Colour
Feb 14, 2012

How to: Decorate with grey

By: Celerie Kemble

How to: Decorate with grey Author: Style At Home

Colour
Feb 14, 2012

How to: Decorate with grey

By: Celerie Kemble
Think of a room in grey scale (meaning black, white, and everything in between) as you would think of a monochromatic outfit—say, a grey dress. With no further information, you might picture a corporate uniform: dull, austere, and gloomy. But pair that dress with a shimmery, sequined charcoal cardigan, a faded black leather jacket, and a handful of thick silver chains and you have something else entirely, something that takes minutes to decode, rather than seconds. The results can also be more tasteful and sophisticated than a similar outfit in louder colours. If you draw from too many hues in your wardrobe, you may attain Boho fabulousness—or you may find yourself costumed for the circus. The same truth applies to a room. Grey scale is markedly more flexible than colours: You can pile grey on or pare it back, and it will continue to meet the mood. The boundaries of black and white allow you to play with variety in a room, with less risk of making it look like a set from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

grey-decor-variations-bedroom.jpg
From the chinoiserie fabric and silk lampshade to the sueded headboard, cotton bedskirt, and cashmere throw blanket, variations on a gray pepper this Leslie Cohen-designed bedroom. Photography courtesy of Fairfield County at Home, copyright by Amy Vischio.

Decorating with grey
There are a myriad of effective tools to create a nuanced room in grey scale. grey-decor-bergere-chair.jpg
A slightly darker wall colour grounds the luminous silk of an adjacent bergere chair. Photography by Willie Cole Photography.

Play with variations
Play with the variations of tone in a strié paint finish, or a silk velvet that glows luminously with light and also holds deep saturated shadows. grey-decor-textures.jpg
A close-up of the many textures in the Jesse Carrier living room. Photography by Zach DeSart.

Combine texture and tone
Drill down into the details and implement a few audacious touches to produce a memorable combination of still-subdued texture and tone. Grey can be boring when applied with a timid hand: If you render it in broad monotone strokes, you’re dabbling with the dreary. grey-decor-living-room.jpg
Layered shades of French grey (warmer and brown in tone) with accents of glass, metal, and black make for a very tailored and gender-neutral living room. Photography by Michael Graydon.

Vary the shades
For a simple option, using five variations of a shade on an equal number of throw pillows. grey-decor-artwork.jpg
Layered art: A bronze bust stands in the foreground while a figurative charcoal drawing cuts into the frame of a moody canvas of greys and blacks. Photography courtesy of Fairfield County at Home, copyright by Amy Vischio.

Embrace patinas
Embrace age-enhancing patina: Think of how a colour enhanced black-and-white photo can look a little cheesy when contrasted with a faded original; or how wonderfully solemn Italian frescoes can suddenly appear almost garish when their tempering patinas are removed and the original gaudy coloration emerges again. Grey wash and varied tones add romance, so search out elements that look storied. grey-decor-white-ebony.jpg
Design firm ODADA’s exploration of living room as sculpture uses the cohesive effect of a soft grey scale as backdrop to a dramatic experiment. Sweeps of glossy white vinyl lie atop a plywood “over-floor” and rise onto and over the simple plywood furniture forms—coffee table, daybed, and chairs. Beneath them an exposed ebony floor serves up high contrast to highlight the beauty of negative space. Photography by Matthew Millman.

The main neutral
Use grey as your main neutral, but add spark by pairing it with colours: Grey plays well with everything from cobalt blue to aqua, flax to taupe, lemon ice to sunflower yellow. Most people choose brown or beige as their predominant neutral, since wood plays a significant role in interior design, but grey is an inspired and exciting alternative, particularly if the rest of your colour palette tends toward cool—or if you’re inclined to paint your wood white or ebonize it. grey-decor-concrete-walls.jpg
Photography by Douglas Friedman

Concrete
Exposed concrete walls prove anything but plain. grey-decor-dining-room-details.jpg
Photography by Josh Gibson

All in the details
In this technically neutral dining room designed by Meg Braff, grey- patterned wallpaper, curtains with brush fringe, velvet seat backs with piping and tape trim detail, and leather seats create a great backdrop for a dinner party.



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Excerpted from Black and White (and a bit in between) by Celerie Kemble. Copyright 2011 by Celerie Kemble. Excerpted with permission by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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How to: Decorate with grey