Nifty shades of grey

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GREY’S so sexy and sophisticated – no, calm down, dear, not the masterful hero of best-selling novel, 50 Shades Of Grey – but the decor colour.

Millions of women may be swooning over Christian Grey and his wooing of Anastasia Steele, but designers have taken all shades of grey to heart.

Once an overlooked ‘wallflower’ section on the colour chart, grey’s shed it’s cold, boring, institutional image, and is proving it’s power to transform any setting, not just a playroom!

Flirting with its subtle, versatile tones, from crisp charcoal and French grey to shimmering silver and mysterious smoke-grey could be just the way to turn up the heat at home.

“Grey is a surprisingly calming and harmonious colour to live with, but you must choose the right tone,” advises Mark Upstone, head of global visual display at The Conran Shop.

“Greys with more brown in the mix will feel warm – white based greys will feel colder.

“Be bold. Don’t restrict yourself to a feature wall, grey looks better en masse, and use different finishes of the same tone to create intriguing interest and depth.”

Give grey a starring role by using it on walls and paintwork, he suggests, with a paint such as Farrow & Ball’s Down Pipe matt emulsion, and a matching gloss paint finish for woodwork.

If that feels too overpowering, tone it down with pastels, white or a zingy kick of sharp citrus, which will ensure it has less of a masculine edge.

“Dark grey is the perfect colour to showcase artwork, pictures and mirrors on your walls. It’s far more effective than white as it makes them stand out,” he says.

“Alternatively, put the focus on a piece of grey furniture, or enhance a setting with accessories. Make a statement by painting a front door grey - it’s this season’s black - and you’ll ensure you make an entrance, simple, stylish and very current.”

Grey’s full of surprises and won’t fail to seduce any setting, so follow the guide to taking advantage of its charms.

If you’re committing to a new relationship with this colour, the best place to start is with the walls.

“Grey is a wonderful colour with so many nuances, from soft, pinky ‘dove greys’ to deep charcoal tones,” says Edward Bulmer, director of specialist paint company, Pots of Paint.

“To find the one grey you love – experiment! Try colours in different tones by using sample pots, but ensure you see how they change with the light in your home throughout the day.

“It also works well to simply paint one wall in your chosen grey and use it as a backdrop to a focus piece of furniture such as a striking sofa or sideboard.”

B&Q’s excellent grey paint range, features one particular star, Colours matt emulsion in grey slate, £13.98 for 2.5 litres, which perfectly complements a grey wallpaper scattered with yellow canaries, Colours Opera Aviary wallpaper, £8.98 a roll, available from October.

Conjure a silvan forest with Mirage wallpaper, £27 a roll by Graham & Brown, from Littlewoods, or flirt with florals by featuring ‘Crush’ wallpaper, with its elegant design of silvery roses on a grey background, from £66 per roll. It’s in the Carlucci di Chivasso Curious Wallpaper collection at JAB Anstoetz.

Grey’s a perfect partner for practical areas. Artisan tiles, in five soft, organic-wash shades including French Grey, from £83 a square metre, Laura Ashley.

Texture, shape and symmetry are vital ingredients for successful grey sanctuaries, says Jane Cowdry, founder of soft furnishings online boutique, Lily Matthews.

“The key to using grey is layering and texture,” she advises. “Using one tone throughout will look flat and dull but mix in wool, silk, linen, and velvet and you have a sophisticated uplifting room.

“This season, splashes of colour are an antidote to our winter gloom and almost anything goes with greys.

“Pinks always sit well, or you could be a little adventurous and choose a vibrant raspberry, deep purple or burnt orange and soft yellows for a lovely contrast.

“Grey works in modern and older properties, and will look as beautiful in a minimalist setting matched with sleek white shelving as it will with period wood panelling and mahogany furniture.”

Languorous lounging’s easy on a luxurious Osbourne sofa, upholstered in a silver velvet, £1,900, Sofa Design.

Alternatively, sit demurely on a chic Dali chair, £399, from or make a quirky statement with a small Tissington chair, upholstered in a grey animal-patterned fabric, £675, Pets Pyjamas.

Clutter needn’t spoil the serenity of this look if it’s safely tucked away in a pill-boxed shaped set of Mono Drawers, finished in macho dark grey and tweed, £60, Matalan (available end of September).

Transform a stuck-in-a-rut bedroom palette with greys in decor or silky fabrics to bring an air of relaxation to an uptight setting.

Hang drapery panels which puddle on the floor to frame your windows with a layer of textured sheers behind them for the ultimate in privacy.

“We’ve seen a fast-growing trend for using grey in bedroom interiors over the past year,” says Jeremy Borlant, designer and partner at Seymours of Darlington.

“Grey tones in fabrics and wallpapers create a glamorous and striking effect, especially paired with pattern and texture.”