How To Use Blue In Interior Design

Blue and white is my favourite colour combination. I know, who knew? It always has been and always will be. However, it can, if used incorrectly, feel cold and uninviting. I’ve used the palette in every house we’ve owned and learned over the years that it’s about mixing it with rich vintage woods, natural objects and soulful pieces that you’ve collected over the years. Blue in interior design can be uplifting, fresh and calming and can remind you of holidays in the sun. Here’s how I used it in my latest project.

Cairn terrier in a blue and white room

When you go abroad on holiday there’s a certain kind of light. It’s brighter and fresher than it is in most of the UK. That warm sunlight affects the way colour is seen by the human eye. Blues never look cold in that radiant light. That’s what I try to achieve when I use the colour in design. I’m always thinking of the holidays we’ve had: summer on The Cape, a week in Santorini, or Easter in Key West. I try to fill our home with objects from these trips, mixed with warm blue hues and a white that is reminiscent of balmy days in the sun.

Blue In The Drawing Room

It’s definitely what I have tried to create in our drawing room, be it on a more grand, period scale. Buying a period property comes with quite a lot of responsibility in my mind, as we are only the custodians of it for the time that we call it home. The Drawing Room (I know that sounds grand, but it really is a “Drawing Room”) is one of the most ornate rooms in our house and deserves some special treatment.

An antique vert de gris coloured chandelier is the first thing we bought for it. If you follow me on Instagram @jpslifeandloves then you’ll have seen the very funny time we had securing it. “Brace yourself Rodney!” – if you know, you know. I love it, but I was keen to make sure that the room did not become too “bling”. So, for the rest of the space I wanted to mix my love of old and new with my passion for blue and white. I wanted to create a homage to the period, whilst keeping it contemporary and cosy at the same time. It has a kind of “Downton” meets “Hamptons” vibe. 

How I Begin The Design Process


I always start every design with one or two items that I love and know will look perfect in the space. I’m not one for throwing everything out and starting again every time. To me, a home is made up of objects you have collected over a lifetime. Those objects hold fond memories, which give a home its character and depth. It’s these memories that are the key to creating a warm, cosy, loved environment. A space that is shared with friends and loved ones.

My two definite pieces for the drawing room were things we had bought years ago. A set of vintage blue bobbins mounted on a dark wood stand that I bought from a gallery. The other object was the very tip of a mounted church steeple in faded white. It came from a visit to our beloved Key West and was from an old church that had been torn down years ago. So, I have my colour palette. I have two vintage objects that hold memories. I can now base the rest of my design on these two things. The turquoise blue of the chandelier added a third complimentary colour, which I can pick up in some of the paintwork.

White Paint Choices

Your choice of paint colour, including the white is so incredibly important to get right. There are so many different shades of white and the last thing you need if you are trying to create a warm feeling is blue-based white. I find the majority of white emulsions are either blue or yellow based and can often look slightly dirty, or just downright stark and bedsit-like.

For the entire renovation of our Victorian home we will be on a budget. So, even though I love a lot of the Farrow & Ball shades of white, with such vast rooms we just can’t afford to do all the ceilings and walls in them. However, I have found a white that I love by Valspar called Perfect White. It’s more expensive than Dulux, Crown or home brands, but it’s worth it.

There are added light reflectors in the paint and also a primer. It’s thick and luscious and glides onto plaster. Mainly though, it has the right mix of pigments to keep it fresh, yet warm. It actually reminds me of the light that you get on the coast, or indeed when you are on holiday. It somehow attracts the sun’s golden hue and a warmth I haven’t found with any other. I used the same white in our holiday let: @theharbourdeckhouse and a stylist said to me recently that it felt like you could be in the Algarve. Now, the view of all the yachts helps, but it was actually the light that she was talking about.

Choosing A Blue

Choosing Blue in interior design isn’t easy. It’s important to get the right shade. I was fortunate for this room to do a collaboration with Cox and Cox using their paint for my choices of blue. I have to say, even if I wasn’t being paid or gifted for my work, I would highly recommend their paint. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s the best paint I have ever used. I chose a very dark blue for the ceiling called Nocturne. I then picked up the paler blue-green of the chandelier with a stripe of Swedish Blue surrounding the Nocturne ceiling.

I’m Sorry, Did You Just Say Dark Blue Ceiling?

I darn well did and it works a treat! We have very high ceilings and the room felt cold and draughty. By painting it in a dark tone, it brings the ceiling down towards you and immediately gives you a midnight blue hug. I know it’s an unusual choice, but do consider it if you have a high ceiling. I chose not to paint the cornices or the original ceiling rose in the dark blue. That way, they popped being so close to such a contrasting shade. There’s an edged moulding that frames the dark blue centre, then a gap of about eight centimetres and then the ceiling cornice. The Swedish Blue was used in this gap to accentuate the chandelier and compliment the dark blue.

Position

If your room is north facing, then, as a general rule I’d say don’t use blue. However, there are shades of blue that can work such as Hague Blue and Inchyra Blue from Farrow and Ball. I used them both in my last house. One of their Liberty colours: Serge – is also a good choice. Our living room is more east-facing than anything and with the huge windows, gets masses of morning light. If you’re room is small and dark, then please, please go with it! Don’t try and lighten it up. With a south or west-facing room you can pretty much do whatever you like.

The Soft Furnishings

We chose the Rex three-seater sofa and loveseat from Cox & Cox as they gave us the classic, cosy and comfortable feel that we wanted, but at the same time, the choice of Blue Easy Care Velvet brought it bang up to date. My hubby isn’t the tidiest of people and so choosing a fabric that could easily be wiped if we spill something was very important. But, it’s also a warm, vibrant navy blue. You can so easily get it wrong when choosing blue in interior design, so it’s important to get fabric swatches to check.


Also, our last sofa had a feather back and deep feather seat cushions and it became the bane of my life. Just plumping it was a full days workout and I always ended up in a very bad mood after a plumping session. Most of the time it looked deflated and uninviting. So, this time I wanted something that kept its shape and stayed perky after sitting on it. The plump foam core seat cushions are super comfy, yet spring back as soon as you stand up. No more wrestling with the sofa before guests arrive!

The Eventual Flow


We entertain rather a lot. In the end, there will be a set of French doors leading from the entrance hall to the Drawing Room and we want to welcome guests into our home by asking them to join us for drinks there. That’s why we chose the three-seater sofa. We already had a very beautiful vintage arm chair that I wanted to incorporate, so instead of two matching sofas either side of the grand fireplace, I chose a matching loveseat. I styled the sofa and loveseat with white Washed Linen cushions and the Meadow Silhouette cushions along with the Charcoal Chunky Knit Throw. These add to the Hamptons vibe and create a warm, yet fresh and clean look.

The Finished Look

The overall effect is a slightly grand coastal room with a heavy nod to the Victorian Gothic period, but with an air of Hamptons seaside charm. At least, that’s what I hope it looks like. Becca, from @malmoandmoss , one of my favourite blogs and Instagram accounts – do follow, said to me recently: “You always manage to make every room look like you’re on holiday.” She doesn’t know it, but that’s one of the loveliest things she could have ever said to me. Job done!

JP Clark signature

You may like to read: My Love Of New England Style.

6 Comments

  1. November 14, 2021 / 8:00 am

    What a wonderful start to a grey Sunday! Trying to raise some enthusiasm for a busy day at Neal’s Yard Remedies, Guildford I took time to read this with my coffee and was so uplifted. I have missed my twice yearly visits to my other home in Sarasota FL and @malmoandmoss is spot on there, you nail the coastal theme perfectly!
    These monthly posts are great JP and now I can go off to my very blue shop and sell some gorgeous Christmas gifts with renewed passion, thank you x

    • JP Clark
      Author
      November 14, 2021 / 10:55 am

      How lovely of you to say Susan. Thank you and hope you have a great day.

  2. Frances Gail
    November 14, 2021 / 9:45 am

    One of my favourite of your blog posts, JP. I love how you spell everything out so we get to know the lows as well as the highs and your reasoning for your choices. I’m also happy you start with a couple of favourite items that hold special memories on which to draw your design. I’ve just bought a 1910 semi with no character features and am looking forward to bringing all my vintage and inherited treasures out of storage to make it feel more characterful – especially as I have very little to spend to “do it up”. Thanks for the heads-up on the white Valspar paint. Will definitely check that out. Happy Sunday!

    • JP Clark
      Author
      November 14, 2021 / 10:54 am

      Franny I’m looking forward to seeing what you do!

  3. Anne
    November 14, 2021 / 10:11 am

    Really enjoyed this JP. I decorated a bedroom at the back of my house in blue and white also one of my favourite combinations and it never felt right. I knew the white paint was the problem. Going to redo in Valspar Perfect White and hopefully that sorts it out. Thanks so much for your help.

    • JP Clark
      Author
      November 14, 2021 / 10:53 am

      Oh I hope it works for you! Let me know.

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