Why people love ‘greige’ – ABC Everyday

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Why people love ‘greige’ – ABC Everyday

Hamptons, coast, Scandi. You’ve more than likely seen these words spread across Instagram and department stores.

Products and paints are usually light, 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, and will we ever move away from it?

RMIT University design researcher Sarah Teasley says it’s important to recognize that greige is not prominent everywhere.

“The historian in me says: ‘We have to look at what’s happening in Brazil. What’s happening 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 see [it] everywhere you go in the rich world,” she says.

“The look of gray bathroom tiles and gray kitchen tiles [mean that] you go to the US and hotel rooms look like hotel rooms in France.”

Your classic white and gray bathroom with an indoor plant.(Provided by: Steven Ungermann via Unsplash )

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

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

Greige has come in and out of fashion

This isn’t Greige’s first rodeo.

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

“There was a whole gray period where everything was exposed concrete, zinc, and the tiniest bit of colour,” says Professor Barnstone.

Professor Teasley says today’s “post-industrial” cafe trend in wealthier areas points back to New York and SoHo in the same era.

“The cool café aesthetic is really a restyling of a shift that happened in workplace interiors in the ’90s,” says Professor Teasley.

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

“It just popped up in every exciting neighborhood.”

This time there is an emphasis on natural elements.

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

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

But Professor Barnstone also says minimalism does not necessarily always mean a lack of colour.

“It means simple shapes, clean lines, reducing what is done to the least possible amount.”

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

The demand for color has ebbed and flowed for centuries.

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

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

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

By the late 19th century there was a real hunger for pattern and decoration, mainly 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 novel, some rich people became critical of it. Instead, they went for very expensive, minimalist materials.

A greige-inspired living room.(Provided by: Unsplash )

Why Greige ‘Sold’

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

“For most business owners, you probably want to know what will sell,” she says.

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

Professor Teasley says greige isn’t going away anytime soon, but expects color to have a greater presence in our homes and cafes.

“If there’s anything we’ve seen in the last few years, especially here, it’s just that resurgence of DIY and making,” she says.

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

Splashes of color are easy to achieve without going color crazy.(Provided by: Sophia Kunkel)

Professor Teasley says it is up to us to add the color we may be missing.

“You go to the haberdashery [shop] and the colors are exuberant and vibrant. It’s actually a bit of a shock if you’re used to looking at greige,” she says.

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

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