Ombre might mean “shaded” in French, but we think this aesthetic of blending of colors translates into “effortlessly cool” in just about any language.
You’ve seen it just about everywhere: on walls and wedding cakes, delicately painted on nails and carefully infused into dyed hair. Indeed, the gradual fading from one color or tone to another, known as ombré, has been one of the longest-running design trends that we’ve seen — so much so that we’d even argue that it’s ready to move from the realm of short-term crazes into the world of timeless classics. But where did ombré come from, and why has it become so popular in the past few years?
The term ombré, accent and all, comes from French, where it means “shaded”; the French word itself goes back to the Latin word for shade, umbra. But you could say that the transition between colors and tones that ombré is known for has always existed: it’s found just about everywhere in nature, from rainbows to sunsets, bodies of water to flowers and plants.
Yet it wasn’t until the 1800s that this use of gradual shading from one hue to another became increasingly popular. Textiles with colors that shifted from light to dark started to be produced in the mid-1800s, often by dyeing threads with graded colors that could be made by soaking different threads in indigo, for example, for different amounts of time to achieve a range of shades of blue. And thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the development of methods for the mass-production of textiles during the 19th century, the pattern spread across the globe, appearing in textiles, accessories, embroidery, wallpaper, and more.
Fast forward more than a century and ombré faded (no pun intended!) somewhat in the background in the art and design worlds. Cue the 1970s, with the emergence of digital art and artists who incorporated boldly graphic, seamless color gradients. By this point, ombré was employed in various directions: linear, radial, and axial color transitions, and they were digitally created rather than manually. And by the 1990s, color gradients became a popular way to add color and depth to designs, especially ones generated on computers (looking at you, Photoshop!).
But the contemporary ombré revolution really came, you could say, when the famed late singer Aaliyah dyed her hair in a subtle, gradual fade from black at the roots to a deep auburn at the tips — what style experts noted was both eye-catching and easy to maintain. Since then, the fading of from one color to another has spread from textiles and hair to nails, furniture, food, and of course, floors.
We’ve launched a collection of ombré rugs crafted in Bhadohi, India out of a mix of wool from Sardinia and India on a cotton foundation. Woven in a super tight pile, they’re the perfect addition to just about any space. Use one to tie together different tones in a color palette or to add depth, texture, and visual interest to a monochromatic space that might otherwise be lacking. Unlike most ombré rugs, ours have a gradient which runs vertically instead of horizontally, adding an extra dose of visual interest.
We love the flexibility of these rugs because of the way they combine multiple colors or tones in a single piece that can range from moody and subdued (like our Dawn colorway, which fades from mauve-ish taupe to pale pink) to bold and fiery (take a look at the reds and oranges of our Noon rug). And because of their graphic nature, they can have a big impact, even in small doses!