Cobalt Blue Is the Vibrant Shade You Need for 2023

From bold accents to bright walls, here’s how to nail the look.

Shades of blue are commonly used in decorating because they fit with almost any room and style. But for a shade that stands out, cobalt is a safe yet stunning color choice. 

While blues have a reputation for being calming colors, cobalt is unique in its energizing nature. “Cobalt blue is a fantastic color because it is a little bit of a bait-and-switch,” says designer Jewel Marlowe of Jeweled Interiors. “Though located on the portion of the color wheel that feels soothing, cobalt is actually a bold and energizing color. It is related to colors that feel innocuous, but functionally, it's a rock star statement-maker.”

Thanks to its multifaceted character, cobalt plays well in a range of home styles. “When it comes to interior design, cobalt is a relatively versatile color,” says Marlowe, noting that the vibrant hue is easily used in midcentury modern, Hollywood Regency, and maximalist spaces, where the use of color is a key part of the aesthetic. Cobalt also fits into styles that characteristically incorporate blues, like beachy coastal decorating.

angled ceiling bedroom blue wall
Kim Cornelison

Learn how to decorate with cobalt blue, including how to feature the lively shade of blue as the focal point of a room or as an accent.

blue and white bedroom with floral wallpaper
Annie Schlechter

How to Decorate with Cobalt Blue

Marlowe recommends assessing a room’s size, mood, and function to decide if cobalt should be used as a primary color or accent color. Using cobalt as a main color in rooms where people spend a lot of time could be a bit overwhelming, especially in a small room. Alternatively, it can bring welcome energy to less-used spaces, regardless of size. “As a general rule, I like to keep my clients' large family rooms a little more neutral and their smaller or more intimate entertaining rooms more dramatic,” says Marlowe. 

sitting area with blue accents and orange wallpaper
Carson Downing

Use Cobalt as an Accent Color

Marlowe suggests using smaller doses of cobalt in rooms you spend a lot of time in. In these main living areas, you can create a high-contrast palette so the color really stands out, or use additional colors to mellow it out a bit. 

Follow the 60/30/10 Rule

“If decorating a living room with cobalt, I might paint the walls a clean white, like Farrow and Ball's Strong White, and then add cobalt to 30% of the room,” says Marlowe. Her recommendations for cobalt accents include drapes, art, or rugs. For the final 10% of the design, Marlowe suggests adding another bold color, like an orange-yellow, through lampshades, books, or pillows. This 60/30/10 combination creates a strong color palette, but Marlowe says the dominant white foundation makes the palette more livable. Another option is a crisp neutral foundation paired with primary colors, including cobalt, for a youthful and midcentury modern feel. 

Pair with Warm Woods

For something more subdued, select a dominant color with less contrast. “If you are looking for a more calming vibe, you can mix a softer, lighter blue as your dominant color and add pops of cobalt as your accent,” says Marlowe.  Trendy and cozy, warm birches and white oaks are also a smart counterpart. “The warm wood tones may come as a surprise, but it is because these yellows and oranges live directly across from cobalt on the color wheel. The lighter woods help tone down the punchy nature of the bold blue to make it more relatable.”

Incorporate Small Cobalt Accents

For cobalt accents, Marlowe suggests items like lamps, pillows, and window coverings because they are easy ways to bring color into a room. These elements can also be easily replaced if tastes or trends change, allowing you to refresh living spaces without a major overhaul. 

Does that mean you shouldn’t go for a stunning cobalt sofa, wall mural, or flooring? Not at all. You know your space and your tastes best. If you want to create a showstopping focal point, cobalt is a great color choice, and large-scale items can be used to fit the bill for a smaller portion of a color palette. 

blue living room payphone art on fireplace mantel
Annie Schlechter

Use Cobalt Blue as a Primary Color 

As a foundational color, cobalt is luxurious. “When applied to the walls and ceiling, it feels glamorous and sophisticated,” says Marlowe, noting that she also often paints trim to complete the look.  A palette-defining cobalt can come from paint, wallpaper, or both, but remember that the color is already high-energy, so keep the room's size and mood in mind. Do you want to double down on the energy, or find a pattern more soothing to balance the spirited shade?

Start with a Small Space

“A powder room, small laundry room, or closet would be a fun place to paint or wallpaper this statement-making color,” says Marlowe, who reiterates that these are rooms in the home where we typically don’t spend a lot of time. Another way to make the most of cobalt’s energy is in an entryway, whether that’s at the front door or a small mudroom off the garage. The vibrant blue provides a burst of energy and personality to the first room a guest sees.

Try Cobalt in a Dining Room

Dining rooms are a larger space that Marlowe also recommends for cobalt. The luxuriousness of the color can enhance the formality of a separate dining area that doesn’t necessarily see frequent use. 

Marlowe is currently using cobalt for designing an intimate entertaining space. The room, which homeowners use for listening to music, telling stories, and hanging out with friends, features high-gloss cobalt walls and a large-scale blue marble wallpaper on the ceiling. “The clients asked for drama, and they are going to get it!” says Marlowe. 

Anchor the Look with Gray or Black

Marlow recommends leaning into the opulence of cobalt with gray and black wood tones. And just because you’ve gone for cobalt surfaces, doesn’t mean you can’t include it in other accents, decor, or furniture as well. The abundant use of color in different shapes, textures, and locations is maximalist design at its best.

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