Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Haint Blue

From Kitchen and Residential Design
I've always been a Southern girl at heart even though I technically have never lived in the deep South!  Still, I think that fascination with southern culture ultimately influenced my love of the color and legend of Haint Blue.  Have you ever looked at an older house, especially one in the South, and noticed that the porch ceiling was painted a beautifully soft shade of pale blue-green?  THAT is haint blue...but where did this trend start?

Blue painted porch ceilings can be found in most locations throughout the United States in one form or another.  On the East Coast, it is not uncommon to find Victorian Mansions implementing a variety of blues, greens, mustard yellows, and terra cottas.  The Victorians loved to paint their homes in colors that reminded them of nature, and a blue porch ceiling was obviously a nod to the sky on a beautiful clear day.

There is also a belief that a blue porch, and blue window trimmings also serves as a deterrent against insects, who are fooled by the color into thinking it is just a continuation of the sky, and thus, don't "settle down."  While this is a very romantic notion, the truth is in the chemistry:  The formula for these wonderful blue paint shades was often a milk based paint using lye as an ingredient.  Lye, being a natural insect repellent, was actually what was causing the bugs to keep their distance.

From Curious Expeditions
Bugs weren't the only thing that this paint was said to repel, though.  Sometimes referred to as Gullah paint, haint blue was said to be a color that kept restless spirits of the dead, or "haints," from approaching or entering a house.  The Gullah culture of South Carolina's lowcountry believed that haints could not cross water, and that by painting the home with the same blue-green color as water, especially near any openings, would keep any evil spirits from crossing.

Today, there is a huge design aesthetic devoted to paying homage to Haint Blue, but many people still choose this as an outdoor color scheme based on a strong family tradition.  I personally love it and find it fascinating and whenever I explore an old building, I always make it a point to note any usage of "haint blue!"

(This blog post is Day 9 of the August Blog Challenge--Write About Color)

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