Blue Step by Step
Take a look at this gallery of cool blue rooms to find color inspiration for your home.
"Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones.... It will always stay blue," wrote Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy. Why limit yourself to one shade on the balusters when you can unleash your creativity and enjoy eight at once?
Using little test pots of paint, we coated the uprights in twos, pairing them off on adjacent steps and graduating the tone from light to dark to create an ombre effect all the way up the banister. So easy to do, such a striking effect.
Traditional porcelain with a Chinese motif provides a charming reference point for this crisp breakfast room. The mesh weave on the light, modern chairs, which are painted in two shades of blue (in an easy-to-clean acrylic semigloss) echoes and updates the fishnet-pattern rims on the china. On the vintage bench, a cushion upholstered in a graceful floral is coated in Tyvek for effortless wipe-downs. Accent pieces and accessories in soft, rich blues -- napkins, glassware, a throw, the art on the walls -- play up the theme, while the glossy white walls, table, and floor give the setting a gleaming stage.
Choosing the right blue is all about creating a mood. Here, washes of light sky blue on the walls and lots of white evoke the tranquillity of a tropical breeze. A pale aqua on the underside of the shelves extends the theme for anyone who's in the tub. Add another tropical touch by using radiator-grill panels on the walls and as shutters to provide privacy without sacrificing light. Coordinated accessories -- a table, glass canisters -- plus items in a contrasting sunny citrus enhance the balmy mood.
By picking blues that are more neutral than primary, you can get away with a lot -- in this case, seven patterns and an eclectic grouping of furnishings and accessories in one living room. The space oozes comfort because the blues have undertones of gray or beige that allow the patterns to happily mingle. And they make it easy to add playful pieces such as an exuberant Victorian mirror framed in steel blue.
Using patterns of different scale also helps hues coexist. A custom carpet, made of square rug tiles cut on the diagonal and arranged randomly, reads like an abstracted quilt. Its bold shapes add interest without overpowering the room's other prints.
Paint a Room
In theory, we all know how to paint a room. Dip a brush or roller in a color and spread it over the wall. But painting neatly and efficiently is a skill most of us could brush up on. We have a basic guide to the essential tips and techniques to get the job done.
The gentle progression of color in ombre suggests the transition from wakefulness to slumber, especially in soothing shades of blue. The headboard slipcover and matching pillowcases are shrouded in sky-blue linen that's dyed a deeper, sea-inspired tone, embodying the spare beauty of a monochromatic palette.
Blue Wedgwood Tins
Tin containers have been manufactured in a very cool color of Wedgwood jasperware. For display on a neoclassic sideboard, we've chosen grays, blues, and greens. Symmetrically arranged with eighteenth-century formality, stacks of the circular "Wedgwood" tins can be used for storage. On the wall, a row of lids is displayed like a collection of antique plates or prints.
Suspended from wooden pegs tipped with 1940s tin tiebacks is a bevy of covered tin pails from the 1950s and '60s, some lithographed with scenes or birds, a la hand-painted Continental porcelains, others with bouquets or all-over prints.
In a rustic family room, built-in bookcases hold art books, children's books, and novels -- a whole family's worth of interests. To maximize storage, a 4-inch-high, 5-inch-deep wooden step was built; the shelf holds two rows of books, and all are visible. The tilted top shelves display covers; the molding lip supporting the books matches molding on the middle shelf. The inside of shelves can be boldly painted or wallpapered; only a fraction of color is seen. Ours are lined in colonial-blue book cloth, found in bookbinding supply stores.
It's easier than you think to conjure a refreshingly imaginative bedroom. By selecting hues that not only make you smile but also enhance the mood and setting of the rest of your house, you can design a bedroom that is tranquil yet still has plenty of panache.
Bring the translucent waters of some tropic island into your living room. This curtain divider not only provides functionality to limited space, but also is serene and calming like that from which it draws inspiration.
Whether you live on the West Coast, East Coast, or miles away from the ocean, bring all the colors of the water right to your backyard. Potted plants look even nicer in containers with hues of sea blue.
Gingham Footstool Cover
We dressed this ottoman in two blue ginghams: large and small check. The tailored slipcover, with piping around the top and an ever-so-slightly flared skirt, gains a little whimsy from ball fringe inserted between the fabrics.
Pop of Color
The key to enlivening a neutral room is to brighten it with several shades of the same color. In a mostly pale room, a plaid blanket makes a strong statement. The chandelier, the wall-mounted bedside tables, and the cushion on the dog bed reiterate the blanket's several shades of blue. Orange poppies add a vivid, albeit temporary, secondary color.
Tips for Decorating with Blue
1. A sedate fabric headboard is easily dressed up by attaching a wide edging of cotton-linen tape trim with fabric glue. 2. There's no need to buy a whole new set of linens to vary the vibe in a bedroom. A few deep-colored items, such as pillowcases and accent pillows, provide a soft foil to crisp white sheets and a coverlet. 3. To amplify a side table, slip a patterned wallpaper under glass. This project works best with tray tables or furniture with a raised perimeter or lip. 4. When embellished with a tape trim that coordinates with the headboard, a bed skirt acquires a finished, inviting look.
This homeowner stuck to subdued hues throughout the house -- her only exception was the kitchen.
Linens are tucked away in an antique cabinet, with glass doors that were painted the same blue as the doors in the house.
This velvet settee between two rooms is where this family kicks back while Mom cooks. The Binth "Cuddle" pillows are designed to appeal to both children and adults.
Pale Robin's-Egg Walls
A lichen-colored sofa is paired with pale robin's-egg-blue walls for a calming color combination.
A bright wall hanging provides a burst of color on pale walls.
The second-floor landing of this home features a large baroque cabinet from Sweden, which retains its original paint.
Get the look with Martha Stewart Living Paint Color in Love-in-a-Mist at the Home Depot.
A graphic damask fabric was used for the floor-to-ceiling curtains in this living area. The rug is by British designer Neisha Crosland, and the slipper chairs are antiques.
This guest bedroom, which overlooks Central Park, is covered in a charming butterfly-and-bird-patterned wallpaper. The coverlet matches the pale-blue ceiling, and the bed skirt was copied from a decorative template published in the September 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living.
Add an element of surprise to a staircase with a painted pattern.
Buy all the fancy linens you want, but nothing completes your boudoir like a headboard. The store-bought kind can be expensive and bulky, so try this shortcut.
A pair of clamshell pendants started out as table lamps, but wires were snaked through the bases and the pendants were hung upside-down. The paint in this living room was also customized, adding a water-based polyurethane top coat to get a mirrorlike finish that reflects the ocean.
Go beyond the basics with colored accents. Try strips of playful dots made from painted upholstery tacks on pantry shelves and drippy Jackson Pollock-esque curtains.
When designing around a signature item, such as this sofa, let color unify the look. Use a hue that is similar but a few shades lighter or darker than the color on the walls.
To create a varied yet coordinated look in a sunroom, upholster cushions in a striped fabric, and then cut sections from the same cloth and sew them onto white pillows. A pleated taffeta lampshade echoes the pattern.
Repeating two bright colors unifies the varied look of this bed, and the bedroom overall.
You don't need museum-worthy pieces to create an arresting composition when you place them on a wall painted a powerful color.
Think about diversity when working with lavish tones, strategically placing brighter pieces throughout to avoid overwhelming a space.
Araucana Turquoise was used for a living-room color, Ameraucana Buff for a hallway, and Araucana Sage in a dining room.
The high-seas blue of a 1940s school map charted the start of this bedroom palette.
A Swedish daybed is upholstered in velvet, revealing the homeowner's love of watery colors.
Collections of Delft tiles and transferware plates bring together a range of blues and patterns.
To a passionate collector, the more objects, the merrier. The rug has an easy, neutral pattern of blue-and-white stripes.
This bedroom illustrates how blue can be used in a fresh, clean, American way, mixed with white linens and light woods to evoke breeze-blown New England seaside cottages. An antique spool bed painted white and laid with a pure white spread has blue floral pillow shams. Behind the bed, a blue botanical cyanotype is framed in white, suspended on a medium blue ribbon. The ceiling is painted sky blue for a feeling of being up in the clouds.