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Haint Blue

I was ten years old when I moved into the house where my parents currently live, and I distinctly remember there being a pale blue ceiling on the front porch. At some point later it was painted white, and I never asked why the ceiling had previously been blue. It turns out that there’s a name for the blue of a porch ceiling: Haint Blue. According to Louisiana legend, a “haint” is a spirit or a ghost. The blue paint represents water through which evil spirits cannot pass. Some say a blue porch ceiling helps extend daylight as dusk begins to fall, and others still believe that it helps keep bugs away. When the tradition began, bugs were deterred by the lye in paint – today many theorize that insects do not nest on blue ceilings because they think the blue paint is the sky.

I asked two experts in the industry about their thoughts on blue ceilings and agree with their opinions:

“In the south you see a fair number of blue ceilings on the porch and sometimes blue trim.  The name of this blue is ‘Haint’. For me, porches are an essential part of Southern architecture, and no fine Southern porch would be without a blue ceiling.  I fear that the color’s power to ward off bugs and evil spirits is probably just a myth, as I have plenty of the former in the heat of summer, but fortunately none of the latter, so maybe haint blue does work after all. I’ve painted my own bead board ceiling Benjamin Moore’s ‘Palladian Blue’, which was a recommendation from Suzanne Rheinstein.  As she is originally from New Orleans, I figure she knows a thing or two about warding off evil spirits!”

— Karen Carroll, former Editor-in-Chief of Southern Accents

“I often use blue for the ceilings of interiors because of its unexpected beauty.  I don’t think many Southerners know of its meaning; I believe it is not for safety, but supposedly kept spiders and bugs off of the ceilings.  It is successful in most rooms, but best when there is good natural light from windows and doors.  The color will add a charming and delightful ‘pop’, and is always a sure winner.”

— Jim Howard, interior designer, owner of Mrs. Howard and Max & Co.

What are your thoughts on blue ceilings, inside and out?

Photo Credits: Localism (1,2) NPR (3) Apartment Therapy (4,5) Margaret Donaldson Interiors (6) Suzanne Kasler (7) Susan Moloney (8) Apartment Therapy (9) India Foster (10) Southern Living (11) Timothy Mather (12)

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