Re­laxed and com­fort­able: the grouch

The ubiq­ui­tous cream sofa has been ousted from our liv­ing rooms by a grey in­va­sion

The Weekend Australian - Life - - STYLE - KA­T­RINA BURROUGHS

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, 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);

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