My neighbor just refinished his bead and board porch ceiling, spending hours sanding and staining. It looks great, but I’ve always been a fan of a blue ceiling on porches. I even took a photo of this beautiful porch ceiling at a house in Ruxton, (sold by Nina Tracey last year), so that I could remember the color.
I mentioned that to a friend at dinner last night, and she asked me if I knew how blue painted porch ceilings originated. I admitted that I had always thought it was just to mimic the sky. I was wrong. There is a whole history behind that blue.
My friend directed me to the Sherwin Williams website, where I found this article from STIR®:
The Whys Behind the Blue Porch Ceiling.
From the palest of powder blues to varying shades of aqua, teal, cobalt, robin’s-egg, periwinkle and gray, blue porch ceilings are popping up all across the country.
Once just an old Southern tradition, the blue porch ceiling has made its way north and is being introduced to new generations. There are numerous theories as to why – from fooling spiders and wasps into thinking the ceiling is the sky, to blue being a harbinger of good luck, to the color extending daylight, to scaring away evil spirits.
In the Northwest, aurora blue is a popular shade for the porch ceiling. It’s associated with the Aurora Colony, a Christian communal society that gained popularity in the 1850s.
Blue porch ceilings are also quite prevalent along the east coast, from Boston to Philadelphia and other historic cities, where Victorian and Colonial homes abound.
Sky blue ceilings were a popular color scheme for the Victorians, who preferred the colors of nature when painting their homes. Mustard yellow, ochres, browns, olives, terra cotta and the color blue were commonly used in exterior paint schemes. The warm earth tones reminded the Victorians of the outdoors around them, with the blue reserved for the porch ceiling to remind them of the blue sky even when the days were overcast and gray.
The Significance of Haints
Blue ceilings are popular and have been popular in the South for centuries. “Porch ceilings have always been blue in the South,” says Lori Sawaya, an independent Principal Color Strategist. “People continue to paint their porch ceiling blue because that’s what their grandmother did, and that’s what her grandmother did.”
But many Southerners suggest that blue porch ceilings originated out of the fear of haints. Southerners, especially in the area of South Carolina, have a name for the ceiling paint used on porches – the soft blue-green is referred to as “Haint Blue.”
“Haints are restless spirits of the dead who, for whatever reason, have not moved on from their physical world,” says Sawaya.
Haint blue, which can also be found on door and window frames as well as porch ceilings, is intended to protect the homeowner from being “taken” or influenced by haints. It is said to protect the house and the occupants of the house from evil.
Blue Paint as Insect Repellent?
Some people swear that blue paint repels insects, leaving a porch bug-free and pleasant during those long summer evenings and afternoons. Most credible sources discredit this belief. However, this belief could be seated in historical truths.
When blue paints were first used on ceilings, they were usually milk paints, and those paints often had lye mixed into the composition. Lye is a known insect repellent, which would explain why insects would avoid nesting on a painted porch ceiling or ledge. As milk paint has a tendency to fade over time, giving it a rustic look, people would usually need to repaint their home every year or few years, covering the existing coat with a new coat of paint, and fresh lye.
But many still theorize that insects prefer not to nest on blue ceilings because they are “fooled” into thinking the blue paint is actually the sky.
Extending Daylight Hours
Haints and insects aside, many people choose to paint the porch ceiling blue simply because of the way it makes the room look and feel. Blue is a calming color, so using it to paint an area of the house that’s intended for relaxation makes sense. Throughout the U.S., porches are often a favorite place while the weather is warm, or even hot, to sit and watch time and life go by. When sitting on the porch, it can seem as though life has taken on a slower pace, as though relaxation is a must.
People may also paint the porch ceiling blue because the color seems to emulate the natural sky and makes the daylight hours feel as though they last just a little longer. “Light blues especially lighten and brighten space and propagate any light that you do get, because of the basic nature of color,” says Sawaya.
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