• Andrew J Bannister

What colour is mostly used, but hardly ever seen ?

I have been using shades of this colour for years, and I will probably still use them in my designs until this world has had enough of me... And why..? Because this colour is nearly always used, but hardly ever seen...

It's hues are simply a perfect way to tone a room, and also the perfect platform to introduce colour onto. So let us look at this in a little more detail and discover why so many leading designers use the tones of grey in their work. ( USA = Gray )

A Chef will invariably tell you that you need certain ingredients for your base. I was invited to learn via a online video feed, some of the secrets from the worlds first Michelin Star Indian Chef, Vineet Bhatia. He explained that he would always keep with him a select number of spices because most of his work would be derived from them, and yet, he could make completely differing tastes by using them in differing ways. But he would keep coming back to those ingredients, because he knows under his expert hands, they work, and they always will.

Therefore you could consider that the colour grey, and all of its variations, is the same for designers as a range of spices and herbs are for chefs... You simply cannot do your work without them... So I do not want you to think of the grey shades as boring or dull, but rather the background "sauce" to create a pallet of colours suitable for a particular design and theme.

Grey is the perfect introduction to a bright colour, grey is the perfect background for any colour, grey is the perfect tone to establish a mode for the room, grey is the perfect gravy for the main dish, grey has a tonal and hue range, grey is loved by designers not because it is grey, but because it is grey !

Take a look out of your window at any scene, anywhere in the world, and what do you see if you look carefully.. grey. Its in every shadow, in the sky, in the buildings, in the parks and countryside, its like its literally everywhere, because it is... and yet, when we describe a scene to someone, we will almost always describe a colour, rather than the grey that is always present... Green fields have grey in the borders, under the trees, in the shadow areas... A tall skyscraper probably has more grey than any other colour, and yet when asked what colour it is, you will probably say, the one with the blue glass rather than the one with grey concrete walls.. In other words, most ignore grey, but not the designers... To designers, grey is amazing... its like its the catalyst that brings everything else together...

So what exactly is the colour grey ? Grey is anything form a velvety soft comfortable range to cold military tones. It is in my opinion the most beautiful infinite range of subtle coloured tones imaginable. It could be almost white, or almost any colour in the universe, all the way through to almost back and deep dark and mysterious.

But the redeeming fact about the range of grey that is out there, is that it is often used as the very perfect backdrop for any colour, no matter how intense or subtle.

Sometimes when I explain to a client that I want to use grey as the main colour for a design, they look at me in shock.. "but we want the room to be colourful and bright" and I reply.... Thats exactly why we need to start with "grey" Grey is my canvass, my base, my comfort zone, my starting and finishing point and it always works.. Same as when someone asks for a white room... I always use grey, and they always think its white !

So what's the trick in using grey ?, how do you make an average room look stunning by using grey ?

The unkept secret is your ability to very carefully select a grey suitable for purpose.. the range is infinite and therefore the selection process is critical... many get it wrong, some get it right... You need to blend your colour range of grey as a single tone or graduating through a few darker to lighter ranges that culminate in the effect that you are trying to capture... Think of it this way, let us assume for an example that you are going to use a certain colour for the main theme of the room. Say for arguments sake it's a certain intensity and hue of green. Having selected the exact green that you want, you then need to find your grey to go with it... the grey may or may not have a slight element of green within it... but certainly it has to compliment the green in some way or another... The grey, or even greys, set the backdrop, the foundation for your dominant colour green. And because you have so carefully selected the perfect grey for your project, you may find that the amount of items coloured green, are hardly more than a few percent of the colours within the room... and yet, your client sees the room as green and not as grey.

You see, that's the beauty of grey, it is such a humble 'colour' it becomes almost invisible.. a silent invisible designers friend that is "often used, but hardly ever seen".


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