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Decorating with grey

14 June 2018

Grey is the perfect neutral. It looks fresh and modern and it goes with every other colour on the spectrum. It can be dark and dramatic or pale and Nordic. Kate Watson-Smyth, founder of the UK's No.1 interiors blog and author of Shades of Grey and Made About The House - How To Decorate Your Home With Style, shares her top tips on this highly acclaimed colour from her gorgeous, grey, London abode.

Grey is perfectly suited to the Scandi chic or industrial glamour trends. It will bring a little edge to a traditional sofa or a hint of urban cool to a buttoned-up Chesterfield. But despite its popularity, and it has now overcome any notions of fashion and moved into the realms of being regarded as a classic neutral, it remains one of the hardest colours to work with.

Choosing the right grey

Get it wrong and your room will be cold and unwelcoming. Get it right and your home will look chic, sophisticated and modern. 

So how do you decorate with grey? Let's start with the walls. First of all you need to work out how much natural light your room has and which way it faces. Grey is easily influenced and the cool blue light of a north-facing room will cool it down and make the room look cold. The warm, yellow light of the south will turn a cool grey into beige. And if you face east or west the light will change as the sun moves across the sky. But, don't worry, as this is why sample pots were invented. You need to try the colours on the wall and view them in the different stages of natural light. 

You should also consider checking how the grey shade reacts under electric light, which can have a dramatic effect on some grey shades. 

My top tip? Start with greys that have a warm pink or greeny base as they tend to work in all directions.

Inspired to decorate with grey?


Grey mistake? no such thing

Don't worry if you get it wrong on the first attempt. Since grey is easily influenced it's possible to correct a colour error with accessories. A blush pink sofa will help warm up a cold grey sitting room, whilst a wall will work wonders in a kitchen or, if you have gone the other way then some silver appliances (such as a kettle or toaster) will cool a beige-grey down.

Accessorise with a sofa or statement headboard

Don't want to paint the walls? No problem. A grey velvet sofa is a classic that will stand the test of time. Modern velvets are tough and stain resistant, and will last longer than the linen alternative. 

Ring the changes on a velvet sofa or against a velvet headboard by altering the cushions with the seasons. Keep the look monochrome with differing greys and black and white, or throw in warm oranges, pinks and yellows for a much fresher look.

Showcase cushions and artwork

Dark grey is a great showcase for cushions and artwork as the colours will pop much better than on a white or pale background. The same applies to food. Consider dark grey plates to really make that tomato salad or pavlova look appetising. 

The joy of grey is that it loves all other colours from soft pastels to zinging neons with flowers and stripes between. Take a little time to get the base shade right and you can keep changing it up with new accent colours and accessories through the seasons.

Inspired to decorate with grey? 


Kate Watson-Smyth is a journalist, contributing to The Financial Times, The Daily Mail and The Independent. She has written two books, Shades of Grey (2016), and Mad About The House - How To Decorate Your Home With Style (2018).

You can visit Kate's inspiring Instagram, which includes guest appearances from her grey cat Enid, at: @mad_about_the_house

and visit Kate's website at:

Image credits:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Paul Craig

8, Antonia Attwood

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