Yellow and Grey – A Perfect match

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Yellow and Grey – A Perfect match

It came as no surprise when Pantone released its two colours of the year – Ultimate Grey and Illuminated Yellow. Although the combination has been quite a popular pairing through the decades, they couldn’t be more different in terms of the feelings and emotions they conjure. Yellow, with its bright, effervescent sheen, directly contrasts to the monotonous and monochromatic dullness of grey. One symbolizes joy and optimism, while the other elicits an almost sterile sense of the familiar. As a result of these naturally opposing qualities, they’re not the most straightforward combination to execute. But with an understanding of how to balance their inherent characteristics, they can be a fresh and elegant accent to any home.


The effect that yellow has on a space is similar to the impact turmeric has on food; a little goes a long way. Yellow by nature is an attention drawing hue – we don’t use it as a highlighter because it fades into the background. Because of this, it’s most effective when used with confidence and a sense of purpose.

Our homeowners wanted a serene and contemporary retreat, with the elegance and gravitas of the Guggenheim. They wanted fresh, contemporary, understated yet compelling… which naturally led to the idea of yellow as an accent. To make sure the home didn’t get too loud and vibrant, we used grey as a key element and diffuser. We used it to upholster the custom sectional and as a base note in rugs, artwork and decor. In a way, grey is like a chameleon – it can take on the tint and hue of nearby colours. When mixing grey and yellow, think about the vibrancy and contrast levels.


Thinking about the past year and also looking forward to the future, grey and yellow seem to be the exact combination of colours that accurately reflect the emotional state of the rest of the world

To hit the perfect curated note in this home, we mixed in an abundance of texture, shapes and sheen throughout. Our starting point in the formal dining room was a custom-designed trio of yellow, black and grey abstract art pieces. Understanding the impact of their dominating presence, we turned up the collective volume of the rest of the room. Using a high-gloss white lacquer table, creamy and natural chairs, and modern and structural white Pantone chairs as table ends, we brought up the energy and interest level of the remaining space, which mellowed out the attention drawing artwork.


When trying to round out your space, think about the varying stylistic differences between your two loudest pieces.

While turning up the volume can be used as a balancing tool in some cases, never underestimate the power of mother nature. At Louis Duncan- He Designs, that natural West Coast perspective is embedded in our DNA. In the Great Room, we added natural driftwood tables; ombre textured throw pillows, canary kissed florals and a large-scale rug with a fluid water motif in a golden spectrum of yellow and greys. With the room’s sheer size, openness and ceiling height, the best way to add serenity and tone down our striking accent colour was to go natural. Introducing more stylized and sculptural pieces would have skewed the space more dramatic and daring, which would have taken the room in an entirely different direction. You can never go wrong with the addition of natural and organic elements to a home, and by doing so in this space, we were able to hit that perfect note straddling high-end design and relaxing oasis.

Thinking about the past year, and looking forward to the future, grey and yellow seem to be the exact combination of colours that accurately reflect the emotional state of the rest of the world. While I can certainly appreciate the symbolism that lives within this powerful colour combination, I marvel at the transformative powers they can have in our hearts and home.


Designer Louis Duncan-He is Creative Director and Principal of Louis Duncan-He Designs. This notable Calgary-and Montreal-based boutique design firm offers complete residential design services throughout Canada. With a distinct timeless perspective, the company creates unified authentic designs.


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