Why So Many Southern Porches Have Blue Ceilings

This design trick works no matter where you live.

If you've ever taken a stroll through Savannah or Charleston, you've no doubt admired the beautiful homes and their welcoming porches. And if you stepped onto one of those porches and looked up, chances are you saw a pretty, light blue ceiling. At first glance, the color may feel like an unexpected (albeit attractive) choice, but there are several explanations for this long-standing Southern tradition.

This color, known as "haint blue," is associated with the Gullah Geechee people. These descendants of enslaved Africans in parts of Georgia and South Carolina have maintained a rich cultural heritage, and among their traditions was the belief that haint blue repels haints, or ghosts. The idea was that the color would trick haints into thinking the ceiling is either water or the sky. Haint blue was first used in Charleston during the early 1800s and continues to be popular today.

Another reason for the continued prevalence of the pale blue porch ceiling is that it serves as an extension of nature. "People 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," says Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. Summer days seem to last longer when afternoons are spent on the porch, and a pale blue ceiling overhead helps extend the daylight into dusk.

Blue ceilings are also said to deter birds and insects. But don't toss your bug spray just yet. The paint experts at Sherwin-Williams theorize that this was always a bogus claim. Because porch ceilings used to be painted with milk paint containing lye, a substance known for deterring bugs, the hue mistakenly gained its reputation as a pest-repeller.

While there's no guarantee that a blue porch will keep bugs and ghosts at bay, you can be sure it will attract attention. "Simply put, many people choose to paint the porch ceiling blue because of the way it makes that space look and feel," Wadden says. "Blue is a calming color, so using it in an area of the house that's intended for relaxation makes sense," she explains. On the porch above, designed by Tim Barber Ltd. and photographed by Laura Hull, the softest shade of blue on the ceiling sets the whole space up for relaxation. If you're looking to channel the same sense of calm on your porch, deck, or front stoop, consider brushing on one of Sue Wadden's paint picks, below.

Atmospheric (SW 6505)

This paler blue resembles the sky at dawn, reminding us of morning rays long into the afternoon.

Porch Ceiling (SW 9063)

The name says it all: This color was made for porches. This rich, clear blue will brighten up your home's entrance all day long.

Blue Sky (SW 0063)

For a blue with a subtle hint of green, choose this pretty shade. When you open the door to guests, don't be surprised to catch them staring up at this eye-catching color.

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