Blue — from icy cool to deep and luxurious — is having its moment.
The Pantone Color Institute recently proclaimed Classic Blue, “a shade reminiscent of the sky at dusk,” as its Color of the Year for 2020.
In my design work, I’ve also been seeing much more interest in the color blue than in previous decades. I have found that most people either love or dislike blue. When someone insists that they don’t like blue, I always ask: But which blue? There are literally thousands of variations of the color — even Crayola has 19 different blues — so surely there must be a blue you can love.
If you’re considering using blue in your home, ask yourself how the color makes you feel. Although cultural differences, individual reactions and even memories can affect how we respond to certain colors, studies allow us to make some generalized statements:
• Blue is calming, yes, but a blue that’s too bright can have the opposite effect.
• Blue in offices can increase productivity.
• Blue is the least appetizing color. An all-blue kitchen may decrease the appetite.
• Blue is cool and can lower body temperature. Blues that move toward the green side of the spectrum tend to feel warmer.
• Blue evokes tradition and stability; think of the classic navy suit.
• Blue is a spiritual color that reminds us of sky and water.
• Blue can be inspirational or evoke feelings of sadness.
How blue is used, which shade and intensity and what it’s combined with in a room make all the difference in how it makes us feel. A highly saturated bright blue used in large amounts is not calming for most people. A blue that borders on gray might make some people actually feel blue, but the right blue can help reduce anxiety, deter crime and even prevent suicide, according to some psychological research.
Finding the right blue
When choosing a blue paint color, a common mistake is to choose one that’s too bright or too pale. If you’re unsure about your choice, get a small sample size mixed, and paint it on a large board. View it in different light conditions throughout the day to see how it changes. Light affects color, as do light bulbs. It’s always best to view the color in your own environment.
Don’t randomly pick a color. Start with a fabric, rug or something you like that has blue in it, and build on that. Almost any decorating style or type of home can work with blue, including a mountain lodge, a seaside beach house, a modern contemporary or a classic traditional home. That’s where pattern and style come into play and where the expertise of a designer may be helpful.
The amount of blue you use is up to you, but if the hue is highly saturated, you will need a place for eyes to “rest,” so be sure to incorporate some neutral hues. Neutrals that work with all kinds of blues include white, cream, sand and golden colors, and light browns. Warm accents like yellow, gold or red can offset the coolness of an all-blue room.
Blue walls generally look best when used with painted white trim. If the trim has a dark stain, choose a blue that’s not too deep.
If you like more color in the room, take a look at the color wheel, and consider using an accent hue that’s opposite to the blue you are using. Orange paired with blue is called a complementary color scheme.
Or use a color that is adjacent to blue on the wheel, such as blue-green, green or blue-violet; this is called an analogous color scheme.
A pleasing way to use blue is to combine varying tints or shades of blue. This is called a monochromatic color scheme.
If you’re baffled by which blue works for you, there are many interior designers who offer color consulting. Some of my personal favorite blues include Lupine, Indigo and Skyfall from Sherwin-Williams, and Patriot Blue, Blue Dragon and Swiss Blue from Benjamin Moore.
A fresh way to incorporate blue into your home is to paint your wooden stair risers blue. Or paint a ceiling a light blue to make it appear higher.
And with many furniture manufacturers now offering their pieces in custom paint colors, you can bring your favorite shade of blue into your home on a chair, a table or even a buffet.
Robin Strangis is an interior designer and owner of Loring Interiors in Minneapolis.