I’ll admit without shame to being a wannabe Southerner. Get me started on the topic of my favorite city, Charleston, and I’ll happily talk your ear off for an hour or two about my daydreams of moving to the Palmetto state and making my Southern Belle fantasies a reality.
When it comes to hospitality, design, and casual elegance, the South (at least my idealized view of it) gets a lot of things right. So, in the spirit of the summer in the South, let me introduce the next entry into the Design Dictionary: Haint Blue.
If you’ve ever noticed the charming painted blue ceiling of a porch, or sunroom, you’re already acquainted with Haint Blue. Introduced to the Lowcountry by the Gullah community who brought the practice with them from Africa, the blue paint is meant to be a bit of a ghost buster.
Ghosts or ‘haints’ were thought to be kept at bay, and misfortune kept from a household by painting porch ceilings, door, or window trim with the blue hue. There are mixed reports as to the significance of the color, some say the blue is meant to represent heaven (a place an evil haint would surely avoid), others that it’s meant to represent water which haints cannot cross.
In the lore of blue painted porches, there’s also a camp that believes blue paint is an insect repellent–the blue mimics sky and dissuades creepy crawlies from nesting. We may not be pulling a fast one on the bugs, but historically paints were milk based and mixed with lye, which is a known insect repellent. Rest assured, your Great Grandmother wasn’t pulling a fast one over on you when she told you to paint your porch ceiling blue to stay bug-free.
Whether you’re trying to keep away bugs or haints, a blue painted ceiling will always be beguiling!