While visiting the southern coastal towns, from Wilmington, NC to Amelia Island in North Florida, the architecture of many homes features a large covered front porch. Here you can sit and watch the sunrise or relax on a porch swing and just enjoy the cool ocean breeze. One interesting commonality that you may notice is the color of the porch ceiling. A light blue color has been a tradition since the mid-1700s and is still a favorite even now. The locals refer to this color as Haint blue but is there a real exact haint blue color? and if so what is the true color name?
The History behind the color Haint Blue
Back in the mid-1700’s milk paint was used to coat the exterior of houses and many doors and window shutters were painted with a light blue color to ward off evil spirits or ghosts. The light blue was used to mimic the color of the sky during sunset and it was thought that this would confuse the spirits into passing the home without seeing it. Now, if we think about it, most colors of paint were derived from natural resources as paint stores and other methods of getting supplies was much harder during these times. One of the largest crops grown in this coastal area was Indigo and that is what is believed to be the source of the blue tint in these milk paints. Since Indigo was a cash crop it’s not likely that anyone would use a lot of it to make paint so this is what we believe led to the making of light blue.
What is the correct color of Haint Blue?
This is the hard part but in reality, Haint Blue isn’t just one particular color but more of a color range. Since the name Haint Blue has been around longer than paint stores, the exact formula is unknown. Many variations of light blue have been used up and down the southern coast and referred to as haint blue.
One of the most commonly used colors for Haint Blue is the Duracolor Piazza Blue (or at least some variation of it).
In some coastal communities, a slightly lighter shade is used which we custom matched and called Legacy Porch Blue.
Other colors in this family include Sherwin Williams Balmy which is a light shade of blue but with a touch or purple.
If you prefer a darker shade of blue then you might want to check out Porch Ceiling or Sky Fall. Rainwashed, Waterscape, Meander Blue, and Blue Horizon can be used as well but these colors have a green hue to them.
To pull all this back together, what we have is not an exact haint blue color formula but more of a range of colors that represent the tradition of haint blue. I’m sure that even if you could go back and visit this period you would see that no two colors of blue were exactly the same from house to house. Paints were not batched in big lots like they are today and records of paint formulas were not kept in a computer that could be transferred from store to store. Basically Haint Blue is subjective and as the saying goes “The Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder”.
Learn more about the history of Haint Blue
If you want to know more about the history of Haint Blue and the culture during the mid-1700s here are some great articles and websites that can explain more in detail. You can get lost in the rich culture of the Gullah Geechee people and their traditions. If you ever get a chance to visit the southern coastal towns of Charleston, Savannah, or some of the smaller coastal towns, make sure to take an architectural tour of the city.
The New Georgia Encylopedia has some great information on the Geechee and Gullah Culture and will tell all about the traditions and rich history of the South Carolina and Georgia coast.
The Whys behind porch ceiling colors – Haint Blue from Sherwin Williams
How to preserve the historic buildings in USA – Preservation Historic Archictecture – Government Guidelines.