Powder blue, sky blue, Carolina blue, baby blue, Alice blue. To many, these shades mean nothing, but to a Charleston homeowner living in a historic home, a shade can mean so much more. One of the distinguishing traits of homes in this area is color. Many homes are painted in bright colors, a direct recognition of the strong Caribbean influence in the area. Shutters are traditionally painted black, the color of paint sent by the government to repair Charleston after the Civil War, and porch ceilings are painted blue, but depending on the individual, the reason for this choice may vary.
Several different myths are used by Charlestonians to explain the blue porch ceilings, and how homeowners choose a shade of blue. Some claim that the color is an extension of the sky, therefore, they choose sky blue. Some homeowners argue that the shade helps extend daylight during evening hours, and even to help ward off pesky summer bugs. It is thought that spiders and wasps will mistake the ceiling for the sky, and will look for more secure places to build nests. In this case, the owner chooses a more distinguished shade, such as steel blue or Bleu de France.
Most commonly, the shade of haint blue, or “gullah blue”, is used in the area. The word ‘haint’ originates from the Gullah culture in the Lowcountry. The Gullah culture describes the mixture of African tribes that were held here as slaves, a culture rich in myths and customs. Often times these slaves would paint doors, window frames and porch ceilings blue to ward off evil spirits. If evil spirits did come knocking on a blue door or window, they would be sent back into the sky where they were unable to harm others.
Charleston architecture is one that is truly historical, and one that has cultural significance. So, whether one believes in legends, or not, a blue porch is just another special facet to the Lowcountry and it’s historical culture. Note: A few suggestions from the local Benjamin Moore store are Mystical Blue, Crystal Springs and White Satin.