Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Falling for Purple

If your birthday is in the month of September, your flower is the Aster. The name of this flower, also known as starwort, is derived from the Greek word for "star", and "aster" is the root of the name of the star-shaped symbol known as the asterisk. It should come as no surprise then, with its astral appearance and associations, that the aster has long been considered an enchanted flower with magical powers.

In ancient times, it was believed that the perfume from the burning leaves of asters could drive away evil spirits. Victorians, with their complex language of flowers known as "floriography", used asters to send messages of love, daintiness, affection and patience. Today, asters also hold the honor of being the traditional flower of 20th wedding anniversaries.

Blooming in late summer through fall in most climates across the U.S., asters are easy to grow and can be found in colors ranging from white to pinks and blues, lavenders and purples, almost all with yellow centers. Purple asters are my favorite, even though the color purple itself is not one I tend to use at all in my own interiors and have yet to use for a client.

["Asters and Pumpkin", 10x8 oil by Jan Blencowe on The Painting a Day Project]

This year, and right now as we enter fall especially, purple seems to be everywhere. In fashion, furniture, paint and other finish materials as well as accessories for both your wardrobe and your home. Like the aster, the color purple is associated with magic and mystery and creativity. Light shades of purple evoke romantic and nostalgic feelings while dark shades can cause feelings of gloom and sadness. A true "royal" purple symbolizes nobility, luxury, extravagance, ambition and wisdom.

["Asters and Fruit on a Table", by Henri Jean Fantin-Latour, 1868]

According to color theory as found on pantone.com, "purple is the most enigmatic of all colors". It is a combination of the excitement and energy of red and the calm tranquility of blue. It the most complex color of the rainbow and the people who choose it as their favorite tend to be complex as well: artists, performers, mystics, non-conformists, designers, and eccentrics. Are you a fan of purple? To which of these groups do you belong?

["Aster de Chine", Pierre Joseph Redoute', original work published in 1833]

Some surveys, as reported on colorwheelpro.com, show that 75% of pre-adolescent children will say purple is their favorite color. Preferred and enjoyed by highly creative types, the color purple, when used in children's rooms, is said to help them develop their imaginations. And we all know a fanciful little girl (maybe it was you) who insisted that her room must be purple... or at least purple and pink!

["Asters", Claude Monet, 1880]

As with any color, there are a wide range of hues in the group we call purple. From the palest lavender and the pinkiest mauve to almost-blue periwinkle and the grapey purples used by athletic teams, there's a purple out there for just about everyone, even me. As I said, I am not a fan of purple for my own home, but I can certainly appreciate it from afar. Let's take a look at some interior spaces, and a few other items, appropriate for lavender lovers of all ages:

I love periwinkle blue. So a purple that leans periwinkle is just fine by me. Throw in some orchid and gold plus pattern on decor and fabrics, and I just might be able to live with it!

This girl's room found at Pottery Barn Teen is sweet without being syrupy. I think it's the green furniture and graphic pattern on the purple sheets that does the trick.

Pre-teen heaven: large doses of purple plus other equally vibrant accents, cool paper lanterns and a trundle for overnight guests!

Here's another large dose of purple that's decidedly more grown up. If you look back at the previous photo and then again at this one, you'll notice immediately that it is the style of the furnishings and accessories that make the difference. The paper lanterns and cottage style of the bedroom furniture are youthful and fun while the patinaed antiques and finer fabrics used above give the room age and elegance.

On the other hand, purple can bring a sense of youth and fun to even the most grown-up space. If you didn't see this home in a recent issue of Elle Decor magazine, you might be surprised to know that the purple swirls above were painted by the homeowner herself in an attempt to bring new life to a well-worn (and a little bit stained) area rug. That this room is in the home of the oh-so-serious Washington DC commentator George Stephanopoulos (along with his actress wife Alexandra Wentworth and their two daughters) may be an even bigger surprise!

Paired with lots of white, dark woods and a not-too-sweet floral at the window, purple can be every bit as calming and relaxing as blue.

Another soothing purple bedroom with a completely different, more modern personality.

Again, purple stands in for the watery blues and greens most of us would probably choose for the relaxing bathroom of our dreams. The texture of the boards that wrap around the floor, walls and ceiling plus the very traditional fixtures, do a nice job of keeping this room from feeling too cold.

And here, the warmth of wood cabinets and flooring balances the cool whites and mauves and chrome.

A casual tablescape looks like the perfect setting for a spring luncheon.

A purple wedding table set in the garden. Flowers continue the theme and the fresh greens provide the perfect counterpoint.

A purple kitchen? It seems the lighting in this space plays a big part in wrapping this room in a cool purple glow. Not my cup of tea. Is it yours?

Ah, this is better. More purple in the garden.

I couldn't resist this chair I found at horchow.com. Purple done like this could definitely grow on me!

Fantastic wallpaper. And such a smart idea to paint the base moulding to match.

I love Anthropologie. Doesn't everyone? This velvety purple settee is romantic and whimsical, even in such stark surroundings.

Also from Anthropologie. Did you know they sell one of a kind art like this platter full of purple flowers? Click on the photo to learn more about this artist and her wares.

Okay, now here's where purple loses me completely. Garish and bright and unnecessary—but that's just my opinion. If you love purple and Halloween, this could be the look for you!

And I definitely draw the line at purple for Christmas. I am a traditionalist through and through when it comes to this holiday. The colors are pretty, and I like the ornaments dangling from what I assume to be the chandelier, but this table and tree do not say "Happy Holidays" to me. You?

Finally, to erase the memory of purple Christmas, here is the image that is my favorite of all that I found for this post. I love everything about it. Even the wacky light fixture and that crinkly little bonsai-looking thing on the table. Okay, maybe not so much that one thing. Perhaps a vase full of purple asters would be better.

Which image here is your favorite? Do you use purple in your home? Are you a September baby? (Happy Birthday if you are!) How do you feel about asters? Talk to me.

My apologies for not citing the interiors I've pictured here. I was a lazy blogger today!


Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design said...

Yes, yes, yes. I am a September baby and love purple. We have a feature wall of dark purple (blue based not red based) behind our bed and our bedspread is gold and purple. I have used purple a fair bit for clients mainly in the bedrooms. I have one client I am working with at the moment and we've actually put down a greyed purple carpet. It looks sensational. Asters, ummmm, I like the pink ones with the double petals but we don't get them in September, we get them in April.

pk said...

What a great post, Tracy! I don't have purple in my own home and if I ever did use it, it would only be used as an accent. I could NOT handle the purple kitchen (takes my appetite away! :-)). Again, love the post. Great job!

Struggler said...

Well, I love purple but I'm neither complex nor creative.

You found some great photos here; I don't much care for the Halloween version but I really love purple for Christmas. The kitchen is just a bit too space-age and the lighting would probably make the food look funny ;)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Another wonderful post Tracy. My daughter-in-law's birthday is in September so I'm going to forward this post to her as I know she'll enjoy it. The paintings you found to illustrate it are so lovely!

My daughter insisted on a purple and black room when she was a teenager. It was a little too much "angst" for me...lol... but it made her happy until she went off to college and I regained control of the room. Now it is decorated in a light sage green with touches of dusty lilac - definitely more restful.

I do not like the purple kitchen, and I prefer traditional colors for Halloween and Christmas, but I love the purple settee. I think purple is best suited as an accessory accent color.

The painted purple swirl carpet in George Stephanopoulos' house actually looks quite nice in the photo. I know they have very young children so I imagine they don't want to invest in new carpeting until they are older. That was a very imaginative and frugal idea.

Susie from Bienvenue said...

My sister and I grew up sharing a purple bathroom. It was the sofest shade ever...i loved that room~

Averill said...

Thanks for stopping by Odi et Amo!

This is a great (and very thoughtful) post. I'm a big fan of purple -- just painted by study a deep aubergine, in fact. That said though, I'm not a big fan of lavender (periwinkle, but not lavender).

Jill said...

I am not a purple girl...but my youngest daughter is! She is 7 and it is her new favorite color, it used to be pink. LOVE all your pictures! Beautiful...And I love your comments on my blog...thanks for being so faithful in your reading and commenting. It means the world to me!
Cheers! Jill

KayEllen said...

Beautiful post:)
I want to curl up on the velvet settee right now!!

Thank you for the lavender/purple inspiration:)


pk said...

Hi Tracy! I just gave you an award! Check it out! .

Susie from Bienvenue said...

Thank you for that sweet comment today~

Maria Killam said...

Wow you found some really stunning images! I loved this post!

Anonymous said...

I like a little purple, but not in an overwhelming manner like that modern kitchen. I do like the horchow chair which could be used most anywhere. I'm not surprised at Allie Wentworth's painted floor. That seems like something she would do, given her personality. I love the paining "Asters and Pumpkin". It's a great fall painting. The purple wedding in the garden is a beautiful setting. My sister and I had a lavender and green bedroom when we were young teens. Striped curtains which were green stripes with tiny lavender flowers, and tiny flowered wallpaper. Light weight seersucker bedspreads made up of lavender flowers with green leaves. A lavender rug on the floor. Sounds a bit much when you put it down like this, but we loved that room with all the softness of it. Purple has to be done right to make it work.
Rh in the mountains.

House things I like said...

I'm with you regarding periwinkle. So pretty.

Cik Qemm said...

love all of them.

love purple!