Harnessing The Power of Purple

Purple Interiors Cover GraphicWhether you love it or hate it—and you are likely to fall into one of those two categories—purple is a color option that makes a statement.  Combining the calming qualities of blue and the energetic properties of red in varying proportions, purple rarely functions as a neutral tone.  Whether a light lavender-gray or a deep plum tone, purple makes an impact.

Despite the fact that it’s fairly rare in the natural world in comparison to other colors, purple (or violet) is the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow, just a few steps away from x-rays and gamma rays.  Purple is often associated with royalty and luxury, probably because the earliest dyes were primarily reserved for the garments of emperors.  This was due to the cost and complexity of extracting dye from thousands of shellfish for a single garment. Purple can also be associated with decadence and excess, however in many cultures it is a color of mourning.

Lingle Avenue Elementary School; Palmyra Area School District

Lingle Avenue Elementary School; Palmyra Area School District

Many adults, men in particular, react negatively to the color purple despite the positive associations of the Purple Heart which is awarded by the military for bravery. However, surveys have shown that almost 75 percent of pre-adolescent children prefer purple to all other colors. Therefore daycare centers, schools and of course, children’s bedrooms are great areas to incorporate purple.

Using Purple Effectively in Design

As a general rule, we recommend taking cues from nature and using this powerhouse sparingly to add dramatic flair to different spaces. An accent wall or a few strategically placed accessories are typically all you need since purple can quickly overwhelm a color scheme or draw attention away from the other design elements.

Lavender shades create an atmosphere that is lighthearted, floral or romantic while darker tones add more dramatic flair and create a dignified, intellectual aesthetic – think libraries or formal dining areas. Purple is a great color for accessories or a statement furniture piece that complements the neutral grays that are prevalent in today’s design world. Just be aware that, like gray, purple has either warm or cool tones depending on the individual composition of red and blue.

A few other color combinations we like are:

  • Lavender with white trim and furnishings for a crisp, fresh feeling in a bedroom, beauty shop or spa
  • A mid-tone purple with chartreuse or mustard yellows to create an artistic, contemporary space.
  • A deep plum color combined with gray, beige or navy for a masculine office space or as a backdrop in a formal space to highlight crystal and silver.

Prince_PurpleRainMovieAnd of course, we can’t focus on purple without mentioning Prince, the American music artist who recently passed away unexpectedly. Although we’re not aware of him ever officially declaring the basis for his love of all things purple, it has been theorized that both its association with royalty and designation as one of the team colors for the Minnesota Vikings NFL team would have appealed to Prince.  Regardless of the origin, purple was a consistent theme throughout his life, from the legendary album and movie, Purple Rain, his first house in Chanhassen, MN which was painted purple, his famous Paisley Park home and recording studio which reportedly glowed purple when he was in residence or hosting a party, as well as several purple cars and motorcycles through the years including a purple Prowler.

Color Associations for Purple

Even today, various cultures have diverse associations with the color purple.  We found the following from Color Matters website.

  • In Thailand, purple is worn by a widow mourning her husband’s death.
  • The purple in the U.S. military Purple Heart award represents courage. The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the United States armed forces who have been wounded in action.
  • In Tibet, amethyst is considered to be sacred to Buddha and rosaries are often fashioned from it.
  • A man with the rank of Roman Emperor was referred to as “The Purple” — a name that came from the color of the robe he wore.
  • In Japan, the color purple signifies wealth and position.
  • Purple was the royal color of the Caesars.
  • In pysanky, the traditional Ukrainian form of egg dying, purple speaks of fasting, faith, patience, and trust.
  • Purple denotes virtue and faith in Egypt.

Deb Kimmet, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, has been working with our clients to develop uniquely distinctive interior design solutions since 1997. She welcomes the opportunity to help clients express their individual preferences and successfully incorporate striking colors, like purple, into their spaces.

For more examples of incorporating purple into interiors, check out the following sites: 

Decoist – Purple Passion for Contemporary Interiors

Architecture Art Designs – 23 Amazing Purple Interior Designs

Top Dreamer – Modern Purple Interior Designs That Will Leave You Speechless

RLPS Interiors Blog Editor – Jodi Kreider, LEED AP