THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL: Interior Design is Going Blue

various images from around the home with blue elements

Designers often look to nature for inspiration and this year color experts and paint manufacturers have taken a similar approach. Both the Pantone Color Institute and Sherwin Williams chose deep shades of blue, associated with the sea and sky, for their 2020 color of the year designations.

2020 PANTONE Color of the Year - Classic Blue 19-4052

Classic Blue:  Pantone 2020 Color of the Year

Pantone is the world’s leading authority on color. Each year, the Pantone Color Institute influences every design arena, from fashion to beauty to interior and graphic design.

The color of the year is often inspired by current events in society, cultural trends, and even world events.  Pantone describes this year’s pick as, “a timeless and enduring blue, suggestive of the sky at dusk.”

According to Anna Fixen a writer for Architectural Digest, “Pantone’s insights are perfectly aligned with interior design’s gradual return to traditional decorating styles.”    

And as Cady Lang, with Time magazine points out, its indigo shade can be achieved naturally from plants and dyes, making it a color that aligns well with the current sustainability movement.

Sherwin-Williams Color of Year 2020 - Naval SW 6244 (253-C6)

Naval:  Sherwin Williams 2020 Color of the Year

Apparently thinking along the same lines, Sherwin Williams went with a rich navy for its 2020 pick. As the company puts it, “naval creates a calm and grounding environment infused with quiet confidence.” A quintessentially classic color, navy blue dates back to 1748, when it got its name from the color worn by officers in the British Royal Navy.  The resulting association with all things noble and nautical continues today. Valued for its timeless appeal, naval represents a new era for navy blue.

PPG Paints 2020 Color of the Year - Chinese Porcelain

According to Real Simple magazine, if you’re tired of all-white spaces, or even spaces that just feel a little too washed-out, Naval is the new neutral to try. Deep blues like naval can be blended into any design style when combined with the right furniture, lighting and decorative elements.

Similarly, another paint manufacturer, PPG, chose a rich shade of blue, “Chinese Porcelain”  as its 2020 color. It’s described as a blend of cobalt and moody ink blue that embodies tranquility and calmness, while also reflecting serenity and hopefulness. 

“Consumers are tiring of stark grays and are looking to infuse colors that delight the senses,” says Dee Schlotter, senior color manager for PPG. “Blue is the easiest possible entry point from the world of neutrals to the world of color.”

Background on Blue

One of the primary colors along with red and yellow, blue is prevalent in art, fashion and design examples throughout history.  Blue is typically considered a calming color, strongly associated with tranquility, which is why it is often selected for bedrooms, bathrooms, spas or waiting rooms and not so frequently in restaurants where colors like yellow or red are believed to help stimulate appetites. Some sources even go so far as to say that blue can help with weight loss when used in kitchen paint, furniture or dishes.  However, blue and white or yellow have long been a staple in French-influenced kitchens.

In public opinion polls conducted in the United States and Europe, blue is the most popular color, chosen by almost half of both men and women as their favorite. The same surveys also indicated that blue was the color most associated with intelligence, knowledge, calm and concentration.

Chairs providing bold blue pops of color at Waverly Heights
Bold blue pops of color at Waverly Heights.

Deep Blue Interior Design Trends

Rich, dark blues are an appealing and timeless choice to introduce into interior spaces.  These tones are naturally pleasing and easy to use due to their versatility—blending well with many other colors. When seeking an alternative for unassuming neutrals like gray or beige, blue is a natural transition into brighter, bolder pops of color.

Eye-catching blue coffee bar at Pleasant View Heart and Harrow.
Eye-catching blue coffee bar at Pleasant View Heart and Harrow.

Classic blue works well for a statement piece of furniture or an eye-catching accent wall.  Deep blues were the popular new neutral our team observed at this past year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), with both accent pieces and complete casework options, particularly classic blue and white combinations.

Deep blues in Sycamore Square hybrid home apartments at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, PA
Deep blues in Sycamore Square hybrid home apartments at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, PA

However, there is no need to limit design pairings to blue and white. A variety of colors complement blue—everything from tans and rich chocolate tones to shades of yellow and orange.  With bolder colors, a good rule of thumb is to pair warm tones of those colors with warmer blues and cool tones with cooler blues.  Deeps blues also work well with rich wood shades such as mahogany, cherry, dark walnut or oak, team and chestnut.  And for those who like to add some bling, blue works well with silver or gold metallic, often found in Art Deco style.

Our interior design team appreciates the current trend towards deep blues and navy tones for the sense of drama and impact they can provide.  While these blues often function as a neutral if you are not sure you want to fully commit, accent pieces such as pillows, rugs or decorative items are another open for taking advantage of the calm serenity blue provides. 

Blue Smoke photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash
Blue Smoke photo by Adrien Ledoux on Unsplash

Jessica Jack, IIDA, LEED AP

Blue is the new black, it is my go to color that I find myself returning to in some form on almost every project. It is neutral and classic lending a timelessness to a project that is not achievable with all colors. I lean towards lighter blues for a pop of fun and shades of navy to ground a design and inevitability layer blues one on top of another to create warmth.

If you see a collection of blue samples in the office, they are probably mine! 

Palm trees, pool and tiki hut
Vacation photo by Deb.

Deb Kimmet, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C

I often select blue for our projects because it’s a color found in nature, which tends to give it a timeless quality.  It’s a calming color, that both men and women find attractive.  Plus you can find a shade of it to coordinate with most any other color. 

On a recent vacation, I was actually thinking about the color blue and all of its beautiful variations.

Blog Editor: Jodi Kreider, LEED AP

Other ideas for embracing bold and beautiful blues:

Conde Naste Traveler shares photos from places where you can find Classic Blue around the globe.

This slideshow by Vogue shares ideas for adding Pantone’s color of the year to your home.

Architectural Digest features spaces using Sherwin Williams’ color of the year.


rlps interiors staff behind the BD|NY signAs professional members of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the RLPS Interiors team regularly researches new products, evolving code requirements and industry trends.  We take many of our design cues from hospitality venues, the best of which set the standards for brand identity, distinctive style and positive user experiences.

According to its website, BDNY is the creative nexus of the industry—bringing 8,000+ designers, architects, purchasing agents, hoteliers, owners and developers together with 750+ inventive manufacturers of design elements for hospitality interiors.  This year several members of our team had the opportunity to attend the event and participate in site tours, product exhibitions and continuing education seminars. Continue reading


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According to Wikipedia, the chair has been used since antiquity, although for many centuries it was a symbolic article of state and dignity rather than a functional item for ordinary use. Once chairs emerged beyond privileged status, they became ubiquitous in many cultures leading up to today where chairs are an integral furnishing selection for homes, offices, schools, restaurants, meeting spaces, theaters, and numerous other settings. Design considerations include durability, ergonomics, functional features (e.g. stackable or folding, task specific heights or styles, etc.), maintenance and, of course, design style. Continue reading

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WINTER WARMTH: Interior Design Strategies to Beat the Winter Blues

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