Create a serene space with your perfect shade of pastel blue.

By Elizabeth Sweet
August 25, 2020
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Blue is a timeless choice for interiors, but in recent years, softer, summer-fresh shades, ranging from icy blue to pale blue-greens, have become a go-to for paint companies and interior designers hoping to capture a certain je ne sais quoi. Also known as powder blue or French blue by industry experts, light blue is a fresh, fun, and relaxing shade. Design professionals nationwide are selecting it for kitchen cabinetry, trim, built-in shelving, bathroom vanities, and more. So what exactly makes pale blue interiors so refreshing?

Perhaps the color reminds us of the sea, sky-blue hydrangea, or traditional Provencal houses with pastel shutters. Sue Wadden, director of color marketing for Sherwin-Williams, believes that light, dusty blues also conjure a certain nostalgia and comfort. “It’s the color of faded denim. It’s the color of the sky, and there’s an immediate connection to it because of its roots in things that are natural and comfortable,” she says. Patrick O’Donnell, Farrow & Ball’s international brand ambassador, says these shades are “effortlessly easy to live with,” and coordinate with a range of art, furniture, and architectural styles.

Michael Partenio

How to Choose Light-Blue Paint Colors

While cheerful and uplifting, the perfect shade of powder blue can be difficult to select. “Be careful with undertones,” Wadden says. “With this light of a color, too many red undertones will make it look periwinkle. Shades with a hint of yellow keep it looking blue rather than purple." She notes that you should also make sure it has a touch of gray to it. "You don’t want the color to be too sweet, like robin’s egg or baby blue,” she says.

Nivara Xaykao, associate manager of color marketing and development at Benjamin Moore, says blues are "pretty malleable" but there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Are you keeping any existing colors in the space like the trim and door? If so, she recommends making sure the blue has similar undertones to those colors.

Lighting conditions also change the appearance of blues in a room. “If the space has natural light, is it a predominantly cool or warm cast? Is it bright or pretty shaded?" asks Xaykao. "For example, in cool, dim light, I may opt for a brighter blue with a little green in it to offset the lighting conditions."

The Best Light-Blue Paint Colors

We turned to top interior designers for their powder-blue paint color recommendations. These are their favorite choices for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and more.

Nick Smith

London-based designer Lisette Voûte of Lisette Voûte Designs selected Benjamin Moore’s Beach Glass for this serene galley kitchen. She describes it as “a perfect shade of minty blue-green,” which beautifully connects the kitchen to the adjacent dining room. “We wanted something that felt lively and fresh, and a pop of color in a small kitchen makes it feel like a jewel box,” she says. “We felt this color would work well in the summer but also have enough warmth to it for the darker winter months.”

Leslee Mitchell Photography

Tori Alexander of Nashville’s Alexander Interiors used French Moire by Sherwin-Williams, a color she describes as cornflower blue, in this charming bathroom. “The soft blue color from the stars in the wallpaper was the perfect color for the vanity, paneling, and custom storage bench in this bathroom designed for brothers,” she says. “We tested several shades to get it just right.”

Jane Beiles

Brooke Crew of Brooke Crew Interiors used shades of pale blue on this home's ceilings, pendant lighting, accent tables, and front door. “The thread of blues throughout tells a complete story,” she says. Crew painted the door in Benjamin Moore’s Mediterranean Sky using Fine Paints of Europe. It stands out against crisp white trim and rich wood floors.

Alise O'Brien Photography

Interior Designers Amy Studebaker and Michelle Thore of St. Louis-based design firm Amy Studebaker Design recommend Notable Hue by Sherwin-Williams. “When it came time to work on our client’s kitchen, the request was to allow color play and to create freshness and sophistication,” Studebaker says. “The desired look was achieved with the use of the beautiful blue cabinets, elegant marble tops, and crisp white subway tile splash."

Jeff Herr Photography

Mallory Mathison Glenn, principal designer of Mallory Mathison Inc., turned to Benjamin Moore’s Tranquility when designing this elegant kitchen. Custom plaster and millwork details honoring the spirit of the historic 1928 Atlanta home accent the room. “Tranquility was chosen for its calming, clear sensibilities but also the historic reference,” Mathison says.

Emery Davis Photography

Lisa Henderson, owner and principal designer at Lisa Henderson Interiors, created her own paint color similar to Farrow & Ball’s Skylight to bring this project to life. “My client and I fell in love with a Phillip Jeffries wallpaper and wanted to create the perfect light-blue paint color to complement it while adding contrast to the space, especially since the adjacent room is pure white,” she says. “Sometimes a custom color is the best option! Light blue is so fresh and airy but adds a design punch."

Spacecrafting Photography

Bria Hammel, principal designer of Minneapolis-based firm Bria Hammel Interiors, turns to Benjamin Moore’s Gentle Gray again and again. “This is one of our favorite soft blue colors,” she says, “We’ve used it in almost every space imaginable!”

While called gray the color’s cool undertones read blue on walls, trim, and cabinetry. “It provides a little more visual interest than typical gray paint colors but is muted enough to give off a calming feeling rather than a bold pop of color. For this laundry room, we love how the soft blue cabinetry juxtaposes (but still complements) the warm tile flooring and gives the space a light and airy feeling."

Molly Culver Photography

Jennifer Barron of Houston’s Jennifer Barron Interiors loves light blue in a cheery kids bathroom. Her go-to? Meditative by Sherwin-Williams. “Bathroom vanities are great places to throw up a bold splash of color,” she says. “This bright and cheerful blue could also be used as a contrast trim color in a little boy's bedroom, for the ceiling in a sunroom, or even the walls of a formal living room."

Molly Culver Photography

Barron also recommends Benjamin Moore’s Normandy Blue. “Going bold on a kitchen paint color anchors the space in a unique and impactful way,” she says. “This kitchen is part of an open floor plan and allowed us to pull in this slate blue color throughout the rest of the space.” Barron says that this light-blue shade would also work well in a powder room, a study, or even on a front door.

Jane Beiles

Crew chose Benjamin Moore’s Yarmouth Blue in a semi-gloss finish for this kitchen island and built-in bar. For consistency, she coordinated shades of blue thought the home. “Before selecting the blue for the cabinets and island, we started with a wallpaper in the dining room and the fabrics in the living room, so the whole house felt cohesive,” Crew says. “The reason this blue works is because it's incorporated into the overall design of the home, but it can also stand alone.”

David McCaughan

For those looking for a light blue with a jolt of energy, try Blue Seafoam by Benjamin Moore. Interior designer Claudia Kalur of CFK Interiors selected this aqua shade for a pair of bathroom vanities for young sisters. Rather than use it on the walls, Kalur chose to showcase the color on the vanities, designed by the project architect, David Hottenroth, so that they would stand out even more. “I wanted them to feel not like vanities but like a piece of furniture or cabinetry in their own right, and they just became the stars of this bathroom,” she says.

Robert Radifera

Nadia Subaran, cofounder of Aidan Design in Washington, D.C., designed this cheery kitchen using Benjamin Moore’s Mt. Rainier Gray. Inspired by a love of New England, the homeowner was drawn to this soothing shade for her galley kitchen and balanced it with a striking white range hood. “The owner loves the restful and calm feeling of blues and the color kept the kitchen light and bright while also giving the galley some depth,” she says.

Favorite Light-Blue Colors from the Paint Pros

Benjamin Moore: For bright, icy blue shades, Xaykao recommends Benjamin Moore’s Windmill Wings, which she calls a "very charismatic periwinkle color” from the brand's 2020 color trends palette. “Some other good options with varying amounts of blue and violet are Serenata, Riviera Azure, Sunrise and Soft Jazz,” she says.

Farrow & Ball: O’Donnell suggests Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue, which he describes as exquisite in its ability to appear either blue, green, or gray depending on the light. “Pale Powder is our softest duck-egg shade and would work beautifully in a coastal weatherboard home,” he says.

Sherwin-Williams: Wadden recommends Sleepy BlueTradewind, or Krypton for a more classic look. “These are typically what come to mind when we think powder blue," she says. “For something a bit more modern, Stardew is one of our most popular dusty blues and one of my personal favorites.”

Courtesy of Benjamin Moore

Where to Use Light Blue in Your Home

Light blue works in any room of the house, from the kitchen to a relaxing master bath to a children’s playroom. If you’re looking to design a cheery, traditional space, use icy blue shades with white. “Blue and white is a timeless combination that’s been used in design for hundreds of years, from paint to pottery,” Wadden says. “So in a way, it’s a very traditional color, but now we’ve got a modern take on it.”

For a touch of whimsy, patterned wallpaper and coordinating pastel blue trim can create exuberant energy. Tori Alexander, owner of Nashville’s Alexander Interiors, recommends incorporating the color palette from wallpaper into the rest of a space for a complete and sophisticated look.

When it comes to materials, Wadden prefers pairing dusty blue with white marble or another natural, honed stone. “It also can be super-refined with sleek metal finishes,” she says. “Or you can warm it up; pair it with terra-cotta tiles for a desert-inspired look, or bold-patterned tiles for a more bohemian feel.”

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