Holy smoke! Can grey be glam?

Why the ashen hue is the hot trend of 2009

"Pink walls and chandeliers don’t feel right," says Sir Terence Conran in his predictions for 2009. "I think we've had enough of frivolity for a while." Each New Year brings with it a push of new trends and Conran's craving for subtlety explains why grey is one of this winter's hot hues.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

Creative director Ilse Crawford, who launched Elle Decoration in 1989, just painted one of London's oldest restaurants Kettner's in a soft dove-grey. Famed for predicting trends, she chose pretty white Thonet chairs, twinkly candles, antique lamps and pale grey walls to create a sophisticated eating space. Fashion writer Bronwyn Cosgrave deemed it the designer restaurant for 2009.

When black is too harsh and white is too bright, grey can be a soft addition to your home. "Customers move away from stark colours and opt for softer, low key shades," states the Craig Rose paint trends 2009 report. "Warm tones and pale neutrals will be the basis to rooms, creating a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere to your home."

It's not just interior walls that are being painted grey. Nail varnish has come over all ashen. Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham were last month snapped waving their iron-grey talons.

Creating a home needn’t rely on fickle fashion trends, yet history shows interior styles change over the years. Looking back over the century of design, obvious patterns emerge which intellectualizes why grey is on the rise.

When times were good, the economy healthy and outlook positive - during the Art Deco and Art Nouveau periods - the style was sleek, streamlined and full of confidence. In more depressing years, colours were muted and furniture less daring. Designers dub the Thirties depression as the "taupe age".

Grey is linked to years of war and turmoil. During World War Two, heavy charcoals, sombre teals and thick reds were popular – similar shades to those in Designers Guild's new Royal Collection inspired by Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. The V&A's very grey Cold War Modern exhibition in September captured the country's mood.

Most people don't give much time of day to the colours we like but clothing manufacturers and design experts dedicate a lot of time to predicting which hues will be hot in the coming months. According to the Colour Marketing Group, an international non-profit association of colour design professionals, grey best represents 2009 design because of our concern for the economy. Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue has said of grey, "[It is] a darker, a more aggressive and more intellectual aesthetic that I believe can only be the result of the darkening political climate."

A double spread in the latest issue of Homes & Gardens shows how charcoal and white is a softer version of fashion favourite monochrome.

Bland colours like grey and nostalgic furniture like wingback chairs are returning to the forefront with the very old-fashioned grey and silver Oberon recliner has become a John Lewis bestseller.

"In times like this, you forget all the flash-in-the-pan consumerism and should invest in quality items that are made well," says fashion designer Alice Temperley, "The current climate should make us all think hard and focus on what we really need and what are investment items."

In terms of glamorous colours, mousy grey has never been much of a contender. Gloomy skies, nun's habits and John Major’s all-grey Spitting Image puppet scream dull and boring. But grey can be pretty damn chic. It makes a sophisticated backdrop for the bright colours which will rule the market come Spring/ Summer while grey accessories can be frightfully glam. The limited edition stainless steel Roberts Radio is seriously cool. Award-winning Erica Wakerly's striking grey Fan wallpaper, available at mydeco.com, will silence any doubters.

Last month, Lulu Guinness told me that she wanted the grey Aria Fornasetti vase from Vessel Gallery for Christmas. Grey implies seriousness but silver and pewter bowls are far from dull. Still need convincing? Look no further than Scandinavian company Wonder Walls’ new Ladies Collection Plates; the grey vintage pin-up girls makes grey crockery sexy.

Instead of thinking it the colour of ashes or scratchy school uniforms, we can rejoice at its silver calm. Louise Bradley's Folie pendant light composed of glass leaves on a wire frame is cool as ice.

Sir Terence Conran is right; pink chandeliers aren’t the look for 2009 but let's not become boring. Grey can be sexy. There's no smoke without fire.

Annie Deakin is acting editor of mydeco.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage