If ever there was a colour associated with richness, with spiritual as well as monetary wealth, it has to be purple. It may not have the kudos of being part of the visible light spectrum (a status afforded to its lighter relative violet) but it has always been the favourite colour of those in power. And it’s a fabulous colour for blinds and curtains too.
In our continuing series of colour stories, we look at the history and associations of purple and suggest how to use it in your home.
The first purple dye, known as Tyrian purple, dates back to the fifteenth century BC and was made, rather unpromisingly, from the mucus of sea snails that inhabited the Eastern Mediterranean! Given that 250,000 snails were needed to make a single ounce of dye, it was eye-wateringly expensive and literally worth its weight in gold. No wonder then that Julius Caesar got a taste for it and decreed that no one else was allowed to wear it but him.
Purple’s popularity amongst the elite continued in succeeding centuries. Elizabeth I wore the colour to her coronation banquet in 1559 and when she died 44 years later, her coffin was draped in purple velvet. It was Queen Victoria’s favourite colour - a fact that is supposed to have led chocolate makers Cadbury’s to adopt it for their branding - and the British royal family still use it as the ceremonial colour on special occasions.
Fortunately for those of us with more limited means (as well as the population of sea snails), a way of creating purple (or mauve) synthetically was discovered by the chemist William Perkin in 1856. This led to the colour’s much wider use. Famously it was adopted by the suffragettes; the purple symbolising loyalty and dignity alongside white (purity) and green (hope).
Purple is a secondary colour, lying between red and blue on the colour wheel. It’s therefore thought to combine the power, energy and strength of red with the integrity and truth of blue.
In the visible light spectrum, purple is most closely aligned to the slightly lighter violet. It has the shortest wavelength of all the colours and is the last one we see, lending it a mystical, celestial quality. Purple has long represented spirituality. It’s the colour we link with spiritual awareness and reflection which is why it is favoured by those following a spiritual vocation and for meditating. It is the colour for contemplation and a search for a higher truth.
It is said that if we surround ourselves with too much purple or the wrong tone, we can become too introspective and lose touch with reality! The colour is then perhaps at its best when used as an accent or in rooms where drama and intimacy are required. There’s no doubt that the right tone communicates luxury and exclusivity - think of the retail brands Liberty and Asprey - and purple is perfect for creating an opulent, enveloping look.
As part of its new Colour by Nature collection, paint brand Farrow & Ball has launched the colour ‘Imperial Purple’ recommending its use in dining rooms and elsewhere where an injection of richness is desired. Purple certainly does come into its own in candlelight and when teamed with materials that sparkle, so perfect for an intimate dining space.
At Stitched, we have a wide range of purple fabrics to suit every setting. The deep berry tones of our Aubergine and Damson cotton twills and Ruby velvet represent purple at its most red. Team with other berry tones for a harmonious scheme and chocolate for added depth.
Our Mulberry cotton twill, Grape cotton weave and Blackberry silk are glamorous and intense. Blinds or curtains in these fabrics are perfect for dining spaces, formal receptions rooms or dramatic boudoirs. Combine with navy, midnight blue and metallics for even greater intensity.
If you’re looking for something more understated, our Viola flax, Stimulate revive and Purple Rain wool lay more towards the lilac end of the purple spectrum. These are romantic yet sophisticated colours that create a relaxed, stylish look. Beautiful teamed with grey and a dash of green to conjure up a sense of eternal summer. An attractive thought for this time of year.