50 Shades of Grey at home


INTERIORS:Don’t believe the nay-sayers – grey has had a makeover, writes ALANNA GALLAGHER

DON’T BE AFRAID of the dark. Go grey. Embrace the drab and moody side of this much misunderstood shade. The term grey, once considered dull and boring, has had a makeover. The erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey has played a part in changing its persona. So much so that greyscaping the home, something that has been a trend for quite a few years, has taken a dark new twist. In a climate such as ours, we should be embracing grey’s tempestuous dark side, believes Carla Benedetti, graphic designer and interior stylist.

“You have to play up to the fact that the weather here is dark and overcast,” she says. “Painting your home grey can create a cocoon-like cosiness.” It’s her antidote to our inclement climate. Benedetti is a disciple of the Abigail Ahern school of decorating, and last December she travelled to London to attend one of Ahern’s day-long decorating masterclasses – held in her own much-photographed grey scale home.

“I wanted to see what Ahern’s own home looked like in the flesh to see if the colour scheme would translate to mainly grey Ireland,” she explains. She liked what she saw and for her own home in Dublin chose warm tones of grey – those with green hues. Her house is painted in Farrow Ball’s Downpipe and Railings.

It helps that the house is bathed in natural light. She and her partner, Jason Clarke, added a double-height extension with roof lights to the period house. It is this contrast of light and dark that makes the grey really zing.

In the large kitchen-cum-living room, grey shelving lines one double-height wall, with nooks punctuated by contrasting shocks of colour. A large flatscreen TV is recessed into another so it sits flush with the wall. It’s a clever way of minimising the box’s intrusion and also of dealing with the differences of opinion on interiors between males and females. “Every man wants the biggest TV,” she says, smiling wryly. Also on the wall is a cow’s head basket, one of several talking point pieces she bought on Etsy.com.

“Grey lets you showcase your pieces as if they were in a gallery,” she explains. “Your accessories add contrasting pops to the darkness.” The decorative accessories help too. If this house was decorated in a minimalist fashion it would lack the warmth it has and could feel cold and oppressive.

Throughout the house there are prints and paintings in vintage and antique frames bought at T Clifford Antiques on Dublin’s Pearse Street and other bric-a-brac shops. Often she buys the painting to secure the frame. Removing the original painting and installing her own is something Abigail Ahern also does.

The darkness falls on floors and walls and even on the basalt countertops of the Rhatigan Hick kitchen. It’s painted a sludgy green, one that works with the green hue of the grey paint. On the island is a ceramic dog lamp that glows from the inside, from Article in Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. On the adjacent wall there is a clock purchased from Inreda. The plates on the wall were sourced from Britain’s National Gallery and from Article. The ski route marker was found while in France on a ski holiday.

The space comes to life at night, she says. Old industrial ship lights illuminate the shelving. They were bought from Skinflint, a Cornwall-based lighting design outfit.

A metal table with a soft black top acts as a room divider, breaking up the kitchen living area from a second, more womb-like sitting room. This room has a wood-burning stove. Chilli lights from Mira Mira hang in one corner, warming it. A painted wood mirror above the stove is from the now-closed Pia Bang interiors. Minnie Peters carries similar styles. In the other corner, a bedside table has been repainted in fire engine red.

Very cool star-shaped cushions, made of metallic leather by Sarah Baily, sit on sofas and are available to buy through Abigail Ahern. The room includes a meditation chair that Benedetti bought at a craft fair and reupholstered the cushions. A leather steamer trunk found in Wilson’s Yard outside Belfast acts as a table. The Store Yard in Portlaoise also stocks a good selection. Nina Campbell Perroquet print wallpaper lines the walls. Here she’s mixed up some of her old things with newer buys. A lounger is one of the many pieces she brought from her former house. A house evolves over time, she explains.

A curtain shields downstairs from the floor above. Benedetti’s office is a mezzanine set above the kitchen. She found the metal furniture by French company Hindigo in Mira Mira. Deborah Bowness’ Real Fake Books wallpaper hangs in a hall alcove and her utility lamps decorate the dining room.

Outside, the garden has a patio laid using tiles that resemble wooden decking. These she found in Roscommon Tile Centre – the Doga tiles are made by Atlas Concorde. Bamboo lines one side of the space.

“Don’t be afraid of the dark,” she says. “A couple of my friends were hesitant but now love what I’ve done and are considering giving their house a similarly stormy makeover. Thankfully, Jason loves it.” Though her mother isn’t convinced.

Carla Benedetti Designetc, tel 01-6609030,



Skinflintdesign.co.uk; industrydesign.ie; fado.ie;

articledublin.com; tcliffordantiques.com;

atelierabigailahern.com; wilsonsyard.com; miramira.ie; hindigo.fr; Roscommon Tile Centre, tel: 090-6626248; furniturerecyclingdublin.com;

deborahbowness.com; soaksbathrooms.com rhatiganandhick.ie; etsy.com