The Art Of Styling French Blue
Why so, blue? No, this isn’t an inquiry into one’s mood but rather why this color, especially French blue, continually looks good and stays fresh. Nest Casa spoke to star interior designer Celerie Kemble about why this shade of bleu endures the test of time, and for her thoughts on how best to apply it. We were especially curious about incorporating the popular pigment in a beach house, a personal favorite here at Nest Casa.
The designer, who helms Kemble Interiors in New York and her native Palm Beach, is no stranger to the color. “It still holds magical properties,” she says, recalling the cornflower blue Crayola shade that kids clamored for at the coloring table. “It’s a blue you can almost see into,” says Kemble, comparing it to Prussian blue, which was invented synthetically by Diesbach color chemists in Berlin in 1704 and contains more green.
It’s a blue you can almost see into.
Certain blues, greens, and browns exist in nature that as human animals we see enough that it doesn’t jar us,” she proposes. “You can still breathe inside a blue room as a natural tone, where a bright red or purple, for example, feels too synthetic.
Kemble suggests that the popularity of French blue, also referred to as Parisian blue, comes from the shade’s connection to nature. “Certain blues, greens, and browns exist in nature that as human animals we see enough that it doesn’t jar us,” she proposes. “You can still breathe inside a blue room as a natural tone, where a bright red or purple, for example, feels too synthetic.” She also credits the familiarity of French blue. “The hues aren’t so exotic that you would get sick of them,” she maintains. Noting its popularity among her clients, she adds,
Trend-wise it’s popular, because nobody ‘gets mad’ at blue and white.
She maintains that “this color can go anywhere because it brings its own sunshine,” though how it’s used can depend on the location. In cities with significant architectural gravitas such as New York, London, Paris, and San Francisco, Kemble prescribes keeping it simple and paired with cream. “If you are in a big, weightier city, you speak to the color of the air,” she advises.
One such example of Kemble’s work is the dining room/library of a Manhattan townhouse she completed in 2015. “Like many rooms in New York City, this room had to be multifunctional: for eating, reading, and passing from the living room to the kitchen,” she explains. “What I love about the French blue here is that it’s fresh but still holds the seriousness of the library.” She also recommends using strong colors in a balanced way; in this example, the blue dining/reading room is the most intense overall in the apartment.
That isn’t to say that in an East Coast corridor a French blue must be staid. Another of Kemble’s recent projects was the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut. There, she engaged the Parisian shade through festive, lush wallpapers in the reception area and bathrooms. For the latter she plucked from her collection of Schumacher paper that she designed in collaboration with the storied wallcoverings brand. The style, called Bouquet Toss, uses varying shades of the color that Kemble swears you won’t get sick of.
In places such as Kemble’s native Palm Beach, however, the blue takes on a different personality. In that tropical environment she pairs it with bright white instead of cream. While she considers this color combo ubiquitous, she also sees it as a challenge to create something unique. “I recommend pairing it with a zesty color, like bright sunny yellow, geranium pink, or African daisy orange,” she says. “It feels fresh and bright in this location.”
Adding to its success is the landscaping and exterior of the property itself. “You can be sassy when you are in a tropical or beach setting, because these colors go with the quality of the sunlight and intensity of greenery, and especially the colorful flowers.” Kemble describes her taste and lifestyle in her hometown. “It’s a bit sassy — think bare feet — and tastes like a glass of lemonade.” She stops herself short anything that sounds too saccharine or sappy. “I have a quick noxious meter, so I use French blue and bright colors with a bit of temperance.”
Nest Casa couldn’t agree more. A vivid blue-and-white combo, even with a bright pop, can easily be tempered with natural fibers when styling a coastal home. Rattan furniture, jute carpets, and grasscloth wallcoverings all support the theme. Baker’s Bay Ocean & Golf Club in the Bahamas grounds this blue-and-white lobby and sitting room overlooking the ocean in rattan and wicker for a calm and natural atmosphere.
French blue and white proves popular in other wallcoverings, demonstrated by this Savannah, Georgia, showhouse using Michelle Nussbaumer fabrics or on a wallpapered closet. Simply painting dramatic architecture with this Parisian favorite — as with this arched entryway that leads to a big blue painting tableau, or showing up unexpectedly in this kitchen island in a Dallas home — may ignite a lifelong love of this lovely hue.