From deep moody English violet to soft and subdued lavender, violet is an exceptional color to bring a sense of drama to your interior design. Violet, and its close cousin, purple, do not have to be garish and overpowering. Violet and all its hues are a surprisingly good way to add a touch of showstopping color in unexpected places.
What is the Color Violet?
Violet is the last color on the visible light spectrum, located just after blue and before the invisible ultraviolet. Most people associate violet with purple as these colors are combinations of blue and red. In strict violet vs purple terms, purple is the word we use for colors between red and blue with a reddish hue and violet for similar colors with a bluish hue. In scientific terms, violet is both a part of visible light and color. Purple is just a color and not part of the light spectrum.
Violet is a color that we find throughout nature, though it is not as prominent as other earth tones like green, blue, and brown. Many flowers like violets, pansies, and lobelias are violet/purple. There are also some animals like birds and sea creatures that feature violet coloring. Because there are so few animals that have violet coloring, it is striking when we see it in the wild.
The origin of the English word for violet comes from the Old English and Middle French word violete or viola from Latin. Both of these words referenced the flower of the same name. The first recorded use of this word as a color appeared in the late Middle Ages.
Symbolism of the Color Violet
The color violet has powerful and diverse meanings that have developed as a result of its usage over time.
Violet-purple has a strong association with royalty and wealth. Most people believe that this relates to the expensive natural violet dye of the ancient world, Tyrian purple. In the ancient world, the Phonecians and later the Greeks and Romans, produced this natural purple violet dye from the Murex, a type of sea snail. This dye was labor-intensive and rare. People prized this dye throughout the ancient world because it did not fade like other violet dyes made from berries. Because of its rarity and expense, it was only available to the most wealthy.
During the Roman and Byzantine eras, only the emperor was allowed to wear the color purple. This color continued to be the color people associated with wealth throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance in both eastern and western cultures. World leaders and monarchs today still favor violet and purple hues.
Repentance and Sorrow
Violet is a hue that we associate with mourning and repentance because of its deep and moody color and because of our cultural associations. In Christian churches throughout the west, violet is the color of Advent and Lent. Advent is a season of waiting and examining your life in preparation for Christmas. Lent is a similar period of waiting and mourning leading up to Easter. Violet/purple is also the color that Catholic priests wear when they celebrate a mass for the dead.
Wisdom and Enlightenment
We associate deep violet hues with the dark and mysterious night sky and with the wisdom of heaven. Cultures throughout time have also connected violet with enlightenment. In Japan, only the highest-ranking Buddhist monks are allowed to wear the color purple. In Taoism, purple/violet symbolizes the ascension from the mortal into the immortal. The crown chakra, in Hindu ideology, is pictured as purple. This chakra represents our energy center which connects us to the divine. When our energy center is balanced, we feel inner peace, clarity, and spiritual connection.
Creativity and Individuality
Most cultures also associate purple with creativity because of its association with the divine. When creativity strikes, it can often seem like a manifestation of the divine.
We also associate violet with individuality. Violet is a striking color. It is present in nature but in ways that are eye-catching and distinct. As in nature, when people wear violet, they attract attention and notice. Violet is a way that we can express our own distinction.
Using Violet Hues in Interior Design
Violet shades are a way to bring a bit of drama and glam to your home by reinvigorating faded color schemes. Try some of these methods to use violet in your home decor.
As overwhelming as violet may seem, it can be surprisingly subtle when you paint it on your walls. It is best not to go with highly saturated violet shades if you want to maintain a subdued color scheme. You can still add distinction with violet shades that are tinted with white, gray, black, and brown. These colors will give you a more subtle vibrancy but work well with other shades in your home. Bold violet colors work well to create drama, but use these colors sparingly.
You can add colorful violet accents to enliven your interior design if you aren’t ready to paint a whole room violet/purple. Paint one large piece of furniture violet or add purple throw pillows, wall accents, or a rug. Violet also looks stunning on cabinetry in the right setting. Try different shades of purple to accent your color scheme. Remember that the addition of gray or brown will tone down the vibrancy of the hue, which makes it more easily complement multiple colors.
Fabric and Wallpaper
Using violet-toned fabric and wallpaper gives your room that extra touch of luxury. While you can choose solid violet patterns, you can also find floral, geometric, and contemporary pattern options.
Ideal Rooms for Violet
- Bedroom – Create a sense of elegant luxury in your bedroom by using violet hues. Rich violet hues on the wall or in the bed and curtain linens also create a sense of coziness and warmth that is desirable in a bedroom.
- Bathroom – Violet colors in the bathroom are unexpected, but they also provide a sense of serenity to promote relaxation.
- Dining Room – Deep shades of violet create a feeling of intimacy that works well in a formal dining room.
- Home Office – Put the thought-provoking nature of violet to the best use in creative spaces like your home office or work room.
- Living Room – Purple and violet shades are glamorous, but they are also inviting. Use this dichotomy to heighten the drama of your room while still making it a place that everyone can enjoy.
Colors that Pair Well with Violet
Consider these color schemes to get some ideas for how you can use violet in unique and distinctive ways.
Violet/Purple and Light Neutrals
By pairing violet with light neutrals like white, cream, beige, and gray, you help to decrease the intrinsic intensity of the tone to balance the overall look. White, cream, and beige help to warm the violet to make it feel more inviting. Warm neutrals pair best with warm or neutral violet hues. Pale gray is a good complement to cool purples and lavenders.
Violet/Purple and Yellow
In traditional color theory, yellow is the complementary color of purple. When you combine varied shades of these colors together, it is a way to contrast the moody qualities of violet with the cheerful nature of yellow. Purple and yellow are a dramatic combination, yet it can also be subtle when you use muted options of each variety. Metallic yellow, like brass, is also the ideal complement for luxurious purple hues.
Violet/Purple and Earth Tones
Tone down the intensity of violet with the soothing qualities of blue, green, and brown. Consider all the manifestations of these tones including violet and sage, lavender and navy, and aubergine and brown. Pairing violet/purple accents with these colors makes it more workable for complete interior color schemes.
Violet/Purple and Dark Neutrals
Create a classic look by combining violet with dark neutrals like black, brown, and dark gray. These colors ground purple and give it a more mature look. Dark neutrals also mellow the intensity of purple but heighten the drama of the overall look.
Versatile Violet/Purple Paint Colors
Depending on the style you want to present in your home, there is a wide array of violet and purple shades to consider.
Shades of Light Violet/Purple
- Caluna (No. 270) from Farrow & Ball – Farrow & Ball calls Caluna a shade of lilac. This is a pale violet with a touch of black to mute the vibrancy of the color.
- Abalone (2108-60) from Benjamin Moore – Abalone is the ideal shade if you want a color that just hints at purple. This color is actually gray with purple/brown undertones.
- Mystical Shade (6276) from Sherwin Williams – Mystical Shade is a grown-up lavender. This is a well-balanced color with gray undertones to wash out the vibrancy of the color.
Shades of Medium Violet/Purple
- Brassica (No. 271) from Farrow & Ball – Brassica is a light shade of lavender with cool undertones. It has a hint of black to add some age and dimension to the color.
- Cinnamon Slate (2113-40) from Benjamin Moore – Cinnamon Slate is a more overt purple shade with gray and brown undertones that add complexity.
- Webster Avenue (6276) from Magnolia – Webster Avenue is a mid-toned purple with warm undertones and just a hint of gray to ground the color.
Shades of Dark Violet/Purple
- Pelt (No. 254) from Farrow & Ball – Pelt is a deep violet hue with blue undertones. This color will appear darker in dimly lit spaces.
- Brinjal (No. 222) from Farrow & Ball – Farrow & Ball calls this color a rich aubergine. This color leans distinctly toward red but will look more purple in dark rooms.
- Shadow (2117-30) from Benjamin Moore – Shadow is a rich amethyst shade of violet. This is a deep and moody color with strong gray undertones.