Decorating with blue and white – how to use this classic combination
Create timeless and elegant interiors with this expert advice for decorating with blue and white
Decorating with blue and white will bring timeless charm to your interiors, offering the scope to create a myriad elegant spaces.
With such a wide array of tones available, decorating with blue, from powdery shades to bold turquoises and inky ocean hues, can create spaces that are dramatic and energizing as well as restful and restorative depending on the shade, while decorating with white can make small or dark spaces feel lighter, brighter and bigger. Match the two to decorate with blue and white in the right proportions for your space, and you have a classic combination that never dates and always feels fresh.
Below, we advise on how to decorate with blue and white for room color ideas with enduring appeal.
Decorating with blue and white
Decorating with blue and white is a hugely versatile option as it can evoke all manner of looks depending on the individual tones you choose, the rooms' natural light, and where in the rooms you use the colors, plus whether you are considering blue room ideas with touches of white, or vice versa.
Loved by homeowners and interior designers for its enduring appeal, the classic combination of blue and white is synonymous with coastal decor ideas, but can equally strike a luxurious tone when navy is paired with crisp white and peppered with metallics. Alternatively, for a country decorating idea try pairing duck egg shades and pastel tones with warm off-whites.
'Blue can be used in every room in the house due to the vast array of shades available, from subtle light blues including duck egg or sky blue, to bright electric hues such as cobalt or royal blue, and deep, dark navy and indigo shades,' explains Dominic Myland, managing director of Mylands paints.
Below, we take you through the looks you can create when decorating with blue and white.
Pair navy blue and white for a crisp, luxurious look
While it may conjure coastal schemes, blue and white is a pairing 'not confined to a beach house,' says Saffron Hare, creative director of James Hare. In fact, it can work equally well for creating an elegant and sophisticated look as demonstrated in this townhouse living room.
To create a beautiful backdrop for an elegant look choose 'a smart combination of rich navy with crisp white paintwork,' suggests Saffron. 'You could add paler shades of blue to this and perhaps some hints of metallic.'
This is particularly successful in rooms with plenty of natural daylight, which will lift the navy; or rooms that are mainly used in the evenings, where the navy will feel cozy. Choosing white for floors, ceilings and furnishings will enhance space.
When it comes to decorating blue living rooms with white as an accent color it's important to introduce plenty of texture as they can run the risk of feeling flat. For a luxurious look, introduce cotton velvets and silks alongside fabrics with beautiful embroidered details.
Match bold blue with equal amounts of white
If used for entertaining guests then dining rooms can be brilliant places to experiment with bold blues as they create a sense of drama and occasion while also creating a cocooning and intimate atmosphere.
'Despite common misconception that dark blue shades can make a room feel small and unwelcoming, they can in fact make a room feel bigger,' explains Dominic Myland of Mylands paints. 'Rich, dark blues can instantly bring inviting warmth and won’t overpower a room.'
If you're thinking about blue dining room ideas, but are cautious about using striking blues wall to wall, then consider painting the lower half of the wall in a warm off white, or painting the ceiling and window trim white, and choosing white furniture.
Pick a denim shade for a restful effect
For a less dramatic, more restful way to decorate with blue and white, pick a blue that's much more diluted.
Taking inspiration from Shibori designs, this bedroom corner is all about texture. A beautiful artwork has been created by framing a Japanese-inspired Pierre Frey wallpaper in a smart reeded white wood frame. The blue and white palette has been continued throughout, layering the scheme with pale denim walls and deep indigo fabric on the David Seyfried chair.
Bring warmth to a room with turquoise and white
Blue can, of course, feel cool, so if you are using it in a room, adjust the tone to suit the natural daylight the room receives: north- and east-facing rooms will feel warmer with blues with hints of yellow in them, such as turquoise.
'Start your transformation in a cloakroom or small bedroom,' says Martin Waller, founder of global design brand Andrew Martin. 'Richer colors work well in such spaces, despite the accepted wisdom that white paint makes a room seem larger,’ he adds.
For a coastal look try a blue wallpaper with a watery feel. With its sinuous lines, Vanessa Arbuthnott’s Up the Garden Path wallpaper in Teal conjures soothing waves and pairs perfectly with her By the Sea linen and Simple Ticking linen.
Introduce blue and white through intricate patterns
If you're looking to really make an impression and love French country decor ideas then try an ornate toile de jouy hallway wallpaper idea. Dating back to 18th century France, toile de jouy prints are characterized by their romantic, pastoral scenes which were often printed in an inky blue onto a white backdrop.
As connecting spaces, hallway ideas can easily be forgotten about when it comes to decorating but they are in fact a brilliant place to make a statement. As the space into which we welcome guests, the entryway is the perfect spot to unleash our personality and to set the tone for the style of our home.
Opt for timeless blue and white stripes
If you're looking for a fail-safe way to decorate with blue and white, you can't go wrong with upholstery in classic blue and white stripes. Offering infinite variations in color and scale, decorating with stripes is extremely versatile and can be used to create all sorts of different looks from timeless and traditional to bold and edgy. For a cool Mediterranean decor theme try an all white scheme with sofas in a wide, bold blue stripe.
Combine blue and white through texture and shaping
One way to decorate successfully with blue and white is through a combination of intriguing patterns and silhouettes.
Here, a calm sea of indigo blues makes for an inviting retreat. The small scale pattern in the wallpaper, a more textural alternative to paint, works well with the playful lampshade design. Mixing the blue patterns with white keeps the scheme crisp. Blue-tinted furniture continues the theme.
Wallpaper, Virginia White. Lamp Vaughan
Let white dominate blue for a bright, airy feel
A timeless and restful combination, blue and white is a brilliant color pairing for traditional living rooms that you want to feel bright and airy. When putting together a monochromatic color scheme, the key to success is to introduce plenty of texture and pattern as well as subtle tonal variations in order to bring depth and interest.
An easy way to do this is to choose a mixture of fabrics in similar tones but in different prints and scales, and to mix these up across upholstery, window treatments and accessories.
Combine different tones of blue and white
Decorating with blue and white needn't mean sticking to one tone of each color – you can combine different blues and shades of white to create an interesting, layered scheme, as in the bathroom above.
Practical and easy to clean, bathroom tile ideas are also a fabulous way to bring personality to a space. For a scheme that has enduring appeal, as well as depth and interest, try a mixing plain and geometric tiles in blue and white.
‘The brief here was to create a glamorous scheme with a nod to the nostalgia of 1930s Hollywood films,’ says designer Sophie Eyeington of this bathroom design. ‘Geometric patterned tiles were used to highlight the bath and basin, with the look softened by the circular mirror and sphere lights.’
Create a contrast with blue and white in the kitchen
Timeless and versatile, blue and white is a classic combination for kitchen color ideas as it will remain looking fresh year after year – this is an important consideration for kitchens as they are a big investment.
If you're looking to introduce just a pop of color to a bright and airy white kitchen then consider using blue paint on an island to create a focal point suggests Tom Howley, design director of the eponymous kitchen company. 'Opt for a dramatic color contrast with the rest of the cabinetry. If you have a very neutral kitchen, a deep blue island paint color idea will draw the eye to the center of the space.’
Rethink the classic white and blue bathroom
Reminiscent of tranquil coastal vistas, blue and white is a classic color scheme for a restful bathroom, but for something a little different why not introduce a statement scenic wall mural? Bathrooms can run the risk of feeling austere, but a beautiful bathroom wallpaper is a fabulous way to bring a touch of pattern, personality and luxury to the space.
Perfect for a large master bathroom, this Pierre Frey wallpaper takes inspiration from the traditional Portuguese azulejos tin-glazed tiles still found on the palaces of Sintra, Lisbon and Porto and is based on a trompe-l'oeil painting by Laurence Mosneron Dupin. To make the wallpaper really sing consider finishing the look with contrasting yellow wall lights and warm brass fixtures and fittings.
Introduce accent colors to a blue and white scheme
If you love the idea of decorating with blue and white but are looking to liven up the look then consider adding pops of rich warm colors suggests Louise Wicksteed, design director of Sims Hildtich. 'To avoid going too nautical we recommend only using small pops of red in a room where blues and whites are prevalent.'
Display blue and white china for an elegant look
Displaying china is an easy way to introduce blue and white decor – as seen in Gwyneth Paltrow's home – and there's a huge array available, from antique Chinoiserie designs and spongeware to contemporary splatterware pieces.
Consider arranging pieces together in a cabinet or dresser painted with a deep blue backdrop as this will allow them to really stand out.
What goes with blue and white walls?
Blue and white walls create a timeless and versatile interior backdrop for layering up all sorts of accent colors.
'Blues work well on their own or can really come to life when combined with other shades within the palette for a harmonious interior, says Dominic Myland. 'Off-white, greens and greys are classic combinations but contrasting pinks and reds are increasing in popularity for a layered look.'
To prevent monochrome schemes feeling flat and lifeless, consider adding in accents in warm tones such as reds, yellows and oranges. Opting for burnished fixtures and fittings and metallic touches will also help bring life and luxury and will really sing against a deep blue backdrop.
When working out what colors work well together the color wheel can be a useful guide.
How do I incorporate blue and white into my house?
A hugely versatile combination, blue is an easy color to incorporate into your house with white as it can be used to evoke all sorts of different looks from dramatic dining rooms to soothing bedrooms. Blue works particularly well when paired with white and together the shades are renowned for bringing a timeless and elegant feel.
When choosing paint colors it's important 'to take time to consider how and when you use the space and the atmosphere you want to create,' explains Ruth Mottershead, creative director of of Little Greene. 'Blue and white is an enduring, classic color combination which lends itself to a wide range of interior styles.'
For a lasting impression try painting in wall to wall blue and making it sing by opting for white woodwork, or try papering in blue and white wallpapers. Alternatively, for a more subtle way to incorporate blue limit paintwork to below a dado rail or use it to bring life to the inside of a cupboard. 'Make your joinery and wooden furniture pop by painting it in a deep blue. De Nimes by Farrow and Ball works well. This looks especially effective against a backdrop of whites on the walls and woodwork,' says Louise Wicksteed of Sims Hilditch.
Pippa is Content Editor on Homes & Gardens online contributing to Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors print issues. A graduate of Art History and formerly Style Editor at Period Living, she is passionate about architecture, creating decorating content, interior styling and writing about craft and historic homes. She enjoys searching out beautiful images and the latest trends to share with the Homes & Gardens audience. A keen gardener, when she’s not writing you’ll find her growing flowers on her village allotment for styling projects.
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