Feeling a little blue? You’re not alone. From the palest chambray to inky midnight, blue is asserting itself in the home and on fashion runways.
Deep, rich shades of indigo (some with notes of violet) and an in-between cobalt, sapphire and navy hue called Monaco are dominant — the latter identified by Pantone as the “it” color for spring. But you’ll spot variants from peacock, Aegean and robin’s egg to whispers of sky and dusk (another Pantone shade for spring described as “sort of Zen”) — all of which enable blue to soothe as well as excite. So cool, it’s so hot now.
“The thing about blue that’s so good is that it can be exotic,” says Kim Shaver, vice president of marketing for Hooker Furniture. “It can go cottage or coastal. It can take on a myriad of personalities and styles. It’s easy to blend with other colors in a decorating scheme — with citrus, rich red, even orange. With crisp white, of course, it’s a classic.”
Monaco blue, in particular, “speaks to the practicality that we are seeing in society,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director for the Pantone Color Institute. “There is still concern out there for the economy.”
But blue is elemental, the color of the sky and water, and a staple and part of a traditional palette in many countries. It conjures images of brilliant blue and white houses on Greek islands, beachy cottages, Colonial Williamsburg, tile in Mexico, Turkey or Morocco, Delftware, 19th-century Flow Blue earthenware, Chinese or English porcelains, vintage Japanese kimonos. And, of course, the ubiquitous blue jeans keep it ever present.
A favorite of many around the globe, blue never gets tired, especially when the shade is tweaked or refreshed in pattern. But the deeper shades such as indigo are being inspired by the world market, especially Asia.
“Traditionally, indigo has appeared in chinoiserie, ikat prints and Persian rugs,” says Eileen Kathryn Boyd, a New York-based designer who created a fabric collection for Duralee and is a frequent speaker on color trends. “The design industry is always looking back to historical references for inspiration. Clearly, indigo blue is timeless.”
Some textile motifs go to ethnic roots, with batiks, tie-dyes, or designs evocative of embroidered suzanis. In addition to these classics, zigzags, large-scale florals, some of which display marvelous watery effects with digital printing, all were part of introductions at Paris Deco Off, a textile trade show held in conjunction with Maison et Objet in January.
“Ethnic patterns are soulful and handmade-looking, which is why designers are drawn to them,” says Boyd. “They’re rich in history, providing endless inspiration, and they never go out of style.”
With the new blues, from homespun textures to silks to printed linens and velvets, there’s a range from rustic to elegant. And furniture surfaces are equally engaging. At the High Point, N.C., furnishings market in October, Hickory Chair introduced a dramatic, marbleized fabric from Hable Construction. The graphic pattern was used as upholstery, even to clad a tall chest, something inspired by a 1940s folding screen.
At Hooker Furniture, a traditional French bombe style chest of drawers got a more streamlined silhouette and a high-gloss finish in Monaco blue. And at Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture, designer Alexander Julian translated the sartorial navy blue blazer into a chic lacquer chest (tall and short), with the piece de resistance: handmade Italian blazer buttons as door pulls, placed so that they appear to taper from top to bottom, just as on a double breasted jacket.