Consumers turn to heavenly hues

January 14, 2007|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

If you're feeling a little blue, you're not alone. From ice to robin's egg to periwinkle blue kissed with lavender, from rich sapphire to inky indigo, cool blue is hot in home decor.

Blue has found a way into nearly every room of the house, from cookware to designer sheets, glass pendant lights to floor tiles, wall coverings and window treatments to cabinetry and even to furniture.

It is, after all, America's favorite color.

"Every time we test it, it comes out to be that way," says color expert Leatrice Eiseman.

Blue is included in seven of eight palettes formulated by the Pantone Color Institute, which studies how color influences thought processes, emotions and physical reactions and forecasts color popularity for automotive, fashion, home and other industries. Some in the auto industry predict that blue will be the biggest story through 2009.

"Blue was the color of the new millennium," says Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute. "It was a very traditional navy, which spoke of Williamsburg, American tradition. We gave it a rest. Now it's back in new combinations."

How colors like blue are modernized can grab consumer attention.

"That's the whole point," Eiseman says. "It's the way the blues are combined. Younger consumers don't abide by old rulebooks. They want to try something refreshing."

Some of the reasons for blue's popularity are based in psychology. The color of the sky connotes dependability. Blue is calming, which is why spa blues have enjoyed such a huge following in recent years. The color actually slows the respiratory rate and lowers blood pressure.

"It's very fluid, clear, a clean feeling," says Connie Post, a brand and trend specialist and author. "It's such an easy color to live with. There's a sense of life about it. Part of it has to do with the eco-thing. You can't walk outside without the sense of positive blue sky."

Post says studies show that blue fosters creativity.

"When you paint a ceiling blue, it's good for creative thinking," she says. "The term `blue-sky thinking' is about thinking outside of the box."

Blue is proving to be quite the chameleon when it comes to lending personality to a space. It can be playful or sophisticated, depending on how it is applied and what other colors are teamed with it. And it can stand with nearly every color for dramatic effect.

At October's High Point Furniture Market in High Point, N.C., aqua shades were especially noticeable. While some declared the look retro, others embraced it as fresh or associated it with a particular blue gift box that is set off with a signature white satin ribbon.

"There is nothing more special or luxurious than being given a Tiffany blue box, whether it's an engagement ring or present," Post says. "Something about the very color connotes a quality brand, luxury."

Whether you view it as luxe or therapeutic, blue may indeed be restorative if you're freshening up your decor. Just how you incorporate it into your home's palette depends on how much of a commitment you want to make.

If you want to do a whole room, Los Angeles designer Barbara Barry demonstrated how the palest shades of blue can appear neutral when she teamed them with dark chocolate-finished furniture for Henredon. Baby blue has an impact similar to white when it is set off by darker shades of blue.

Check out the spring Williams-Sonoma Home and West Elm catalogs for an evolution of cobalt- or navy-and-white themes, underscored by graphic patterns such as bold stripes.

Consider using blue as a backdrop. Envelop a room in moody midnight blue set off with crispy cream moldings. Or keep it quiet with a shimmery blue-green. One fetching design in a new collection from Thibaut Inc., a company that produces wallpaper and fabrics, is based on a traditional 17th-century fabric composed of European and Asian influences, but it feels fresh with its re-mixing of pear and blue on ivory.

Blue finishes also can be an engaging contrast to wood tones. Century Furniture makes an etagere in a bold, gleaming paint finish called sky, and it is graceful and elegant. That shade of blue also was featured on a bench and side table.

For a similar exclamation point, there's Kohler's cast-iron farmhouse sink in a bold hue called vapor blue. It also comes in cobalt, navy and skylight, a pale lavender blue.

One of the newest hues in West Elm's spring catalog is a powdery blue, shown on a chair, desk and bunching table.

There are historical references to blue-painted furniture. Some Louis XV commodes were designed in a rich sapphire blue, a bit less intense than cobalt. There are plenty of provincial and Gustavian (Swedish) pieces in a range of blues. One new collection from manufacturer French Heritage has washed-out grayed blues accented with oatmeal white.

Accessorizing is a more minimally invasive approach to introducing blue, although it still can make a powerful statement. A silvery lamp designed by the company Arteriors, for example, is topped with an aqua shade for oomph.

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