Just in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – celebrated with a long bank holiday weekend from 2 to 5 June – the colour purple is finally taking its rightful place on the throne when it comes to choosing paint at home. Once considered sugary-sweet and old-fashioned, it’s arguably the biggest colour trend of 2022, with lavenders, plums, violets and mauves being given contemporary spins for current tastes. Just call it the comeback kid…
Steeped in a rich history, purple has long been associated with royalty and aristocracy, thanks to its connotations of luxury, splendour, power and wealth. Its ties to the upper-crust of society date back thousands of years, revered by everyone from the Byzantines to the Romans, with the extremely rare dye being difficult to source and the shade being notoriously expensive to produce. In fact, Queen Elizabeth I forbade anyone other than her family to wear the hue, keeping it even more exclusive and coveted. It wasn’t until 1856 when 18-year-old British chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way of replicating the dye artificially that the colour purple could finally be mass-produced.
More recently, Queen Elizabeth II has continued waving the flag for purple, from eye-catching outfits at events such as Ascot, to statement pieces on trips to places like China. Her diamond-encrusted crown, too – originally made for her father George VI’s coronation – famously features a striking purple velvet insert enclosed within a cage of diamonds. But it’s not just royals who have claimed the colour; it’s also been revered by rock stars and rebels, from Prince to Oscar Wilde, thanks to its deliciously eccentric and distinctly risqué character. Is there anything more British?
It’s only relatively recently, though, that purple has become a serious contender for home décor – a remedy for the beige and cream favoured before the late 90s, perhaps? Arguably, it was Laurence Lllewelyn-Bowen, who appeared on our TV screens in Changing Rooms in 1996, that swayed the nation with his preference for a kaleidoscopic palette. Teals. Damsons. Turquoises. And, of course, purples. Here was a man who wasn’t afraid of colour – and who could commit to it across entire walls – and it inspired us to be brave, crack open a can of creativity, and take a dip with the paintbrush.
A distinct combination of red and blue, even colour experts struggle to define purple, while it can often be found among nature in grapes, hyacinths and butterflies, amongst other wonders. On a practical level, it’s one of the best colours that can be used in the northern hemisphere, where light is something you just can’t rely on; it’s not uniformly golden, like in the Med, nor is it consistently cool and crisp like in Scandinavia. Some may consider the colour’s interchangeability as rather erratic, while those who know how to harness its power understand its flexibility – a strength when selecting a shade to work in such varying light.
With people wanting to ditch the show-home look of times gone by – opting instead to create spaces with depth, meaning and feeling – it was finally purple’s time to come to prominence. Bold and confident, there’s nothing discreet or subtle about it, and it adds lashings of character and opulence to even the smallest or most subdued of rooms. Thankfully, outdated iterations of the colour have been upgraded for the Instagram generation, from deep and dramatic in Mulberry Burst™ and Purple Pout™, to dusky to chalky in Lavender Quartz™ and Dusted Fondant™. Not only that, but we’re using purples in interesting new ways, from pairing with simple neutrals to teaming with complementary pastels or clashing with pinks and oranges.
Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux, says: “At the very end of the spectrum, purple is both visible and invisible in ultra-violet light, making it a colour that’s elusive and mysterious. Now that everyone can afford a bit of purple, we have fallen in love with its ripe berry and royal velvet hues for the walls of our homes, and in the lighter shades we find a warm energy that offers a delightful alternative to blue in rooms that have plenty of natural light, or spaces we seek restful sleep in.”
Experiment and have fun with regal and rebellious looks. If anything, purple proves that the rules are made to be broken…