Certain blues, like the inky, moody shade that is indigo, are always on the design radar. They embody, much like blue jeans, a comfort level associated with basic black. It is a surprisingly neutral color, one that goes with just about any hue.
Once rare, indigo was called blue gold. The natural dye, from the leaves of the indigo herb, can be traced to ancient Egypt. Although the earliest mention dates to fourth-century India, indigo-dyed textiles were found in Roman graves from the second and third centuries.
The Japanese embraced indigo dyeing in a form called shibori from the eighth century; there actually are a half-dozen styles of dyeing that create the look we think of as tie-dyed. And other cultures in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, West Africa and Latin America used ikat, shibori and techniques such as batik with indigo.
During the 13th century, the dye was as valuable a commodity as spices such as cinnamon and ginger.
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There’s a hefty coffee-table book on the subject, Catherine Legrand’s “Indigo: The Color That Changed the World” (Thames & Hudson, 2013), which she calls a “well-documented travel book.”
Legrand, a Parisian fashion boutique owner, became fascinated with the color on a family trip to northern Vietnam. She was intrigued by how hemp was grown, woven and dyed, and that indigo-dyed clothing was like a uniform.
She found that even the process of dyeing seems magical: The way the pigment is drawn from the plant’s green leaves and how it morphs into yellow, then blue.
Although chemical dyes came on the scene in the 18th century, natural dyes are finding new fans among artisans in countries beyond those where they have been produced for centuries.
Denim and the indigo hue continue to light up fashion runways from Paris to Milan, in clothing for women and for men, and the trend is continuing into recent spring 2016 runway shows.
And indigo has been one of the cool go-tos in home decor. It’s punchier than navy, and the saturated color, with its note of purple, shows off furniture frames well, whether sofa or chair. Even cabinetry and shelving have been introduced in indigo shades. In a tone-on-tone pattern or teamed with white, it’s a strong accent.
“Indigo is, without question, the most versatile and romantic of all the blues,” says designer Barclay Butera, who highlighted it in his furniture collection for Highland House, as well as bedding for Eastern Accents. “This shade is a chameleon color that works with traditional, transitional and contemporary interiors alike.
“It’s nautical, it’s European, it’s high fashion, it’s whatever-you-need-chic. The contrast with crisp fresh white is so evocative of Greece, with the sun-bleached white homes nestled in the cliffs over the Mediterranean.”
Many retailers have featured indigo this year. Pottery Barn “reimagined indigo in every space. From the living room to the bedroom, from the tabletop to the floor. … Indigo denim and chambray, in all their forms, are a classic combination that will never go out of style.”
Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel also have been feeling blue, in solids as well as shibori and ikat patterns with inky blue spilling into white. In fact, Crate & Barrel has tapped indigo as a favorite trend for fall.
Weaving indigo into the home will add depth and richness, and like a favorite pair of jeans, it can become a staple for classic or modern style.