Why people love ‘greige’ – ABC Everyday

Hamptons, Coastal, Scandinavian. You have most likely seen these words scattered across Instagram and department stores.

Products and paints are usually clear, bright, and consist of a variety of grays and whites. Or as some people call it: ‘greige’.

So how did this color palette become so popular? Will we ever walk away from her?

Sarah Teasley, a design researcher at RMIT University, says it’s important to recognize that gray isn’t prominent everywhere.

“The historian in me says: ‘We need to see what’s going on in Brazil. What’s going on in Namibia? … and what’s going on in different parts of Australia,'” says Professor Teasley.

But in Melbourne, where the RMIT Dean lives, Professor Teasley says “greige” is at its peak.

“You’ll see [it] wherever you go in the rich world,” she says.

“The prevalence of gray bathroom tiles and gray kitchen tiles [mean that] You go to America and hotel rooms look like hotel rooms in France.

Your classic white and gray bathroom with a houseplant.(Provided: Steven Ungermann via Unsplash )

She says that with companies becoming more multinational or global, they can minimize their product line to sell to more countries.

“Most of us buy from a small number of companies. And those companies are going to supply colors that they know will sell, so they look for safe colors.”

Greige has gone in and out of fashion

It’s not Greige’s first rodeo.

University of Technology Sydney architectural historian Deborah Ascher Barnstone recalls a similar fashion in the 1990s.

“There was a whole gray period where it was all exposed concrete, zinc and a dash of colour,” says Professor Barnstone.

Professor Teasley says that the current trend of “post-industrial” cafes in wealthier areas dates back to New York and SoHo around the same time.

“The cool cafĂ© aesthetic is really a redesign of a change that happened in workplace interiors in the ’90s,” says Professor Teasley.

The post-industrial aesthetic with exposed concrete and hanging black lights.(Supplied: Unsplash)

“It was showing up in all the gentrifying neighborhoods.”

This time there is an emphasis on natural elements.

“There is a lot of wood everywhere, stone [and] bare concrete,” says Professor Barnstone.

“As we become more interested in issues around climate change and what we can do as designers, it means things are becoming more bare and more natural.”

But Professor Barnstone also says that minimalism doesn’t always necessarily mean a lack of colour.

“It means simple forms, clean lines, reducing what is done to as few as possible.”

A more minimalist living space with an emphasis on natural materials.(Supplied: Unsplash )

The demand for color has been up and down for centuries.

Going back 150 years, Professor Barnstone says that bright colors were considered vulgar in most European countries.

It wasn’t until archeology students in the 19th century discovered that the Greeks and Romans actually painted surfaces in a “color riot” that people reconsidered their point of view.

Professor Barnstone says: “There was a lot of debate about whether or not this was really true… Did it mean that the color was really a good thing because the Greeks and Romans used it?”

At the end of the 19th century there was a real appetite for pattern and decoration, largely due to artificial dyes.

“You could get colors that didn’t fade… And more people could get them because they were cheaper,” says Professor Teasley.

Like most trends, when color became less of a novelty, some rich people criticized it. Instead, they opted for really expensive and minimalist materials.

A gray-inspired living room.(Supplied: Unsplash )

why greige ‘sells’

Professor Teasley spends a lot of time consulting workplaces on productive design and says that color schemes can often be a financial choice.

“Most business owners probably want to know what’s going to sell,” she says.

“And if that’s raw, that’s what you do.”

Professor Teasley says gray isn’t going away anytime soon, but he hopes the color will have a greater presence in our homes and cafes.

“If there’s one thing we’ve seen in recent years, especially here, it’s a resurgence of DIY and manufacturing,” he says.

“If we want color in our lives, we can achieve it.”

Pops of color are easy to achieve without going color crazy.(Supplied: Sophia Kunkel)

Professor Teasley says it’s up to us to add whatever color we’re missing.

“You go to the haberdashery [shop] and the colors are lush and vibrant. In fact, it’s a bit shocking if you’re used to seeing gray,” she says.

“It’s just where we chose to acquire [colour] and if we buy ready-made things or if we make them ourselves”.

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