At this time of year, even a glimpse of bright, blue sky, with its promise of spring, lifts the spirits.
But our unpredictable climate often teases, keeping us waiting for those elusive sunny horizons.
Take heart though; you can guarantee a bright outlook at home by waving a magic wand - well, a paint brush, at least - and splashing on the blues indoors. Or, if DIY would dampen your mood, simply splurge on beautiful blue homewares, currently playing a leading role in the new spring/summer ranges.
“The appeal of blue isn’t surprising, because with its strong links with nature, it’s a universal colour, surely loved in one of its forms by everyone,” says Gail Abbott, whose new book, Blue & White Style, is a beautifully illustrated blueprint for using the shades featured, which range from Mediterranean to country blue.
“For instance, if pure blue veers towards the greens that lie next to it on the spectrum, it becomes aquamarine, cerulean and turquoise - cool, clear watery hues which have associations with lakes, oceans, and rivers.
“When tinged with purple, blue assumes the warmth seen in royal blue, indigo and navy - colours that make us feel confident and safe. There’s no limit to the choices, and accents of blue work well in most interiors.”
So ensure a settled forecast, and follow the experts’ advice on making rooms ‘sing’ with the blues...
Dark, rich shades, from navy to midnight blue, look dramatic, and add character and individuality to otherwise bland rooms.
“Blues are proving popular because they’re in harmony with the current industrial trend and blend with urban and architectural materials, while the darker shades on the palette enhance natural timber schemes,” says Tim Tatlock, head of buying at Topps Tiles.
“Blues meet a real range of interior needs, whether creating a statement, conjuring a calming environment, a soothing sanctuary or simply refreshing a space - the latter’s a popular choice at this time of year. Blue paintwork or tiles can give a drab, winter-weary room a lift.”
DECOR TIP: Play around with the dimensions of a room by using colour to trick the eye, suggests Abbott. “Make a small room look bigger with walls painted in a pale, sky blue, or use cobalt on the end walls of a long thin room to make proportions appear more balanced. Blue on the ceiling of a high room will make it appear lower.”
BLUE BUYS: Banish a dull outlook by dressing a window with deep blue Louvred Shutters, from £320 a square metre, Shutterly Fabulous. Similarly, a contemporary Cafe Sofa, in royal blue, from £1169, Sofas & Stuff, would certainly catch the eye.
Moroccan style, with its elaborate patterns and predominantly blue palette, is finding favour this year, and Topps Tiles’ Batik Patchwork Tiles, £45 a box, have picked up on this Eastern look. Tiling a splashback could be an affordable way to update a kitchen.
Even a few accents of blue, in china or accessories, are surprisingly effective. My choices are: Emma Bridgewater’s Small Fluted Bowls, £24.95 for set of two, in the appropriate Blue Skies design, which has delicate blue blooms on a white background. Virgo Blue Feather Butterflies, mounted in a glass dome, £110, Artisanti, would make a lovely feature.
Teal, reminiscent of shimmering green-blue exotic seas, is fashionably on-trend, and is a key colour for new season homeware collections.
“Teal’s a combination of the natural harmony of green and the tranquillity of blue, resulting in a balanced, versatile shade, which works perfectly in any room,” advises Marianne Shillingford, creative director at Dulux.
“Combing teals with greens, such as mint, duck egg or emerald, will give a fresh, natural effect. Or for a neutral combination, choose a colour with a subtle, natural tone so you don’t overwhelm the space. Then just add the perfect finishing touch, a crisp white for woodwork, to allow this magical colour to truly stand out.
“For more punch, layer teal with indigo, denim or navy, which suits a dynamic, welcoming interpretation.”
DECOR TIP: Teal tones invite summer vitality and a sense of ocean freshness into a home, and work particularly well with corals and blushing pinks.
BLUE BUYS: There’s a painterly quality to Tunturi wallpaper, from the Landscape Collection, £54 a roll, Harlequin, which with soft blue and white watercolour stripes, evokes the atmosphere of a faraway seaside sanctuary. If you’re more a fan of the botanical trend, Next’s Bird Menagerie Teal Wallpaper, £35 a roll, will appeal.
With their connotations of water, depth and calm, blues are a natural choice for bathrooms, and the warm tone of Dulux Bathroom + Teal Touch Soft Sheen Emulsion paint, £23.92 for 2.5L, B&Q, could be the way to transform a functional room into a soothing sanctuary.
Turn on to teal with a couple of purse-friendly buys: a Teal 5 Tier Easy-To-Fit Shade, £25, Next. A Watercolour Spot Cushion, £8, Tesco, is just one item in its desirable home collection.
Pale blue, aqua, ultramarine or washed-out denim blue are those easy-on-the-eye hues that suit a relaxed setting.
“Using pale grey-blues in conjunction with white creates an airy, informal look which echoes wide open spaces and will always make a room look more spacious,” says Abbott.
“Pale blues bring to mind the expansiveness of a northern summer sky, while white recalls billowing cumulus clouds. Used together, the effect will push away walls and ceilings to create a feeling of space.”
DECOR TIP: Use muted blues for north-facing rooms, whose light will be cold and unforgiving, while warmer shades, like cobalt, can enhance dining areas.
BLUE BUYS: Designer Abigail Edwards ably demonstrates that skies don’t have to be sunny to be successful. Her weather-inspired wallpaper, Storm Clouds, £75 a roll, is beautifully atmospheric, with its jagged flashes of lightening.
Painted furniture’s an essential ingredient for the popular ‘country’ look, and the hand-painted Bramley Collection at Laura Ashley, with its blue distressed finish, is charming. A Bramley Blue Chest Of 6 Drawers is currently reduced from £950 to £712.50. If that price threatens to turn the bank balance red, simply renovate an existing piece, by painting it in a shade such as Bridge Blue (No 222), £53 for 2.5L, Mylands.
Recreate the brilliant blues and sun-bleached white settings so characteristic of Mediterranean homes for a holiday feel, which could work well in a dining area. Painting walls and floors white will make the perfect backdrop for a set of aqua-blue wooden Daisy Chairs, £39 each, Very, and rugs, such as a Saga Plain Blue Floor Runner, £39, Skandihome.
:: Blue & White Style: Classic And contemporary Interiors From Mediterranean To Country Blue, by Gail Abbott is published by CICO books, priced £19.99. Available now.