Is grey here to stay?

Meg Thomas from Rehau looks at how shades of grey are still a force to be reckoned with, and why an upsurge in more traditional window profiles could signal the start of new things to come.

For years, wood finish laminates were our bestsellers at Rehau; rosewood was consistently our number one foil, while golden oak, mahogany and black/brown were never far behind.

But in the last four years, there has been a notable shift in our sales with shades of grey – such as anthracite grey (grained) and smooth anthracite grey – edging their way into the top five. In fact, last year anthracite grey finally pipped rosewood to the post to claim the bestsellers’ title.

In 2014, shades of grey accounted for just 12% of our foil sales, compared to the 53% of our sales that were made up of wood finishes. Since then grey sales have climbed steadily year on year, and currently make up almost 38% of the pie in the year to date, with woodgrain finishes now trailing with just 33% of our laminate sales.

Despite this strong performance from grey laminates, a change in fortune could be on the horizon.

According to the latest Insight Data Industry Report, the number of installers offering more traditional profiles is on the up. One reason for this could be that vertical sliding sash windows make for higher value replacements for first generation PVCU windows in heritage properties. They also help homeowners to restore the character and charm of an older period house without compromising on performance.

Similarly, MRA Research has also revealed that almost half of fabricators believe that flush sashes will become as important as standard casements within the next decade.

With a clear resurgence for more traditional style windows, it would make sense for it to be accompanied by a move back to the kind of wood foils that enjoyed such popularity in the past.

It is possible that this shift in market trends away from modern profiles will also generate an uplift in demand for muted colours, such as clotted cream and chartwell green from our Timeless Collection. Or perhaps consumers will call for something altogether different, such as more realistic wood finishes.

Of course, the alternative reality is that grey becomes the norm for all windows, regardless of style; ie, grey is the new white.

We are currently seeing grey colours used on chamfered and sculptured frames, where a rosewood or other dark wood finish would normally have been chosen. Perhaps this perfect collision of contemporary grey and classic window style will become a whole new colour trend in itself. With Rehau’s sculptured profile our data shows that the rosewood finish has remained consistently selected, while anthracite grey has increased in popularity.

From 2016 to 2017 it doubled in the number of times it was used on this particular profile, and in 2018 we are on course to see that growth increase further – although not quite so dramatically.

Whichever way the latest colour trend plays out, what is clear is that customers want more from their window installations than ever before. We know that homeowners investing in new windows certainly do their research and they look at every aspect from window styles to foil finishes and any new arrivals on the market. They want frames tailored to their tastes and the design of their property, and they want to make a statement.

Whether that statement is a modern and contemporary grey or something new entirely, we as an industry need to monitor and track the changes and respond accordingly with a palette of colours that reflects the mood of a nation.