Dark hue has crisp look that is both sporty and formal

May 4, 2011 

Blue is back.

This spring, blue is coming on strong in home decor. It’s in shelter magazines. It’s on catalog covers. It’s being hawked by HGTV’s Sabrina Soto in TV ads for Target.

Especially hot is a deep, near navy blue — the blue of the flag, say, or of a ginger jar. Often used in combination with white, it’s crisp, classic and oh-so-American.

“I think it’s very sophisticated and classy,” said Christine Haught, a Bath Township interior designer. “It’s got a very polished look about it.”

Dark blue has long been a staple of traditional design, but this time around it’s sporting some updated pizzazz. It’s showing up in classic motifs that have been exaggerated to give them a fresh look, for example, as well as in ethnic patterns and contemporary shapes.

The color has the unusual property of feeling both sporty and formal at the same time, said Mark Woodman, an interior designer and consultant who is president of the Color Marketing Group, a color forecasting organization. Deep blue is associated with the Navy and orderliness, but it also conveys the relaxed attitude of a beach cottage.

Haught called it “country-club-esque, but not too stodgy and not too stiff.” Think of a blue blazer with khaki pants — dressy, but in a casual way.

Woodman is using the hue in a home he’s currently decorating. He’s painting it on the walls below a bedroom chair rail and using it as an accent color and a color in fabric prints. He’s even considering putting it on a bathroom ceiling.

Haught and Lisa Cregan, author of a new book devoted to blue, suspect the renewed popularity of deep blue may be related to the patriotic wave the country is riding, although Cregan believes the association is subconscious. Or it might be due to our economic instability, which tends to bring traditional, familiar styles to the forefront — styles that often feature blue.

Tough times also have us craving stress relief, and blue is known for its calming properties, noted Cregan, who wrote Blue: 350 Inspiring Ways to Decorate with Blue for House Beautiful magazine.

What’s more, deep blue is a color that appeals to both genders. “It doesn’t feel too sweet, and it doesn’t feel too masculine,” she said.

Maybe its greatest attribute is the way it plays well with other colors, Woodman said.

Dark blue works with yellow, as it also pairs well as the color that falls opposite blue on the color wheel, orange, he said. It goes with deep terra cotta, aubergine and deep red. It’s a way to freshen what Woodman called “the Starbucks colors” — sage, Tuscan gold and roasted red pepper.

It goes with gray and even black, a look that’s becoming popular in fashion, Haught noted.

That kind of versatility is true of all blues, not just dark blue, Haught said. Because blue is common in nature, it tends to acts as a neutral — “bluetral,” she jokingly coined it.

“I mean, the sky goes with everything,” she said.

Blue even works well with itself, Haught noted — that is, almost all shades of blue look good with one another. It’s a quality that doesn’t hold true for every color.

Blue always ranks high when people are asked their favorite colors, Woodman said, yet the color waxes and wanes in popularity in the home. He said that’s because people tend to use grayed-down hues instead of crisp, clean versions of blue. “All of a sudden it becomes a little depressing,” he said.

While dark blue is a current decorating darling, other blues are popular, too, Cregan said. Bright Moroccan blue is part of the current trend toward exotic decor. Turquoise is hot, especially when it’s paired with orange or darker blues.

Cregan’s book is covered in a slightly iridescent blue fabric reminiscent of Caribbean waters. It’s a happy color, one that Cregan said works well with silver. “It feels very modern,” she said.

She’s seeing other contemporary twists on what is often considered a traditional color. She pointed out a bedroom featured in her book, in which designer Steven Gambrel set watery, light-blue shades of blue against dark wood furniture with simple, somewhat masculine forms.

Cregan thinks blue will continue to find its way into homes.

“People are much braver about putting their own personality out there,” she said. They’re much more likely than in the past to decorate their homes with what they like rather than what’s in style.

And what many of them like is blue.

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