Thursday, February 20, 2014

Southern Ceilings

When my designer mentioned Haint Blue ceilings to me, I probably had a deer in the headlights look on my face. "What on earth" is this gal thinking???  Ghosts aren't something I give much thought to. ------------------------ Do I believe there are ghosts?  Well, that is a topic for another time and place, but out of curiosity I decided to check on this haint blue idea.


Travel back with me to the old south, if you will. Porches were used much more in that era as folks liked to step outside to catch a breeze. After all, they lived in houses without air conditioning. The residents, builders and architects of Charleston utilized the porch in a grand scale. Charleston Piazzas were an additional living space in their homes, giving the residents another living room, dining room, play area or place to relax and even entertain.

The Charleston Single House is one room wide, with a piazza running the entire length of the house. This piazza can be accessed from the front entrance, as well as other rooms downstairs. Adding to this space, you most often find an incredible balcony just above the piazza. This outdoor space serves to extend the space of the bedrooms.

One element that fascinated me are the doors on the facade that led onto the piazzas.  Does a guest ring a bell at this piazza door (hospitality door), or does he/she enter the porch and go to the actual front door?  I never figured out the answer to that question while we were in Charleston. But I did love the ideas of large porches for family/friends use.  While we're not building a "single house," we still wanted to take advantage of outdoor space with multiple porches. Only one of the porches is small without space for a bench or chairs.

Whether it was a trend, fashionable, or useful, I do not know, but many homeowners painted their porch ceilings a soft blue.  Depending on who is telling the story, you can find out all sorts of tales that have been passed down through generations.

The term "Haint Blue" came to be as some people believed the blue ceiling kept evil spirits at bay. It seems the residents believed the spirits would "see" the blue, think it was the sky and not try to enter the home.  (I will not share my reaction to this theory.) Others believe spirits can't cross water.

There are also tales about spiders and insects seeing the blue and keeping away from the ceiling. We all know how spiders like to build webs in the corners of porches and verandas. Although I've heard these stories, I have yet to hear someone who says it actually works to keep insects at bay. If it does, we would put the exterminators out of business. Maybe there is a huge exterminator conspiracy to not let this get out.  ;-)  It seems to be an old superstition that has become a modern tradition.

Laura Casey of Laura Casey Interiors in Charlotte, NC knows a thing or two about 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.
Whatever the reason, blue ceilings have become a southern tradition that has spread to other areas of the country. This finds me in the middle of a stack of paint chips, trying to figure out the perfect blue for the porch ceilings.

More information on Blue Ceilings:

Sherwin Williams stir

Southern Living 7 Classic Southern Paint Colors

Examples: Houzz

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