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The Journal Gazette

  • Benjamin Moore A light blue porch ceiling outside a Connecticut home carries a tradition beyond the South.

Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:00 am

Painting porch ceilings blue a Southern custom

Jura Koncius | Washington Post

In Richmond, Virginia, people debate their favorite sky blue paint color for porch ceilings as they do their favorite biscuit recipe.

“It's all about bringing the outside in,” said designer Suellen Gregory, who has seen blue ceilings on front and back porches, screened-in porches, loggias and garden rooms.

“My clients do ask for it. It puts an interesting spin on what would be just a plain white ceiling.”

Across the South, the tradition of painting ceilings blue is passed down from generation to generation. There are many stories and legends as to why, and it's not just about keeping bugs at bay. In the Deep South, some believe a darker blue sometimes called “haint blue” keeps away evil spirits.

“I was always told that the color of our porches was 'dirt dauber blue' and that they kept wasps from building nests in there,” said Jonathan Savage, an interior designer in Nashville, Tennessee. “Then some people say if you are on a porch with a blue ceiling, it seems to keep the daylight around a bit longer.”

Gregory said blue ceilings are such a tradition in the South that they evoke a feeling of the past and make people feel comfortable and cozy. “I like them because they add softness and interest,” she said.

Hannah Yeo, Benjamin Moore's color and design expert, said that although “blue porch ceilings have been a long-standing tradition in many parts of the Southern states for centuries, the tradition has made its way beyond the South, influencing design across the country.”

To get the pale color you want, you might need to dilute the intensity of the blue a bit.

“Always test and never be afraid to cut the color in half with white. The paint store will do that for you,” Gregory said.

In the 2017 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York, Savage used a pale blue for the ceiling in his dramatic stair hall in the grand 1905 townhouse.

“I wanted to incorporate different elements of the South in my space,” Savage said. “A powder blue ceiling, although normally found out of doors, felt Southern and sophisticated here.”

Gregory said another ceiling paint tip she's often used came from a savvy Parisian hostess: Paint ceilings pale pink so your skin glows by candlelight. Gregory likes to paint a dining room ceiling with the faintest tint of pink.