The color purple (violet in the light spectrum), is balanced on the color wheel between exciting red and tranquil blue. So, at its ‘purest’, purple is equal parts warm and cool. With this conflicting mix of lively and soothing, even the lighter shades – lavender, lilac, iris and the like – send a mixed message in terms of creating mood in a room. It’s an enigma that can be moderated by moving the choice of wall color to a shade that leans decidedly in one direction or the other. On the warm side violets verge on being pink; on the cool side an iris shade is in blue territory.
(Paint colors shown, left to right: Benjamin Moore Purple Easter Egg 2073-50; Dunn Edwards or California Paints Purple Profit DE5983; Benjamin Moore Snugglepuss 1405; DE5941 Simply Violet; Benjamin Moore Oriental Iris 1418.)
In this room designer Rafael de Cárdenas uses a variety of purple and lavender shades, paired with furnishings in neutral tones. Purples, lavenders, plums and pale lilac (an analogous combination) provide an intriguing richness. Enigmatic shades of purple become complexly captivating.
(Image from Elle Decor. Photo by Roger Davies.)
Another way to look at the purple perplexity is to realize that these colors can be used as a happy medium for a room color scheme — a solution that’s ‘magically’ both warm and cool.
Lilac and Lavender
Rich shades of purple have long had regal associations. The colors in the lighter shades offer a broader range of decorating possibilities. They can be fun, whimsical, enchanting or magical as background wall colors or as accent colors.
The warmer side of lavender
Red-violet, warm on the color wheel, is still in the purple category. Lightened, red-violet results in colors like fuchsia.
On the dining accent wall, in the Fifth Avenue apartment apartment of designer Jamie Drake, hangs a large scale Chuck Close self-portrait. The wall is painted Benjamin Moore’s Exotic Fuchsia (2074-50), a color that boarders on hot pink. The wall color draws out colors in the painting. The entry hall (on the left) is painted a regal purple; the voluminous chair in the foreground is covered in brilliant magenta velvet. The result: a richly playful interaction of purples (with analogous associations).
(Image appeared originally in Elle Decor. Photo by William Waldron.)
Distinguished designer John Saladino chose a lavender leaning pink (or is it a pink leaning lavender?) for his client who wanted pink in the bedroom. Says the designer, known for his use of shades of purple: “…of course, it’s my kind of pink.” (The purple shades are analogous with pale peach as accent.)
(Image from Elle Decor. Photo by Antoine Bootz.)
This romantic bedroom, by designer Gary McBounie, has walls that look like they could have been painted “Veiled Violet” (DE5976 at Dunn Edwards and California Paints). It’s a color that’s a slightly muted warm leaning violet.
(Image from House Beautiful. Photo by James Merrell.)
Rug and furniture designer Stephanie Odegard has dotted her living room with variations on warm and muted hues of lilac. The lilac colors are complemented by the golden tone of the carpet. The walls have a wispy tint of violet. (Benjamin Moore’s Raspberry Ice 2072-70 could get the look.)
(Image from Elle Decor. Photo by Antoine Bootz.)
A paler shade of purple
The drapes in this living room, by designer Pat Healing, are a light shade of truer purple. The color scheme, which includes muted chartreuse and pale blue, is upbeat. The softly purple drapes provide a magically soothing touch. There’s also a touch of warmer lilac in accent pillows.
(Image from House Beautiful. Photo by Maura McEvoy.)
In this frills-free bedroom, a ‘modified’ triad color scheme results from the lavender of the bed linens, the orange cast of the wood, and the azure of the ocean waters.
(Image from Coastal Living. Photo by Lisa Romerein.)
One can count on interior designer Jamie Drake to get colorful in room interiors. In this bedroom the designer has used variations on lavender for windows, walls, and the floor. The lilac colors, married with pops of coral, create an enchanting bedroom retreat.
(Image from Elle Decor. Photo by Simon Upton.)
Periwinkle and Iris
Like the color names lavender and lilac, periwinkle can refer to a range of soft purple tones. Most typically periwinkle is thought of as veering from the violet range into blue territory. Iris, too, is usually thought of as bluish leaning.
The periwinkle wall color in this bedroom, by designer Erin Martin, appears a bit gray-muted, softening the color. The clearer periwinkle of the settee stands out against the more muted wall color. The room has an ethereal ambiance.
(Image from House Beautiful. Photo by Dominique Vorillon.)
The ‘lilac’ silk mohair of the chairs in this lively dining room could also be called ‘periwinkle’ or ‘iris’ in color. Employing the ‘purply’ tones, designer Pat Healing has created a glamorous dining space with a bit of European charm.
In the same home, the master bedroom has chairs in a softened periwinkle-lilac tone that, along with the textured pale gray walls and off-white elements, creates a soothing master bedroom retreat. The yellow in the painting is the complementary color to purple.
(Images from House Beautiful. Photos by Maura McEvoy.)
Looking to iris and periwinkle for wall color
As mentioned above, John Saladino has been noted for his use of colors in the lavender range, often for room accents. “I’m emotionally attracted to periwinkle blue,” remarked the designer to color questioning by House Beautiful editors about paint color likes, “It’s soothing and serene and metamorphic, because it goes from gray into blue into lavender, depending on the time of day and the month of the year…”. When asked what paint color he often went back to, the designer mentioned Benjamin Moore’s Orental Iris 1418 (shown above in the paint can on the far right).
The mauve hues are muted versions of lavender, muted by gray. Usually the color term is applied to grayed down warm-leaning lavenders; sometimes you’ll see the term used for grayed down lilacs swaying in a bluish direction.
This living room, with a view into the dining room, is by John Saladino and it’s all in mauves. The periwinkle blue of the dining table skirt stands out in contrast.
(Room image from Saladino Style.)
We can turn to a room by Jamie Drake for another example of mauve wall color. Notice the colors that have been accented against the mauve wall color.
(Room image from Drake Design Associates.)
In a master bedroom, by Roger Thomas, grayed-down purple fabric on the bed frame reads almost as gray against the warmer mauve of the wall color. The pale lavender of the bed throw and the round pillows seem bright against the grayish mauve. Reds in the painting add color to liven the space.
(Elle Decor is the image source. Grey Crawford the photographer.)
Magical Misty Walls
A wall paint color with a hint of violet adds a touch of magic to walls. Just as described by John Saladino above, the colors change with the type of light, appearing warm or cool depending on atmospheric variations.
The walls of this room appear as a faint purple haze. The grayish flooring and the periwinkle tufted settee extend the aura.
(Image from Elle Decor. Room designed by homeowners Harriet Maxwell Macdonald and Andrew Corrie who own a home-furnishings shop in Manhattan. The room was photographed by William Waldron.)
Warmly misty, the living room walls of fashion designer Gilles Mendel have that ethereal quality that just a hint of lavender can create. Designed by Alan Tanksley, the room has accents of soft, sandy tan.
(Image source: Elle Decor. Photographer: William Waldron.)
Below is a girl’s room created by acclaimed southern-based designer Joe Minton, a hugely talented (and knowledgeable) interior designer. (You can watch a series of videos about all the rooms in the 2009 Southern Accents Riverhills Showhouse, that took place in Fort Worth, Texas, using the link I’ll supply. Each room is charmingly described by the designer: start here.) The very soft bluish-lavender of the walls creates a sophisticated background aura.
(Image source: Southern Accents at MyHomeIdeas. Photographer: Emily Minton Redfield.)
Color Schemes with Lilac and Lavender
Tones of purple mix easily with many colors. The very pale tones become airy neutrals for walls. Mauve tones also translate as neutral backdrops. The room examples above have combined purples with chartreuse, with complementary yellow, with sandy neutrals and more. Some analogous combinations have been pointed out. Let’s look at a few more ideas.
Lavender with golden tones and muted warm colors
Mix soft lavenders with butterscotch, muted burnt-orange, or muted rusty tones. A detail shows a rusty column against a pale lavender wall. The wall colors in the bedroom, below, juxtapose lavender with a rich golden color.
(Bedroom image from Sunset. Photo: Thomas J. Story.)
Pale iris with bright accents
A very pale iris wall color is a great backdrop for bright colors like chartreuse and lime-greens, reds, or aquas and blue-greens.
Mauve with bright, warm colors
Mauves look great with bright warm colors like golden-yellows, reds, oranges, fuchsia, hot pinks — as you can see in the mauve section above and this richly-hued bedroom setting.
(Image source: MyHomeIdeas. Photo by Paul Raeside.)
Variations on shades of purple and violet create fascinating, enchanting decorating color choices. You may start to notice that the popularity of purple in room decor is on the rise. Follow your own preferences, of course. But if you haven’t been a fan of anything purple, you may start to see the possibilities in lilac, lavender, periwinkle, or mauve — as accent or wall color. Or you may contemplate fabulous fuchsia for a bedroom accent wall. Maybe misty iris in a dining room might come to mind. Who knows where these ideas may lead …