About Blue

About Blue

August 15, 2017 by Kathleen

A windowseat nook in a seaside house designed by Kathleen Hay incorporating a range of blues

“It must be admitted, that if blue is anything on this earth, it is abundant.” – Bluets by Maggie Nelson

It is the season of blue: vast blue skies, the endless blue sea, blue and white stripes on a crisp, cotton blouse, blue blazers over khaki slacks at a sunset soirée, fresh blueberry pies on blue-checked tablecloths, red, white, and blue flags fluttering in the summer breeze, and blue hydrangeas in full bloom, their soft round blooms stretching above white picket fences.

Demonstration on the making of pastel de Lectoure

On my recent visit to the southwest of France, I enjoyed a lecture demonstration on the ancient blue pastel dye from the town of Lectoure in the region known as the Golden Triangle (Toulouse, Albi, and Carcassonne).  Fresh leaves from the woad plant furnish the remarkable pigment. The leaves are harvested three to four times a year, crushed and reduced to pulp.  The fermented pulp is then molded into balls by a woad master (soaked, oxidized, rested, and dried).  During the Renaissance, the trade of the woad balls brought immense wealth to merchants and the blue obtained from them was called the “King’s Blue.”

The color blue has been employed in interior design through the ages, incorporated into fabrics, wallcoverings, china, porcelain, and tile.  It's been used in cotton toiles and ticking stripes for centuries and continues to be the darling of the color wheel. Its many shades give myriad options for room schemes— from watery baby blue to deep midnight hues. Blue lends a fresh and crisp feel to a room when paired with bright white, and nautical navy is a quintessential component of so many seaside and coastal interiors.  It can be cold and cool or dramatic and moody depending on the way the light hits it.

“There are colours that feel right for now and as I look at my color palette when I am designing, my eye keeps straying back to blues. There are so many different tones to choose from — from the palest sky blue to deepest darkest denim, rich indigo to dirty petrol shades, and a kick of that amazing Yves Klein blue that lends a little zippiness when used on the piping of a chair or inside the kick pleat of a valance.” -British interior designer Kit Kemp, Every Room Tells a Story.

A bedroom decorated by British designer Kit Kemp in a lovely range of indigo hues (photo from Every Room Tells a Story)

And yet the term blue has many other — and sometimes less joyful — associations.  The phrase "feeling blue" refers to feelings of sadness and melancholy.  The phrase is linked to a custom among many old deep water sailing ships. If the ship lost the captain or any of the officers during its voyage, she would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her entire hull when returning to home port (from quora.com), "Out of the blue" gives the color a sense of unexpected mystery, while "talked a blue streak" and "blue in the face" have an air of rushed impatience about them and likely come from analogies to weather and lightning. "Once in a blue moon" connotes a rare occurrence.  “Black and blue” conjures feelings of anger, sadness, and hurt, while “moody blues” elicits memories of enjoying calming jazz in a smoky speakeasy.

Half the population in the Western world claims blue to be their favorite color.  It has been used by hospitals to calm crying infants and sedate the emotionally disturbed (Bluets) and in spiritual circles it is the color of the throat chakra. “Blue connects you with the Divine; it is the color that we associate with Heaven. Blue energy is pure, soothing, calming, and healing. Imagine yourself lying on the grass on a beautiful sunny day, looking at the blue sky. How do you feel? Peaceful. Serene. Content. Tranquil.” (from chakra-anatomy.com)

Here are some images to enjoy with hopes they leave you feeling calm and contented.

These shutters in the village of Lectoure, France, proudly wear the pastel blue for which this town is known.

The wooden shutters on this building in the medieval village of Lavardens are painted in a bright tone of blue seen often in France.

Le Languedoc Bistro, our favorite restaurant on Nantucket, sports its French heritage with tables decked in blue and white checked tablecloths, servers in indigo-striped aprons, and a patio with navy blue chairs and umbrellas.                  

This lapis lazuli necklace by French designer Yves Tedesco was purchased by my friend on our visit to the open air market in Fleurance. It brings the wearer a calming energy according to the Hindu theory of the seven chakras — energy focal points in the body.

I was pleased to attend the opening night celebration of the Coastal Living 20th Anniversary Showhouse in Newport designed by Mark Sikes in late June …it was BEAUTIFUL!

I was further honored to be the dinner partner of Mark at an evening held in his honor at the New York Yacht Club graciously hosted by two fellow design colleagues Lisa Hough and Meg Braff.

In the French countryside, I was lucky to be a house guest where this charming collection of china and glassware in an array of blues greeted me each morning.

A luscious wedge of carrot cake sits atop a blue porcelain plate on a rusted, blue bistro table where we enjoyed afternoon tea during our recent visit to France.

The unexpected fringe on this teal blue umbrella sits in contrast to the more subtle blue-gray shutters and blue-painted downspout on the building behind it. It was a shady respite for a shopkeeper on this sunny street in France.

The fashion world also incorporates the many shades and tones of the color blue, as in this pretty summer frock, snapped while drying in a crisp white laundry room. (courtesy of Christine Bushell)

A ride around the village on this sporty motor bike would help one beat the blues

The villages of France provided numerous photo ops of beautiful and inspiring doors and windows.

This entryway is a study in blues: from the classic French blue number plate to the bright blue paint on the door. Lucky No. 13!

These charming navy and white antique bathing suits would make perfect artwork when framed and hung in a summer cottage.

We loved designing this blue guest room, which is certain to bring a restful night’s sleep to the lucky houseguests.

This lovely room designed by the incomparable Nicky Haslam has us SWOONING…it features blue and white porcelain against a Paolo Moschino fabric. (Instagram @paolomoschino)

This stunning wall hanging from the gift shop in Lectoure leaves us wanting more blue on which to meditate.

The pop of azul blue on the Foo dogs featured in “Chien Negro” from Gaston Y Daniela’s new fabric collection is a dramatic backdrop for any project.

On a recent business trip to New York City, we snuck in a few hours of inspiration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s spring exhibit featuring the avant-garde fashion of designer Rei Kawakubo. These fresh and charming gingham dresses delighted us on a hot, humid day in the Big Apple. “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons Art of the In-Between”

A room painted in Behr’s “Bon Nuit” would be the perfect ending to any day. Goodbye and good night! (Instagram @behrpaint)

Au revoir for now!

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