Monday 21 January 2019

Spring into the colour purple

Ultra Violet is the shade of the year. Put porphyrophobia aside, it goes with everything

Winchester Metropolitan five-field tile in Heath from
Winchester Metropolitan five-field tile in Heath from
Dining room inspired by Ultra Violet from DelightFULL
Bowie print at
'Dearly beloved' Prince print by Angie Jones from
Landscape prints by
DFS Bailey Wool Accent chair
Prints from
Bedroom inspired by Ultra Violet by
Penneys Hygge cushion

Eleanor Flegg

Mention the colour purple in an interiors context and people are liable to run screaming from the room. But look more closely and you'll find that there's a lot of it about.

Mostly, purple is used as an accent colour or incorporated in a pattern. Matthew Williamson's fabrics and wallpapers, for example, have been flying the purple flag for years. When you notice how many lilacs and lavender are already in homeware, it's less of a shock to discover that the Pantone colour of the year for 2018 is Ultra Violet.

Still… Yikes! Ultra Violet is a strong blue-based purple and by no means easy to live with. But, for the pundits at Pantone, the colour encapsulates the zeitgeist of 2018.

"Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute. Pretty words, for certain, but what do the mysteries of the cosmos have to do with the price of paint?

'Dearly beloved' Prince print by Angie Jones from
'Dearly beloved' Prince print by Angie Jones from

Pantone, for the record, doesn't sell paint. It's most famous for the Pantone Colour Matching System that numbers and standardises colours. Ultra Violet, for example, is listed as PANTONE 18-3838. The system is designed to help designers match colours exactly, anywhere in the world. It's mostly used in printing, but also by manufacturers of fabrics, paint and plastics. Ever since 2000, Pantone has announced a Colour of the Year. This is based on trend analysis, graphics and fashion.

The more prescient retailers are on it already. Penneys was quick off the mark with its AW17 Hygge Hibernation cushions (€6) in grey and violet. And the designers at DFS are probably slapping themselves on the back for promoting their Bailey armchair in lavender wool. A further tsunami of purple homeware is on its way. Brace yourselves. Eiseman continues: "In interiors Ultra Violet can transform a room into one of extraordinary self-expression, or conversely its polish can tone down a room with subdued, modern pairings. Adding spice and brightness, Ultra Violet calls attention to a tufted couch, piece of art or accent wall." Using a piece of art that includes the colour is probably the strongest, as well as the safest, way to incorporate it in the home.

This year, the Saatchi Gallery commissioned a series of limited edition Pantone Colour of the Year 2018 prints from various artists. These include a portrait of Prince, 'Dearly Beloved We Are Gathered Here Today to Get Through This Thing Called Life', by Angie Jones. The title comes from his 1984 album, Purple Rain, and a limited edition print (20 inches by 15 inches) costs €310. There is also a Bowie portrait, 'TCV15', in the same series. That title comes from Bowie's song of the same name, inspired by an incident when Iggy Pop became convinced that Bowie's television set was swallowing his girlfriend.

But is it really what you want on the wall? Niamh Courtney, colour consultant with MRCB paints, thinks not.

"When you look at it in isolation Ultra Violet is too much. It's too out there. Too extreme." Pantone's Ultra Violet is, or will be, produced by the Irish paint company Fleetwood, as part of its Prestige range and will cost around €40 for a 2.5 litre tin. But Courtney reckons that a feature wall in this colour is a really, really bad plan. "To be honest I'm kind of over feature walls anyway," she admits. For her, the real value of Pantone's Colour of the Year is that it gets us talking. "But are we going to be using it on the walls? I don't know…"

Where Ultra Violet comes into its own is as part of a pattern, used sparingly in combination with other colours. "It's a very versatile colour - it goes with almost everything. You're probably going to see it in cushions." Ultra Violet works well as a fabric colour, especially softer fabrics like wool and velvet that alter the perception of the colour.

Dining room inspired by Ultra Violet from DelightFULL
Dining room inspired by Ultra Violet from DelightFULL

If it's a wall colour that you're after, Courtney recommends the Dulux Colour of the Year 2018, an earthy, woody pink called Heartwood. Like Pantone, Dulux uses extensive trends analysis. But, unlike Pantone, Dulux is actually in the business of selling paint. Its Colour of the Year is specifically designed to work in people's homes and, if you're buying paint, it's a much safer bet than the Pantone selection.

"This year I think that they've hit it on the nail," says Courtney. "Heartwood is muted enough to flow through a whole house but there's a lovely depth to it as well." It is also part of a palette of colours that are designed to work with each other. There is a purple in the mix - but it's a deep dark gentle purple called Blackberry Bush - very much easier to live with than the relatively harsh Ultra Violet. Dulux Heartwood in Diamond Matt finish costs around €70 for a five-litre tin.

The only problem is that Irish people really don't see themselves in rooms with pink walls.

"Oh Jesus no, I wouldn't want to be putting pink on my walls!" a recent customer objected, when Courtney floated the idea.

"People are afraid of pink as a wall colour - they think it's going to take over," she explains. "I think that Heartwood would be a be a lovely colour for a bedroom but the word pink puts people off." Now, Courtney avoids the P-word. Heartwood also has a lot of brown in the mix, but the Irish customer isn't too keen on that either. The solution is to change the language. Irish people have no notional objection to grey and Heartwood is a greyed pink. "When you introduce Heartwood as a shade of grey there's much less resistance than when you call it pink!",,


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