Books: Shades of Grey

Extract from Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth, published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Photograph:Rachel Whiting

Photograph:Rachel Whiting

There's no doubt about it, grey is the shade of the moment. Restaurants, shops and homes are coated in it. There's not an interior decorating programme that doesn't use it. And never mind 50 shades - the human eye can, it's been claimed, detect more than 500. As can the average paint chart. And if you thought the whole grey thing was about to be over, I refer you to global paint giant Dulux, who have just expanded their range of greys and now offer 557 in total. "Everyone want to paint their houses grey at the moment," says Karen Haller, a colour expert who teaches industry professionals the science of applied colour psychology, "but it's one of the most difficult shades to get right because of the colours that lie beneath."

Photographs by Simon Brown and Rachel Whiting.

No wonder that in past years we all just slapped a pot of cream paint on the wall, then hastily turned on the TV. But everything's changed now. To start with, we're much more design-savvy. And the global economic crisis has meant that, for the first time in years, we're decorating our homes to live in them and not just to be attractive to prospective buyers. A decade ago, we redecorated every three years; it's now every five to seven years. So we need to actually put some thought into our choice of paint colour and work out what we like, because we're going to be living with it for a while.

Photograph: Katya de Grunwald

Photograph: Katya de Grunwald

Nowadays, entire careers are built on colour consultancy, psychology and therapy. There are specialists and technologists where once there were simply painters and decorators. Research, albeit of the very unscientific 'let's-just-check-it-on-twitter' variety, shows that amateur decorators (that's you and me) try an average of nine different shades before they get it right. And the final colour, which may look grey on the wall, is probably called smoky blue. That's if it's not referencing furry animals, Hollywood film stars or dead fish.

Photographs by Rachel Whiting and Polly Wreford.

Shades of Grey will reveal the difference between grey and gray and discover why it has become such a dominant trend in modern interiors. No blushes will be spared in sharing other people's (oh all right, my) mistakes so that you can get it right. We will discover, once and for all, how to use those pesky sample pots to best advantage, and whether it's worth splashing the cash on pricey paint. Armed with this book, you'll be able to find the perfect shade of grey, and you can put the money you save on sample pots towards going somewhere hot and sunny, where grey is the colour furthest from you mind...

Kate Watson-Smyth

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Shades of Grey by Kate Watson-Smyth, £19.99, published by Ryland Peters & Small

all images © Ryland Peters & Small.