Martin Cederblad's picture of blue room designed by Swedish stylist and designer, Sara Sjögren.
What is the most commonly stated “favourite colour”? Blue! Not aqua or baby blue but royal blue, indigo, or its more vivid family member that is the colour originally made from Lapis Lazuli. This last colour was, for centuries, the most prized, rare and expensive of hues, literally worth its weight in gold. Only the wealthy could afford this blue, and they used to make artists and artisans sign a contract for how much good blue they would get and where it would be used. Inspectors would make surprise visits to ensure no less expensive blues were being substituted.
In my work as a colour designer, what is the colour my clients most rarely use? Yup, royal blue. The exception is accent walls in a sporty child’s bedroom.
The demise of blue began when blue no longer had to be shipped from exotic and hard to reach places in Afghanistan and laboured over for months to turn into usable pigment. In the mid nineteenth century the chemical industry was producing all sorts of bold new artificial colours. (This made Impressionism possible.) Blue became just one of the many. Van Gogh still thought blue was the divine colour. For Picasso, poor and lonely in turn-of-the-century Paris, it was the colour of sadness and longing – his blue period.
A Yves Klein painting done in his signature colour, IKB, found on postandgrant.co.
French artist Yves Klein invented a recipe for an artificial blue that he thought rivaled the beauty of the natural pigment. So thrilled with the colour he called IKB (International Klein Blue) was he that he took out a patent on it and painted a series of all blue canvases.
Today stores selling china, jewelry and glassware use blue for the displays because blue is the colour of things we cannot touch or hold – water, air, and space – so, psychologically, it says Do Not Touch. In advertising it is the colour most often used by banks because it conveys honesty and trustworthiness. In clothing blue has always been the conservative colour of uniforms, blazers and the easy going denim. It is a way to wear colour without appearing colourful.
So why not on walls?
Naho Kubota's photograph of Jeffrey Inaba’s pop-up café, located in the halls of the Whitney Museum of American Art for the 2010 Biennial, which uses blue light to create a surreal ambiance.
Perhaps it is time to disassociate the colour with sports and see it as van Gogh did – the divine colour - and tap into its unearthly beauty.
In this powder room I used blue wallpaper, blue gloss on the ceiling and the client added a black mirror to complete the surroundings.
Use blue as an alternative to red in a dining room and as a way to expand the dimensions and drama of a powder room. Deep royal blue alters space, blurs the shape and size, and transforms a room into a mysteriously magical world with surrealistic splendor. It can be had without the requiring a king’s ransom!
In this room I used shine on the walls and gold on the ceiling for warmth and drama. I cannot imagine how unpleasant white would be here!
Tips on using indigo: Go all the way. The key is to be submerged in this colour. You are creating a three-dimensional atmosphere – space - not defining an area. No white ceiling and trim!! They interrupt the ambiance.
Blue trim! Painting trim the same colour as the walls or ceiling prevents colour interruption.
Paint the trim the same blue as the walls or a deep colour. Ditto the ceiling. though gold, metallic or mirror finishes are also good because they bounce light and add shimmer. Alternatively, use a second and slightly lighter blue, for example, with a dark blue like PPG Pittsburgh Paints 349-7 Dragonfly on the walls, use PPG 348-5 Shrinking Violet on the ceiling.
Blue Graffiti: This mural in San Francisco has an interesting blue based palette that avoids complementary colours that kill blue’s mood.
Sheen will increase depth and space. Feel free to use satin finish on all surfaces: walls, trim, ceiling. The floor or carpeting can be lighter or brighter, a contrast, a relief.
Pop-up café designed by the Rockwell Group, NYC
Furnish the space with things that are white or bright, have crystal or sparkling surfaces. Metals are good. Expand the palette into magenta and berry colours. Blue is the deep background against which these things play.
Note: Blue is not always cold. It gets warmer as it gets darker. Blues can be warm if you choose one that leans away from the turquoise and green side of the colour wheel and goes toward purple and red where it picks up warm undertones. Try PPG Pittsburgh Paints 347-6 Blue Odyssey, PPG 348-7 Brilliant Blue, or PPG 445-7 Royal Hyacinth from my Coming Home Colour Collection. (Ask for a big chip or a brochure.)
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