More than fifty shades of grey

I find it difficult to believe that flat planes of grey ever lift anybody’s spirits

I have been looking at carpets and truly, there is an endless choice as long as you want grey. Real estate grey, somebody commented when I posted my piece about colour in southern Italy. We had this idealistic thought that we would only buy wool which gave a choice of one blue and one green, given we have ruled out grey and shades of porridge and mud. For variation, I added another three samples of blue, green and muted aubergine in one of the new fibres which is, apparently, corn sugar mixed with synthetic but not actually nylon.

I have a theory now on New Zealand’s obsession with real estate grey both indoors and out. Colour fashions change over time. We know this. Some of us are old enough to remember the turquoise, ginger, oranges and purples of the late seventies. It was not the country’s subtlest moment in home décor. The eighties brought the muted shades of Paris pink, sage green, burgundy and dove grey.

So how did we get to plain grey?

We have always been an itinerant nation, moving house often. I found a story from 2008 which started, ‘More than a quarter of New Zealanders have moved at least once in the past two years, a survey reveals.’  It is likely to have accelerated since then, given the decline in our previously high home ownership rates. But at some point in the last decade or maybe longer, houses stopped being first and foremost homes and instead became investments. When a house becomes an investment, resale value assumes huge importance. And the real estate industry assures us that for a quick sale at maximum price, houses must be neutral and anonymous. Grey and white or maybe off-white with accent colour in sofa cushions.

Mark and I had a passing conversation about a real estate garden to accompany a real estate grey house. We didn’t get off colour theming and the thing about grey plants is that they are more often silver, with a lustrous sheen and qualities of light and shade that are missing from flat planes of utility grey. We figured that a real estate garden is simply the ultimate in tidy utilitarianism. In this day and age, it will probably be filled with dwarf nandinas.

For those of you who are curious, we are not happy with the quality of the 100% wool carpets on offer so will probably go with the muted aubergine option from corn sugar (or is it corn husk?). Mark feels that green carpet is better downstairs where it anchors the house to the green outdoors whereas he feels blue upstairs links to the sky. I was not so keen on the blue carpet and my heart lies with flat planes of muted colour. I have never forgotten our first trip to Northern Italy. It was a magnolia trip so early spring and the quality of light in the north was soft and almost ethereal. None of the harsh brightness further south. We visited an old church and inside was colour – faded colour but in hues of soft yellows, blues, pinks, greens and pale terracotta. I fell in love with that colour and in our home which is ‘1950 character’, as we say, that effect of faded or muted colour in sweeping expanses seems to fit us well.  So the upstairs of our house is on track to be in Northern Italian faded church colours of muted pinks, pastel blue greens, aubergine and soft yellow – all colour and texture with next to no pattern. But then we are not intending to sell our house so we do not feel that it will cost us money if we go for what we like and not resale grey and white. Our colour can just gently fade with us as we age.

When all is said and done, if you strip the colour from a monarch butterfly, all you are left with is an over-sized cabbage white with pretensions.

10 thoughts on “More than fifty shades of grey

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      White, like black is an ACCENT colour in this heady new world of real estate grey defining NZ housing stock! Or the compulsory background colour of all interior walls.

      1. tonytomeo

        Well, it sort of takes the fun out of it when you put it that way. When I grew hundreds of cultivars of rhododendrons, white was our least popular color. I felt deviant.

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        There is a distinct cultural difference (as I suspect the charcoal grey in NZ is!). When we were selling plants, white was always popular. New Zealanders just lurve their white flowers. I understand we are the only country in the world where Rose Flower Carpet White outsells any other colour in that range.

      3. tonytomeo

        Whoa! That is RAD! While growing rhododendrons, I could not grow enough purple. I do not like purple much (although I love growing them). White was our least popular. A few flowers are more popular in white, like oleander, and I think white is more popular up north, where there is much more greenery. As much as I like white, it does not go with every landscape as well as other colors.

  1. sandra

    A new family has moved in next door and one of the kids spotted me through the fence the other day and said ‘your house is colourful’. I couldn’t quite place the tone! When we repainted from a v. pale yellow with green trim I wanted to give the feeling of a Greek island but instead of having the building white with bright-blue accents, we painted the main walls Resene Governor Bay (agapanthus) and the ‘short walls’ Resene Geronimo (raspberry) with white trim. And we love it (it’s not very visible from the street, though). The kid should see the upstairs bathroom – sea-green with orange trim! My husband chose our new carpet (stairs and bedrooms only) and picked a misty green to replace the ‘oatmeal’. We wanted wool too.

  2. Pingback: Give me colour, please. | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

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