The color blue has positive associations that can provide a serene presence in your interior design palette. Not only is the blue color associated with beneficial characteristics like calmness and tranquility, loyalty and trust, stability and peace, but there are also a vast array of shades of blue to consider. Consider ways to use the wide varieties of the color blue to benefit your home’s color design.
What is Blue?
Blue is one of the three primary colors in traditional color theory. The color blue is visible to the human eye on the spectrum of visible light, located between violet and cyan. Blue is one of the most predominant colors in nature, visible in the vast sky and ocean. While the daytime sky looks to be the color blue, it only appears this way because of the scattering of light. Scientists have termed this optical effect as Rayleigh scattering. This phenomenon causes shorter blue and violet wavelengths to scatter more than longer red and orange wavelengths making the sky appear blue.
The ocean absorbs all the colors of the light spectrum but reflects blue, making it also appear blue.
The blue color is visible throughout nature in diverse manifestations. You can see blue in flowers like bluebells and irises, minerals like lapis lazuli and sapphire, and even some animals like the blue jay and the morpho butterfly.
The origins of the word for blue evoke the mysterious qualities of blue. The modern English word for blue originates from the Old English word bleu or blewe. These words have Germanic origins and come from blao also meaning “lustrous or shimmering.”
Symbolism of Blue
Most of our associations with blue are positive. Scientists don’t understand why people associate colors with positive or negative things, but some suspect that it has to do with associations. True blue and its diverse shades consistently rank as favorite colors across time and cultures because perhaps we associate blue with calm waters and the peaceful sky. Blue has powerful symbolism and meaning that appeal to our psychology.
Trust and Reliability
Certain scientific studies show that people link blue with trust and reliability. The reason for this is multi-faceted. One common psychological explanation is that we link blue with the sea and sky, which provide stability in our lives. Every day, these elements exist, regardless of the fluctuations in our own lives. Blue is also a cool color representing a rational and calm approach that we link with trust. This is the reason that many police and military uniforms utilize the color blue as a primary element in their design.
Wisdom and Loyalty
Many religions across the world and through time have used blue to signify the mysteries of heaven, including spirituality and wisdom. In Christianity, blue came to symbolize the Virgin Mary. When artists depict her alone, they color her cloaks with the rich blue, ultramarine. They use less vibrant blues when they paint her in a grouping with Christ. In East cultures, blue is a symbol of immortality and divinity. Religious tradition pictures some Hindu gods with the color blue. Vishnu is the most common because he is associated with water.
We perceive blue as a conservative and loyal color, as seen in the phrase “true blue” to mean anyone on whom you can depend.
Peace and Tranquility
Another natural association we have with blue is as a representation of peace and serenity. Much like the other symbolism, this is likely an association we have as a result of our experience with blue in nature, namely the water and the sky. Time spent in the natural environment helps to restore the serenity and peace of our spirit. The colors and shades of blue represent the vast natural environments that evoke feelings of calm. This is why the color blue is popular in spa design and home decor.
Sadness and Loneliness
We consider blue a cool color compared to more vibrant hues like red, yellow, and orange. This may be why we link the color blue with sadness as evidenced by the expressions “feeling blue” or “having the blues” when people feel sad. While the expressions linked sadness to blue are only used in Western cultures, blue is associated with feeling depression or melancholy in Eastern cultures as well.
Interestingly, scientific research has found that sadness will also impair the colors we perceive in the world, particularly colors along the blue-yellow axis.
Using the Color Blue in Interior Design
You can use the color blue and its amazing variety of shades to bring a sense of balance and calm to your interior spaces.
Use it as a Neutral
Use a pale shade of blue to replace a neutral shade like white or gray. This “almost there” color will provide a unique backdrop with just a hint of color. Play off the neutral look by accenting the room with other neutrals like white or beige or highlight with dark and dramatic tones like deep gray or black.
The dark shades of blue are optimal for giving the room a serene and quiet look. Explore the green side of blue with deep shades of teal, or consider blue with hints of gray like navy and indigo.
Shades of blue, from the vibrant to the placid, make excellent accent colors. Blue works as a calming complementary tone to warm shades like orange, red, and yellow. It can give green more depth. Use blue as a third color accent when you need a stable color influence in your design.
Blue is a popular color for kitchen, laundry, and bathroom cabinetry. Navy blue is a particular favorite for cabinets because of its almost neutral status. Another particular favorite color blue for cabinets has just a hint of green to keep it interesting.
Blue is a traditional choice for the ceilings of porches dating back to the colonial era in the United States. Adopt this practice on the interior of your home to create the look of the sky overhead. This can be particularly effective in a child’s room or when painting ceiling paneling that mimics the outdoors.
Ideal Rooms for the Color Blue
Use the powerful symbolism of blue to create a calm and serene environment in your interior spaces.
- Bedrooms – Blue is one of the most popular options for bedroom color schemes as it evokes peace and tranquility. Use a pale blue or a blue-gray to heighten the serene environment. You can also use a deep blue to give your bedroom an elegant and stately look.
- Kitchens – The color blue is popular in kitchens as an accent and a background color. Pair a striking blue wall with white cabinets for a coastal vibe. Use blue tile or paint your cabinets blue if you want to add the positive ambiance of blue without using it as an overall color.
- Living Rooms – Blue in the living room can create a welcoming and cozy touch. Use either light shades of blue with a touch of gray to tone down the brightness, or choose a deep and quiet blue shade.
- Study/Office – Create a calm atmosphere for work and study by using a rich blue colour on the walls.
- Bathrooms – Use blue paint to help you create the style and look of an expensive spa. Choose a mid-toned blue that is striking but not too brilliant to keep the tranquil effect.
Colors That Pair Well With Blue
The tranquil nature of the blue color means that it pairs well with an abundance of diverse colors.
Blue and Light Neutrals
Blue paired with light neutrals like white, cream, light gray, and beige is a classic combination that looks fresh and clean. This combination evokes the natural look of the coastal environment, so it is a common combination in California or beach-inspired design. Blue and light neutrals can evoke a traditional and modern look based on the particular shades in the design.
Blue and Green
Blue and green are analogous colors in traditional color theory. These colors are located next to one another on the color wheel. In color symbolism, blue and green share the qualities of tranquility. This combination is ideal for rooms like bedrooms where you want to enhance the serene atmosphere. Feel free to explore all the shades of both of these hues from pale celadon green and silvery cyan blue to deep forest green and indigo blue.
Blue and Yellow
The combination of blue and yellow is suited to both partners. Yellow brings a cheerful vibrancy to blue and blue gives yellow a more sophisticated and mature look. This pairing has endless fusions from deep ochre yellow paired with navy for a traditional look or bright yellow paired with sky blue for a child’s bedroom.
Blue and Orange
Blue and orange may not seem like a natural connection, but these colors are ideal counterparts as evidenced by their complementary position on the color wheel. Bright blue and orange will seem like a stretch for many, but instead consider a rich and moody blue paired with a muted orange like burnt sienna.
Blue and Dark Neutrals
Blue and dark neutrals like black and brown can be sleek and modern or traditional. Blue works to heighten the drama in these staid colors.
Popular Shade Blue Paint Colors
Depending on the look you want to create, there is a wide variety of blue hues and shades to consider.
Shades of Light Blue
- Pale Powder (No. 204) from Farrow & Ball – Pale Powder is a good paint option if you want a “barely there” color. Farrow & Ball warm this pale silvery blue with the slight addition of green.
- Blue Veil (875) from Benjamin Moore – Blue Veil is another pale blue shade with a bright aspect unmuted by the addition of gray.
- Streetwise (N440-1) from Behr – Streetwise is a pale blue shade reminiscent of robin’s egg blue. It has just a touch of gray to lend it sophistication.
- Light Blue (No. 22) from Farrow & Ball – Light Blue is a gorgeous blend of gray and blue. This color changes hue based on the direction of light. It can appear more gray than blue in dim spaces. In warm light, you will see hints of green.
Shades of Medium Blue
- Good Jeans (No. 204) from Clare – Good Jeans is a medium toned blue with a touch of green. The color is muted with gray, so you can use it as a bright neutral without too much intensity.
- Oval Room Blue (No. 85) from Farrow & Ball – Oval Room Blue has an ample infusion of black to give it the look of age. This is a rich medium toned blue that looks brilliant on wood paneling or on walls.
- Lulworth Blue (No. 89) from Farrow & Ball – This is a gorgeous mid-toned blue with a touch of periwinkle. This blue has a natural and fresh look that works well for coastal-styled rooms.
- Buckland Blue (HC-151) from Benjamin Moore – Buckland Blue is a slightly faded cerulean blue. It works well in both traditional and contemporary spaces.
Shades of Dark Blue
- Hague Blue (No. 30) from Farrow & Ball – Hague Blue is a deep and rich blue with green undertones to give it warmth.
- Moscow Midnight (9142) from Sherwin Williams – Moscow Midnight is a deep blue that leans toward green. The look of this color varies depending on the surrounding colors and light.
- Hale Navy (HC-154) from Benjamin Moore – Hale Navy is the perfect classic navy blue. It has a gray and purple undertone which lends color complexity.