different in different light and their complexity and depth means that even though ‘everyone else is doing it’, it is possible to pick one that feels unique and will work well in any home, whether modern or classic.   

For the greys in our new home, I turned to my trusted paint supplier, Little Greene – an Independent British Paint Manufacturer. 

I first came across Little Greene when I was researching products for painting kitchen cabinets in our old house. I uncovered the website Tradition Painter which features advice from painters and decorators about hand painting furniture and kitchen cabinets. One of their decorators, Andy Crichton wrote an interesting piece about ‘designer paints’. The outcome of which was a recommendation for Little Greene ‘Traditional Oil Based Eggshell’. I bought some. I was converted.
One of the great things I like about these paints is the very matt, chalky finish. The oil-based eggshell has a very (very) low sheen which means that the imperfections in old woodwork trim (dents in the skirting boards, layers of old paint – chipped off but impossible to sand back) are not quite so glaringly obvious. Of course, I could have spent hours and hours sanding out these imperfections, or replaced old woodwork with new but, aside from the fact that life is too short for all that faff, I quite like these marks of character in an old house. They hint at it’s history. They tell it’s story. 

So, now I’ve revealed my obsession with grey paint, here’s a little bit about the rooms  that I’ve decorated with grey. (Get me and the little montage mood boards I’ve put together – not very professional but I tried!).

For our bedroom. I wanted to create a light, fresh, calm, relaxing space, so used Little Greene’s ‘French Grey Pale’ and ‘French Grey’ which have undertones of lilac-blue.  It’s now one of my favourite rooms (and not just because sleep is one of my favourite hobbies!!) 

The hall, stairs and landing are painted in ‘Pearl Colour’, with woodwork in ‘Pearl Colour Pale’. Pearl Colour was created in association with English Heritage as a traditional Georgian shade, so perfect for our Georgian farmhouse. It took me nearly 6 weeks to complete the project, but whilst I got very bored of the painting, I never once tired of the shade, which changes from cool grey to grey-blue to grey-green as the light moves around the house during the day . I love it!

Oh, and I did have time to dust off the sewing machine whilst working on this project. Old doors = Draughts. So, I made a coordinating draught-excluder for our big old front door, with a handy handle to hang it on the hallway coat hooks when not in use.
For our family room I wanted to create a cosy space for use in the colder months of the year. The room has a toasty log burner and chunky dark stained ceiling beam. I wasn’t too keen on the exposed brick work surrounding the fireplace, but decided to embrace it  and go for a rustic, warm scheme combining the shades of our solid stripped pine furniture, with chunky knit throws, faux fur cushions and checked fabric. Again, I found time for some sewing and made the window seat cushion in a lovely 100% wool from British fabric manufacturer, Alfred Moon, in their grape Balmoral check. With hints of mauve and lilac, French Grey emulsion paint on the walls again provided the perfect neutral background.

So there we have it. My slightly pretentious post about interior design! I still have 3 more rooms to go, which will undoubtedly feature some grey shades here and there, but with the majority completed, I do feel that I’ve done it. I’ve created our home.

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