Ways with grey

No longer con­sid­ered bland and con­ser­va­tive, this ver­sa­tile colour is still bang on trend! But get­ting it just right re­quires a few savvy dé­cor tricks…

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1 Check your tem­per­a­ture

The rea­son why grey some­times doesn’t look quite right in a space is of­ten due to the un­der­ly­ing tones of the paint be­ing in­com­pat­i­ble – this hap­pens when the un­der­tone of a cool or warm grey and the colours of the sur­round­ing el­e­ments in the room don’t work to­gether. For a har­mo­nious look, match fur­ni­ture and ac­ces­sories with the un­der­tone of the grey on the walls. Peet and El­ria Stein­berg used Du­lux Dusted Moss 1 and 2 in the liv­ing area of their farm­house in Mpumalanga and the warm un­der­tones are per­fectly matched with their ex­ist­ing nat­u­ral wood and stone el­e­ments.

2 Op­po­sites at­tract

The op­po­site ad­vice to #1 ap­plies if you want to use grey as a fo­cal wall: to make the wall re­ally stand out, choose a grey with an un­der­tone op­po­site to your ac­cent colours. In this charm­ing din­ing area, a wall has been painted in warm Du­lux Night Jew­els 4 and is com­bined with white, mauve and a soft blue – these shades usu­ally work best with a cool grey. But it’s the un­der­ly­ing con­trast that makes the fo­cal wall re­ally pop! >>

3 Set­tle on a shade

Typ­i­cally, darker greys are re­served for con­tem­po­rary spa­ces, while warmer lighter shades work well in more clas­sic spa­ces. But as grey is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar, the rules are start­ing to bend – with the best re­sults!


Adding bright ac­ces­sories is part of the fun when work­ing with dark grey. Take a look at this fo­cal wall in Deon and Deb­bie de Goede’s Brack­en­fell home. It’s eye-catch­ing and de­spite the pesky the­ory that dark colours make a space ap­pear smaller, dark grey can have the op­po­site ef­fect as it al­lows the cor­ners to ‘dis­ap­pear’ in a small room. Also, be­cause grey doesn’t draw the eye, it’s the per­fect back­drop for ac­ces­sories you want to show­case.


When Brad and Cat van der Vyver gave the study in their home in Bal­lito, KZN a makeover, they wanted to re­paint the drab dark beige walls in a colour that would in­ject new en­ergy into the room.

“We knew that grey would be the right colour to do just that – there’s some­thing in­her­ently fresh, youth­ful and con­tem­po­rary about it,” Cat says. They opted for a cool sil­ver-grey, Du­lux Sil­ver Tro­phy; paired with white and lush greens, it cre­ates a lu­mi­nous and serene look in this small, con­tem­po­rary and well-lit space.


The ‘per­fect’ grey is dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one; it all de­pends on the fea­tures in your unique space. Neigh­bour­ing wall colours, the floor colour, fur­ni­ture and other ac­cent shades all con­trib­ute. How­ever, it mostly comes down to the light­ing in that par­tic­u­lar area.

When Doreen and Meyer de Waal moved into their orig­i­nal Sir Her­bert Baker home in Cape Town, the walls were all white and they soon de­cided to in­tro­duce their own style, which in­cludes many dif­fer­ent shades of grey, into their spa­cious new home. In the main bed­room, a tall sash win­dow lets in plenty of light and Doreen says she en­joys the var­i­ous shades of grey that emerge through­out the day, ac­cord­ing to the po­si­tion of the sun.

As each room in your home re­ceives dif­fer­ent light through­out the day, it’s vi­tal to check sam­ples at sun­rise, in the morn­ing, at mid­day, in the af­ter­noon, at sun­set and at night with ar­ti­fi­cial light to en­sure that you’re happy with all its vary­ing shades. For ex­am­ple, at sun­rise and sun­set a warm grey may ap­pear more brown than grey.

If your space gets plenty of light dur­ing the day, cre­ate a cosy at­mos­phere with a warmer shade of grey; to neu­tralise a space that re­ceives lots of warm light, opt for a cool grey. To avoid grey shad­ows at night, opt for lay­ered light­ing in ad­di­tion to any over­head fix­tures.

4 Rough it up

If you find that a plain grey on your walls is too bor­ing, use a tex­tured paint such as Earth­cote or Fired Earth and ex­per­i­ment with a paint tech­nique or lime­wash tinted with grey to add an in­ter­est­ing look and feel.


Add depth and tex­ture to grey walls to prevent them from ap­pear­ing mono­tone. We love this two-tone wall in Ger­man de la Melena’s Green Point apart­ment; it adds height, in­ter­est and depth. A mir­ror re­flect­ing the op­po­site stone wall and art adds fur­ther tex­ture. >>

Its abil­ity to adapt to al­most any other colour in­tro­duced into its en­vi­ron­ment makes grey the per­fect can­vas that won’t eas­ily be­come out­dated. It seems grey is here to stay. – Du­lux colour ex­pert Son­ica Buck­steg

5 Fo­cus!

If you’re not keen on paint­ing an en­tire room but want to ex­per­i­ment with grey, con­sider a fo­cal wall. Stylist and pho­tog­ra­pher Margaux Tait of mylifestyled.co.za used Her­manus Mist from Evolve (avail­able at Builders) to cre­ate a back­drop for this el­e­gant gallery wall. The black, white and wood work well to­gether to form a stylish, lay­ered space. >>

6 Face for­ward

When choos­ing grey, en­sure that your colour re­mains clas­sic by opt­ing for a shade with an un­der­tone that com­ple­ments your home’s nat­u­ral land­scape, in­clud­ing greens or browns.

In the case of Peta and Ian Levin’s Grey­ton cot­tage, the walls have been painted in Mi­das Lat­tice Grey and the shut­ters in Mi­das Key­stone Grey which both per­fectly com­ple­ment the lush green­ery. The checker­board stoep cre­ates an un­ex­pected and in­ter­est­ing con­trast.

If you pre­fer a darker grey for the out­side of your home, break it up with a lighter grey or white so that it doesn’t ap­pear mono­tone or over­whelm­ing when your home is viewed in its en­tirety.

Use bold colours for de­tails you want to high­light, such as your front door, and the same grey for de­tails you want to con­ceal.

Colour con­nec­tions • If your space feels un­invit­ing in a cool grey, add black, creamy white or a camel colour to give it warmth.

Great idea!Bright yel­lows are of­ten paired with dark grey but other vivid op­tions to try are bright pink, lime-green, cran­berry-red and burnt-orange.

Deeper than white, I like to think of grey as white with socks on. – Margaux Tait

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