Why is grey still so popular?

by | Feb 11, 2021 | News and Tips

Grey, dubbed 'the new neutral' colour, has been a popular shade now for many years. Despite the rise in maximalism and rich colours and patterns in recent seasons, grey is still a pretty big seller in home-decor stores! A trend is a reflection of current occurrences in social, political, economical, and environmental aspects of the world. It is the result of the human psyche adapting to the current circumstances of the time. History demonstrates this in the design of both fashion and interiors. Some trends come and go, others prevail. We call these micro and macro trends. Micro-trends tend to last one to two years and macro trends about 5-10 years.

A micro-trend would be combining rose-gold and pink. Pineapples and exotic patterns in pink and green depicting flamingoes and exotic plants are other examples. A macro trend would be the current grey trend which we now call ‘The new magnolia’.


Trends develop as a result of the current circumstances of the time. Life-changing events around the world influence the eventual conception and development of trends. ‘Cocooning’ is a term used in interiors. Coined by an influential trend forecaster in the eighties, Faith Popcorn, who saw peoples’ need to make their homes a sanctuary. A place where they could retreat to take a break from the world for a while at the end of their day.
A recent macro trend (developed from the most recent recession) was the modern Shabby Chic/Vintage Chic trend. The economic climate was looking bleak and people were seeking to make decorating affordable. People couldn’t afford to re-decorate or hire professional painters as often as they had. The ‘make do and mend’ mindset of previous generations came to the fore. The trend was recognisable by Laura Ashley and Kath Kidston-style colours and patterns. Furniture was chalk-painted and boot sale-purchased. There were lots of white and pretty pastels. People designed distressing/retro style wall-hangings with motivational quotes printed on them.

So why is grey still such a popular trend here in Ireland?
The popularity of grey as a neutral link with the rise of two other huge interior trends;
• Scandinavian style
• Modern Industrial style
A connection to nature influences the Scandanavian style. It combines natural shapes and materials with the abstract.
Modern Industrial style has environment-conscious connotations with many reclaimed materials. It has a pared-back look, encouraging the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ way of life. The three trends combined appeal to the current need the world is expressing, caring for the self and the environment. Getting back to basics, removing excess and simplifying life. All this while looking after the planet for future generations.
The collection of about 500 shades of grey contains many subtle notes of other colours, giving each grey a unique feel. Versatility is key to grey being popular as a neutral. It is difficult to mix colors with beige or magnolia because they have yellow undertones. This is why grey has taken over as the new neutral. There is a shade of grey that can communicate any emotion. Its versatility means that each space can tell a different story. These range from dramatic and moody to soft and airy. We can also use grey as a statement-shade in any room. Greys as neutrals go well as bolder shades as much as softer hues. Grey can take on a unique feel depending on what it’s paired with. This leads to limitless options to ensure no room is the same as another.


Tips for the simplest way to use grey
• We perceive grey as a neutral. In truth, it is a colour influenced by its undertones and its place on the temperature scale. Grey with blue/green undertones is calming but cool. Grey with red/yellow undertones is warming but appears beige when you rise in temperature. Consider the effect you want to achieve on the room where you are decorating with grey. Calming works well in bedrooms and bathrooms in southwest facing positions where more sunlight is present. Warm greys can work well in cool north east facing rooms or living areas where you want to feel cosy and welcome.

• If grey-on-grey seems too boring for you, consider bringing in shots of colour with soft furnishings, ornaments, lamps and rugs. Another option is a feature wall which can be easier and less expensive to replace when you desire a fresh look. Do this with pastels like blush to soften or with jewel tones like yellow (pantone won colour of the year 2021), teal or green to be dramatic.

• Deep greys make a dramatic statement while light greys are on the airier side in a setting. But mixing both is a great way of also creating drama in both traditional and contemporary style décor.

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