Relaxed and comfortable: the grouch
The ubiquitous cream sofa has been ousted from our living rooms by a grey invasion
It’s pretty likely you have a grouch in your sitting room. I know I do. Or we could call it a grofa. Along with off-white walls, the grey sofa quietly has become a default. It long has been the most popular choice among customers of the contemporary design labels — such is the demand at Made.com, renowned for its shapely, inexpensive grouches, that the firm offers upholstery in a palette of 44 shades of grey — but now the grey settee is also favoured by those who prefer a more traditional style.
In the past couple of years, it has overtaken beige as a must-have.
So what has fuelled the elevation of this unassuming seat to living-room essential?
The grouch is elegant and robust, easy to live with and timeless. It may be dismissed as “meh” by more adventurous decorators, but as a big-ticket buy it ticks a crucial box: longevity.
Furniture giant DFS reports a 35 per cent increase in sales of grey upholstered furniture in the past two years.
The firm’s design director, Philip Watkin, puts the grofa’s popularity down to the fact, year in, year out, it offers a neutral backdrop for decorative accessories that can change with the trends.
“It’s a brilliant base,” he says. “Grey can be a mood enhancer — our research into the psychology of colour found that this shade makes people feel comfortable.”
DFS is planning to launch a couple of new grofas a month this year.
At Content by Conran, too, the grey sofa is a cause for great contentment.
“Grey is without doubt our most popular colour, making up 30 per cent of all sales,” managing director Mike Kingsbury says. “We offer 17 variations on
it in our house fabric book. Dark grey is the most frequent choice.”
Is this to do with colour psychology — a yearning for a spot of calm in a frantic world? Perhaps not. “It doesn’t show marks,’’ says Kingsbury.
Grofas are so widespread within Britain that buying habits can offer an intriguing snapshot of local tastes. For instance, Andrew Cussins, managing director of Sofas & Stuff — who reports that 75 per cent of his modern sofa sales are grey (the classic designs sell better in taupe) — has noted a northsouth divide in fabric type. “In the south, we mostly sell linens. Up north, the linen morphs into velvet.”
Grey is a trend that shows no sign of slowing. At the furniture firm Neptune, which first launched a collection of sofas in 2013, grouches are the bestseller and sales continue to climb. Last year, greys accounted for 29 per cent of Neptune’s sofa sales; this year, that has risen to 36 per cent. Yet with the rise of the grouch has come a colourful backlash.
Exotic and exuberant prints, flamboyant colours and extravagant brocades are making their way into the sofa collections alongside the greys. The two standout multicoloured ranges this season are both from fashion designers.
Matthew Williamson’s first furniture collaboration, with Duresta, features hues inspired by peacocks and flamingos.
The spectacular cushions, throws and seats created by Henry Holland for Habitat are described by the designer as “a hallucinatory mix of pattern and texture — an overload of florals, bugs, fish prints and bright fluoro colour, inspired by the surreal interiors from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”.
Will they outsell grey, though? Probably not.
The Maximus Modern by Love Your Home in stone linen, £1578 ($3100); love-your-home.co.uk