Blue tops design horizon: moody, serene blue is the year’s hottest color in fashion, interior design and art

Blue tops design horizon: moody, serene blue is the year’s hottest color in fashion, interior design and art – Special Report

Jessica Lyons

Blue is the color of the sky, a robin’s egg and the waters of the Caribbean. It’s a moody color that can be sad or calm, a conservative navy or a racy teal, and yet it also represents loyalty and wisdom. Blue is serene, spiritual and, of course, patriotic. And according to design experts and gallery owners, the color blue will dominate fashion, decor and art in 2003 and even more so in 2004.

“Green has been a prevalent color, which has been and will be gradually transitioning to blue with colors like teal, aqua, verdigis and blue-green,” explained Karen Schweitzer, creative director for Winn Devon Art Group in Seattle. “Blues are more of an accent color in 2003 and will become more of a dominating force in 2004.”

Blues–from a pale turquoise to a deep indigo–are safe, stable colors, said Material ConneXion’s Jay de Sibor, immediate past president of the Color Marketing Group. Blues are compatible with other colors, and they also contrast nicely.

Plus, “blues make us feel safe and grounded,” de Sibor said. “What we find with color, while it does reflect what we feel, it is also driven by things that are going on around us: the world situation, the economy, environmental factors, globalization and ethnicity. All these things have an impact on color.”

Enter Blue

“Ever since Sept. 11, red, white and blue became immediately popular,” de Sibor said. “In the longer term, however, Sept. 11 awakened in all of us feelings of seeking security, seeking stability and safety.”

Blue, he said, denotes all of the above, “because of it’s relation to the sea and the sky. We assume that no matter what happens tomorrow, the sky will always be blue. It’s a color that exudes tranquility.”

“A couple of years ago, we saw all this denim, upholstered furniture come out on the market,” said Amy Wessan, vice president of sales and design at Bruce McGaw Graphics of Nyack, N.Y. “This is a good example of how the casual, all-American feeling of blue can be produced in a stylish, comfortable way.”

Indeed, blue, and denim in particular, is hardly new to the runways. However, color experts predict blue will take on a new meaning in 2003. Color Marketing Group’s Barbara Lazarow, co-chairman of the Consumer Color Direction Committee, said during these cloudy economic times, rich, shimmery blues will influence and invigorate fashion. “We have experienced newfound energy using full chroma hues that can lift our spirits and provoke our senses. With a rebel yell, we protest a total shift to `establishment colors,'” she said. “For color we look to the prosperous times of the 1920s and ’60s and to the glamour of the 1930s and ’40s.”

While clothing designers easily incorporate blue into fashion, designing blue rooms can be more difficult. For this reason, Niki Krieger, creative director at Canadian Art Prints Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., predicts blue and brown will rule interior design and art decor in 2003. “Blue will not dominate but will be used primarily as an accent color that works well with neutrals, such as the various hues of brown,” she said. “Blue represents peace, serenity and tranquility to buyers and is peaceful, easy on the eyes and soothing.”

Wessan also lists blues and chocolate browns as two strong palettes for interior decor this year. “The blues have a water feel to them and convey a sense of peace and calm people are seeking during these troubled times,” she said. “You can see this when you look at the product lines out in the stores. There are lots of bedding lines with blue-aqua palettes. There is an escapist feel to this color range. It’s relaxing.”

Blues can warm up a neutral room, said Editions Limited’s Joanne Chappell, owner of the Emeryville, Calif.-based publishing company. “If you have an earth-toned room, blue gives it that needed color,” she said. But, she warned, “With blue, a little goes a long way. I’ve found that in corporate and even residential environments, most people don’t do a blue room. We’ve introduced blue, but we’ve been careful to pair it with primary colors or neutrals.”

On the other hand, blue is a rich, majestic color, said Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and president of Rosemary Sadez Friedmann Inc. in Naples, Fla. A blue room can signify wealth and royalty. She points to the French Provincial Style, and the White House’s long blue room.

“Blue can be used as a background color on walls and carpeting, or it can be used as the foreground color in upholstery and draperies,” she added. “Pleasant dreams might be the end result of coloring a bedroom in shades of blue. When in a blue environment, time seems to pass slowly and you don’t feel rushed.”

As with interior design and fashion, blue in art conveys peace and serenity to buyers. It’s also a natural color for land and seascapes–the color of the sea or a field of wildflowers.

“Blue particularly expresses a seagoing tranquility and a relaxing escape, which makes harbors, marinas and boating imagery a natural sell,” said Schweitzer. “Water is an excellent way to incorporate blue as the incoming color.”

Blue also works as an effective accent color, to liven up whites or earth tones, Chappell said. “I’ve used all the earth tones, but I’m also using heightened burgundies, reds and blues. I’ve been asked for brighter, global types of things.”

She also said buyers are tired of beige on beige, and blue is an excellent alternative. Still, she advised don’t overdo blue, whether it’s a painting of a tropical beach, a grape vine or even John Milan’s tongue-in-cheek chef images. “Even in a beach landscape, you’ve got sand tones and earth tones from the palms.”

Decorative Expressions’ Robert Harris agreed. “If a painting has too many strong blues, then the painting looks dark and cold. A painting has to be warm to sell.” And then, he repeated a constant mantra among gallery owners. Blue paint alone doesn’t sell art. Art sells art. “Really,” Harris said, “the quality of the painting and the interest of the subject is what draws people to a painting.”


* Bruce McGaw Graphics, 888-4BMCGAW

* Canadian Art Prints, 800-663-1166

* Color Marketing Group, (703) 329-8500

* Color Association of the United States, (212) 947-7774

* Colville Publishing, (310) 618-3700

* Decorative Expressions, (770) 457-8008

* Editions Limited, (510) 923-9770

* Rosemary Sadez Friedmann Inc., (941) 261-5944

* Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors, (503) 235-1945

* Winn Devon, 800-875-4150

COPYRIGHT 2003 Advanstar Communications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group