Blue is the star of colours. It is the favourite colour of Westerners and even of the French (and has been since such surveys were first conducted in 1890). Isn’t blue the colour of Europe and the UN? Blue is wise, full of conformity. Take blue jeans, for example: originally invented as ‘blue jeans’, it was not until the 1930s that they became a leisure garment, and then in 1960 they became a sign of rebellion… but for a short time, can blue really be a rebel? Today, it has almost become a uniform, everyone wears it!
Let’s look in detail at the symbolism of the colour blue.
Blue in history
There is no trace of it in the Paleolithic caves. Then, during Antiquity, blue was disdained. It was not even considered a colour. Blue, although omnipresent in nature, especially near the sea, was not easy to produce. This is why it did not play a major role during this period. It even had a negative connotation: at the time, blue eyes were synonymous with a bad life for women, while for men it was a sign of ridicule. Unimaginable today!
It was only during the 12th and 13th centuries that blue was finally rehabilitated. One might think that this was due to a progress in the way it was made… but no! The origin is religious. Christian ideology made God a being of light. For the first time, the sky was painted blue and the sky was the main residence of the Virgin Mary, so she was dressed in a beautiful blue coat. It was partly because of her that blue became fashionable.
Another reason is that from this period onwards there is a desire to hierarchise everything, especially individuals. Family names, insignia, coats of arms and coats of arms appeared. And with only the 3 traditional colours of the time (white, red, black) the choice is limited. We thus went from a system of 3 colours to a system of 6 colours, adding blue, green and yellow.
At first, blue was “divine”, after the Virgin Mary, it was used on church windows. Then the kings began to dress in blue (the famous “royal blue” of Louis XIV), then the lords and other aristocrats. As this happened, dyers were forced to find new techniques. First, a plant called “woad” was used, then, around 1720, a Berlin pharmacist accidentally invented Prussian blue, and then came the madness of indigo, a plant cultivated in the West Indies and America, which was easy to apply and offered many shades.
Blue in the world
As we have seen, it is the favourite colour of many countries in the world. In Japan, however, it is preferred to red, but blue is still synonymous with loyalty, and it is the colour of luck. In China, it is associated with immortality. In Iran, it is the colour worn in mourning.
In the West, it is adored, but it is also associated with sadness and depression, hence the expression “having the blues”. Among Amerindians, blue can also symbolise defeat.
In some countries, it can also be associated with healing: blue amulets are used to ward off the evil eye in Greece, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and Albania.
The Psychology of Blue
Blue has a wavelength between 380 and 500 nm. It is considered to be one of the 3 primary colours (along with Red and Green). It is considered that any other colour can be obtained by superimposing quantities of these colours (the famous RGB code). On the colour wheel, blue lies between green and violet.
Studies have shown that it has the ability to lower blood pressure and slow down the heartbeat (the opposite of red!). Blue also affects our intellect, triggering mental reactions (logic, lucidity). The effect of blue on our mind depends on its intensity. The darker and more saturated the blue, the more stimulating it is and the better the concentration.
Companies in the financial and banking sector often use blue in their logo because this colour embodies honesty and integrity. It helps a brand to show its accessibility and expertise. Blue is also the colour of choice in the high-tech sector. This colour of communication is perfect for social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). IBM’s nickname is even Big Blue!
But blue can also be distant, cold and insensitive. It can appear unsympathetic. In nature, there are no blue foods (blueberries are purple). When they are blue, it means that they are mouldy and therefore toxic and dangerous. This is why blue has a reputation for ruining your appetite. Remember this for the future decoration of your restaurant!
Blue in decoration
In our interiors, it is the light and soothing side of blue that dominates. Since it is a colour that does not make waves, it is relaxing, calming. It is a primary colour, classified as “cold” and has many shades: sky blue, periwinkle, duck, turquoise, cobalt, powder blue, ice blue, ultramarine, navy, king, night…
Given its broad palette, it can be used in all rooms, provided that the right shade is used, depending on the purpose. Dark blues are best used for rest areas or to create a more intimate space in a large room.
Light blue stimulates creativity and is associated with serenity and reflection. It is therefore particularly suitable for offices. In addition, it has the power to make a room look larger.
Turquoise is an invigorating and dynamic blue. Its vitality stimulates and awakens the mind. It is therefore perfect for the bathroom. But it can also disturb sleep, so it is not recommended for the bedroom.
It is very interesting to mix the different shades of blue between that of the walls, that of the fabrics, that of the decorative objects. Blue loves a cameo atmosphere.
Beware of blue that is too cold and too dark in dimly lit rooms, as it tends to turn grey, giving a slightly depressing impression.
Blue likes black. The stronger the contrast between these two colours, the more spectacular the effect. It is best used in rooms that are mysterious and chic.
Blue loves white. This combination is full of freshness and takes us to Greece. It is also a combination that is often found in the Scandinavian style (with a pastel blue).
Blue loves red, for a warm-cold contrast that revitalises. The clash between these two primary colours is powerful. Red wakes up blue.
Blue also likes orange, its complementary colour, the contrast is even stronger. Orange brings joy and sparkle, and enhances all blues, especially the copper tones.
Blue in feng shui
In feng shui, blue is the colour of the water element and therefore of the northern zone and winter. It symbolizes serenity, peace, relaxation, but also intuition and patience. It is a cold colour, and therefore rather yin.
So, if you need to nourish a northern area of the house, you can bring blue (or black) in the form of applat (a wall painted in blue), furniture (a sofa, an armchair…) or accessories (bedspread, tablecloth, cushions, decorative objects…). The saturation, hue or luminosity of the blue colour is not important as long as it is indisputable that it is blue and not a green blue.
Of course, you can also bring water in its pure form with a vase, a fountain or an aquarium.
Le petit livre des couleurs – M. Pastoureau et D. Simonnet
DécoBook – Sophie Mouton-Brisse
Le Pouvoir des couleurs – Karen Haller