One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike through the streets of Martha’s Vineyard. It never gets old. There’s so much to see and take in – the homes, landscaping, endless views of the water, sunrises and sunsets – that each ride is a new adventure. What I love most as I traverse through its various communities, which evoke a commingled coastal and country feel, is the vibe created by the diverse landscape, architecture, and cultural influences that dot each pocket of the island. Martha’s Vineyard welcomes and speaks to all people. This is the same vibe I strive to bring to each of my interior design projects by creating a complex, eclectic space through elements of traditional, modern, global, and fun.
As I weave my way across the island, there is one cultural classic that always brings a smile to my face – blue porch ceilings. That pop of color against a white house is a game changer. It instantly makes the home appear more friendly, welcoming, and fun – which is part of my design formula. This design feature has migrated from its South Carolina roots to the Cape and Islands, and I’m a big fan! I love the unexpected aspect of painting a porch ceiling a shade of light blue and find connecting the ceiling to the sea and sky to be incredibly grounding, so much so that I like to paint the ceilings of interior projects blue as well. And being a design history buff, I’m particularly drawn to how this colorful southern hallmark came to be.
The History of Haint Blue
Blue ceilings are a true southern classic that date back to the early 1800s. The Gullah Geechee people, descendants of enslaved Africans in parts of South Carolina and Georgia, painted their ceilings blue to repel haints or spirits. They believed these spirits could shed their human forms to terrorize and even kill people at night. By painting the porch ceiling blue, they could trick the haints into thinking the home’s inhabitants were in uncrossable water or the sky to prevent them from being taken or influenced by the haints.
It has also been thought that the blue can repel insects. This belief does have some truth to it as the blue paints that were first used were usually milk paints that contained lye, which is known to be an insect repellent.
Many other southerners took hold of the tradition simply because of how the blue hue made the outdoor space look and feel. With porches being a place of relaxation, the calming color is the perfect accent. Plus, it makes it appear that daylight is lasting just a bit longer.
Picking the Right Haint Shade
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to haint blue. The right color blue is the one that best fits the house, in terms of architecture and exposure. When selecting a hue, I always focus on how it looks in different lights and the space. Below are some of my go-to favorites.