OK, now I've got your attention(!), what's it all about? Surely greys are too dull and drab to be much use in home decorating?
Actually, greys can be very effective as neutral colours in a room, acting as a great "foil" for a feature wall or coloured furnishings. As a result, they have been
very much in fashion over the last few years - just have a flick through something like the Next catalogue, for example, and see how many of the rooms in the home furnishings sections
have grey walls. Last time I checked I think it was more than 50%, and almost without exception they make the curtains, cushions or whatever look great.
However, there are pitfalls to avoid when choosing greys, and not all greys are created equal...
Greys can even result in other colours in the room looking "colder". Look at the two boxes on the right; the cream squares in the middle of each box don't appear to be the same colour. The one on the far right looks slightly warmer, as if it has had a hint of orange or peach colour mixed in, whereas the one on the left (surrounded by grey) looks less vibrant and a shade "colder". None of which need be a problem - just something to be aware of. If you want to avoid "North Sea Syndrome", think about warming up the other colours in the room a shade...
Grey as a neutral is great at "showing off" other colours, particularly strong vibrant tones (teal, fuchsia pink, lime green). Use it with "weaker" colours, and it can suck the warmth out of them (see above). So if you're going to paint your whole room grey (rather than having a strong feature wall in an otherwise grey room), make sure you have some strongly coloured furnishings. Even if you like the whole monotone idea, that can look fabulous but try to include some pure white and/or pure black, so there is a contrast and the whole room isn't just varying shades of grey.
"Not all greys are created equal", I said earlier on in this post. The problem is that many aren't pure greys, i.e. they are not a pure blend of just black and white. Many have a hint of blue in, some a hint of khaki or yellow ochre. Some of these result in fabulous colours, but you have to be careful where you use them. Remember our old friend Crown Arctic Grey (the one that's actually got a fair percentage of blue-green mixed into it)? It's a great colour (right) if that steely, cold blue-grey is what you are looking for. The trouble with greys is, they can be colour chameleons...
The first time I came across Arctic Grey a customer had chosen it from the Crown web site (I should point out that I have nothing against either Crown or this particular colour - I'm just using it as a real life example). At that time, the Crown web site had a blue background, and the little swatch of Arctic Grey (like the one above) looked like a pure, soft dove grey. However, the room I was painting didn't have a blue background. It had a bright red feature wall and furnishings.
Against the blue background on the web site, the colour looked "non-blue"; by comparison with its blue surroundings, it looked anything but blue. But when you put it against a contrasting colour like the scarlet red feature wall, the hint of blue in the Arctic Grey really came out, and it felt as if we were in a blue and red room. No grey at all. NOT what the customer had imagined when she'd seen the colour on the web site.
The moral of the tale? Greys are fashionable, greys are useful, greys are cool - in more than one sense. But you need to be careful where you use them, especially if they're not as pure as you thought they were. So get a sample or matchpot and...no, don't paint it on the wall. Paint it on some lining paper (or white card), which you can then stick up in different places around the room to see how the grey works with the other colours you have, and in different lighting situations. Then call me, and I'll come and paint it for you!