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The growth of the grey sofa – the mindset behind our obsession with the new neutral

The grey sofa isn’t not going anywhere. Despite the raft of beautiful bright fabrics, velvets and even dyed leathers available to today’s shoppers, our love affair with the grey sofa shows no sign of abating, according to our data here at Matt Blatt.

“While we’re known for our bold colours and quirky design, it’s interesting to note that in reality, even our customers, who are perhaps more open to experimenting with colour than most, still gravitate towards the grey sofa,” said founder Adam Drexler.

“In fact, in the financial year to date, while 76% of the thousands of sofas we’ve sold have been in so-called ‘safe’ shades of grey, tan, natural, navy and black, a staggering 70% of those buyers chose a grey sofa….whether in a light, mid or charcoal shade,” Adam added.

Adam also remarked that just eight per cent of the sofas sold so far this fiscal year were in bright shades such as red, emerald, yellow, orange and pink, with customers instead choosing occasional chairs, rugs, dining chairs, artworks and accessories to inject a splash of colour into their interiors.

“Grey sofas are seen as a safe option, a basic building block which can fit into any décor scheme and be dressed up with accessories, and this is especially so for rental properties,” said counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Philip, a specialist in consumer behaviour.

So, should retailers just abandon designing in rich colour and opt for a bland is best approach? Certainly not, says Dr Philip.

“I still believe it’s important for retailers to display a variety of vibrant sofas, and other furniture, in their showrooms, to add to the overall ambience and appeal of the store. While the colour may draw the customer in, the reality is, they’ll usually choose the colour they feel fits best with their lifestyle and existing décor,” she explained.

“We’re often puzzled by the fact that customers will walk in and fall in love with our plush velvet pieces in jewel-inspired shades, such as rich red or bright emerald green…and then many of them will go on to buy a grey sofa,” added Adam.

Dr Philip said this is because whilst people are attracted to striking colour, unless they believe a colour or fabric will also be practical in their space, they’re less likely to actually commit to buying it.

She added that shopping with a partner also contributes to the likelihood we’ll end up making a practical purchase.

“While one partner may fall in love with a fabulous, bold-coloured piece, if the other partner sows a seed of doubt, or leans towards a ‘safer’ selection which is perceived to not limit future styling or purchasing choices, it takes a strong personality to persuade the second buyer to be brave and buy something they’re unsure of.”

Clinical psychologist, author and founder of Omnipsych, Dr Lillian Nejad says there’s actually more than logic at play when we’re making a major purchase.

“Influences include emotions, previous buying experiences, the influence of family, friends and broader society, our stage of life – relationship status, whether we have kids or pets – the urgency of the purchase and our individual personalities,” she said.

“The grey sofa is like the little black dress of the furniture world, it’s classic, always in style and deemed a safe long-term purchase. Whereas with fashion it’s easy to wear a black dress one day and a hot pink one the next, sofa purchases are less easily changed so even those who are fans of bold colour may still opt for a grey sofa because it’s perceived as a practical, longer term investment which is less likely to end in a case of buyer’s remorse,” Dr Nejad added.

Another factor influencing our attraction to the good old grey sofa may be ‘heuristics’ – taking a shortcut to decision making based upon our previous experience.

“People rarely invest the time genuinely needed to weigh up all the pros and cons of a purchasing decision, or to try to decipher the reasons we’re attracted to one sofa over another,” explained Dr Nejad.

“If most of us buy grey sofas, it usually means most of us have either purchased one before or have seen them in the homes of our friends and families. These social learning experiences are highly influential on our behaviour, perpetuating our social norms, which is why we’re seeing more and more people buying grey sofas – it’s a domino effect.”

On the flip side, if you’ve fallen hard for a pink sofa – the experts say you should go for it.

“Many of us feel pressured into making practical rather than emotional decisions, but that doesn’t mean making an emotional decision is wrong. If you value being adventurous or filling your home with pieces that bring you joy over practical considerations – then you should listen to your inner voice. If your values are leading you to the grey sofa, that’s great, but if they’re leading you to the purple velvet one, then go for it – your furniture should express who you are….not who you think you ought to be.”


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