Blue is back.
This spring, blue is coming on strong in home décor. 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, an interior designer. "It's got a very polished look about it."
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Dark blue has long been a staple of traditional design, but this time, 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, and in ethnic patterns and contemporary shapes.
The color has the unusual property of looking both sporty and formal, 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 with 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 is 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 that the renewed popularity of deep blue might be related to the country's recent patriotic wave, although Cregan thinks 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, said Cregan, who wrote Blue: 350 Inspiring Ways to Decorate with Blue for House Beautiful magazine.
What's more, deep blue 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, and it pairs well with 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 said.
That kind of versatility is true of all blues, not just dark blue, Haught said. Because blue is common in nature, it tends to act as a neutral — "bluetral," she jokingly coined it.
"I mean, the sky goes with everything," she said.
Blue even works well with itself, Haught said; that is, almost all shades of blue look good with one another. That quality doesn't hold true for every color, notably red and its tinted form, pink, she said.
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.
Dark blue is a current decorating darling, but other blues are popular, too, Cregan said. Bright Moroccan blue is part of the current trend toward exotic décor. Turquoise is hot, especially when 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 Cregan said works well with silver. "It feels very modern," she said.
She sees 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.
Other designers are using blue with lacquer finishes, either on walls or on the insides of bookshelves to bring reflectiveness to what would otherwise be a dark space, she said.
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.