Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blue and White is Always Right

Perhaps it's because of the imminent arrival of summer, but lately I (like many bloggers, including Christy of the fabulous A Lil' Welsh Rarebit) have been drawn to rooms decorated in blue and white. While more than one book has been written on the topic, I think the look is classic and timeless enough that my posting on it won't just be beating the proverbial dead horse.

The the cover story in the latest issue of House Beautiful featured a Hamptons beach home decorated by David Lawrence (living room pictured above) almost entirely in navy blue and white. The result is stunning, and while the colors are undeniably beachy, the house doesn't look like a typical beach house, with no rattan or cheesy shell print pillows in sight. I think the house is a great illustration of how the blue and white color scheme can be at once traditional and contemporary, refined and yet still casual.

Another great example of a blue and white beach cottage look done right is this master suite, designed by the dynamic duo of Nathan Egan. The palette here is much quieter than in the David Lawrence's beach cottage, but the sky blue and oyster tones are perfectly suited for an oasis-like master retreat. I also appreciate how the designers didn't let the colors or furnishings compete with the beautiful white-washed walls and ceiling.

Here's a living room in Wainscott, Long Island, decorated by Thad Hayes. Again, the soft blues and whites create a cozy, beachy space that's still sophisticated.

This den in a summer home in East Hampton decorated by Elizabeth Martin is yet a fourth beautiful example of beach house chic from New England. I love the wall color here, especially against the white wainscoting and dark rattan furniture. The space looks elegant, but cozy and lived-in. I also love the idea of blowing up a family photo to poster-size; it's so personal and keeps the room from looking too "decorated". My one complaint about this room would be to loose a few of the throw pillows on the sofa. One of my big designer peeves is when there are so many throw pillows on a sofa or chair that you have to move them just to sit down.

As far as I'm concerned though, the entrance hall/stairwell in this home is absolute perfection:

The coral chandelier is a great nod to the setting, and I love the pale blue ceilings and sand-colored walls. When I think of beach houses with "style", I tend to think of those in Nantucket or the Hamptons. Ironically, I've never been to either location, but I like how understated all the homes seem (unlike, say, in south Florida where I picture all the houses awash in various shades of pink and turquoise).

With every silly generalization I make up, of course, comes an exception or two to prove that, in truth, anything (even bright turquoise) can be done with style and panache. This breakfast nook in a house on Johns Island, South Carolina, was decorated by Phoebe Howard. By keeping the palette monochromatic, Phoebe is able to use a brilliant hue and make it almost understated. This is Florida-style done right.

Of course, blue and white does not have to come off as beachy. The color combination can read distinctly masculine, especially when the walls are washed in a deep navy, like in the bedroom decorated by Kansas City designer David Jimenez. What I particularly like about this space is the bed linens, which look like they're made of mens' dress shirts; the look is classic American style to me -- very Ralph Lauren. David's prior work at Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn is also pretty evident in this room, I think, from the Valencia-style bed to the task light.

In my new house, I'm definitely going to have to try painting out the backs of bookshelves a different color because I'm loving the look in just about every iteration. This den was designed by Little Rock designer Tobi Fairley (who also has a great blog HERE) and, while it incorporates a lot of brown, in addition to blue and white, I couldn't resist posting it here. This space seems just so livable to me -- there's even a TV mounted above the fireplace.

And since blue and white shouldn't be limited to the living room or den, here are a kitchen and a dining room from designer Sherrill Canet's portfolio:

This kitchen, located in Quogue, NY, makes me weak in the knees. I'm typically of the mind that cabinets should either be natural wood or white (or cream), but these robin's egg blue cabinets are lovely. Of course, the cathedral-style ceiling, top of the line appliances, and sea of an island don't hurt either. Notice how the island's cabinets are painted a deeper blue than the wall cabinets; a truly masterful touch.

And finally, this "breakfast room" (looks like a formal dining room to me!) in Mill Neck [Long Island...are you detecting a trend here?], New York, illustrates how navy can really be used to punch up a space without reading as loud. I think the Chippendale chairs are a great counterpoint to the heavy white [marble?] linear table. I also really like the art over the buffet; it's modern and suits the color palette of the space but still stands on its own (i.e., it's not just a design tool).

Whew! This post is getting rather long, but once I started looking for blue and white, I realized just how ubiquitous a design trend (albeit one with indefinite staying power) it really was.


Christy said...

Ooh you know I just LOVE this post!

Painted cabinets: me too, normally prefer wood, white or cream. But we just stayed in a fabulous condo in Florida where they were painted a light blue - I'll shoot you an email with a pic!

That turquoise room? Swoon. LOVE it.

Bookcases painted a different color. Love that - I hope you do it in your new home. We have those Ikea ones in our family room, and we're considering adding a backing to them, and painting them a bright color - white or turquoise or maybe a paler blue just to make them more personal.

The Elizabeth Martin room is tied for my favorite (with the turquoise). I love that idea of blowing up a pic too. We might do that with one of Matt's. Love them. And I'm with you - what is the point of so many darn throw pillows people?! You need to be able to just PLOP DOWN on a sofa!

And finally (SORRY for the long comment!) Fiona and I are heading out this afternoon to pick out fabric to reupholster our dining room chairs with. I'm so excited. The walls in there are a pale green, but I think blues would complement them nicely....I'll let you know what we decide on. And I'm going to get the name of that fabric we used on the White House Chair and I'll get back to you.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

What can I say Averill other than you were killing me with these outstanding photos. Too many comments for one post, so I will just have to say I love them all. I chuckled about he pillow situation, I so agree. I thought I was over blue when I left our Seattle house, not now!
Adore your "wish list"! I want the Miss Trish Sandals in gold. Did you see the new blue & wh. dishes form Z-Gallerie (don't)? Last - have you ever been to Houston's Urban Market?

Jody Harrington said...

Love the dark blue bedroom--very tranquil.

Beth Connolly said...

This is a stunning post. I am weak at the knees! Love, love, love the turquoise. What about robin's egg blue for your front door like Miles Redd-I am about to do that. I love the backs of bookcases a different color-in my living room I want to do coral pink. Did I ever tell you I am an attorney also?

Averill said...

Beth: It's so interesting to me how many design lovers here in blogland are attorneys! Perhaps we need the creative outlet? :)

And yes, I LOVE the Miles Redd blue door. And that amazing center knob. Do you know the paint color?

Beth Connolly said...

He custom mixed the blue, but I sent you an email of the post I did on We Love Domino showing some close matches.

Sanity Fair said...

I really like all of these (being a big fan of blue), but the Elizabeth Martin room struck me - a really nice balance of blue shades in a way that's a bit unusual.
And I'm glad to find another Classics person :) Everything sounds better in Latin (or Greek)!

Sanity Fair said...

P.S. - I got the Miss Trish sandals at Target (the ones with gold lion's heads) and REALLY like them. They're nicely done.

Averill said...

DT: I agree with SF, the Miss Trish sandals for Target are really well made and quite comfortable (I bought the pair in My Wists sidebar). Definitely go for it before they're gone!

Northern Lights said...

I like browns and blues together...very chic!

Verdigris Vie said...

You Said it.. Blue and White IS always right.. Great gallery

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