Monday Inspiration: Navy Blue

I haven’t really looked at the Pantone Colour of the Year 2020 much as I’m never really sure how relevant it is, but given that I came across some lovely dark blue rooms this week and the chosen shade is called Classic Blue “suggestive of the sky at dusk” I thought we’d dive in a bit further. Pun partially intended.

blue blood by paint and paper library shot by paul raeside
blue blood by paint and paper library shot by paul raeside 

Blue is always top of the list for the world’s favourite colour and so when it was selected by Pantone there was a small collective groan as it didn’t seem very exciting as a choice. That said there was a larger grown when they came up with Rose Quartz and an audible hiss for ultra violet. But, unlike Dulux, who are suggesting a palette of colours that you might want to decorate with, Pantone is more about a collective mood that, they suggest, will spread across fashion, furniture, advertising and packaging. And this year, apparently, it’s about stepping over the threshold into a new era.

It’s about collecting our thoughts, peace and tranquility and laser like clarity. All of which mightn’t be a bad thing for 2020. But leaving all the explanations aside what about it for the walls?

styled for @curbed shot by @paullmcraig designed by @richardsonstudiointeriors styled by @carolinedavis
styled for @curbed shot by @paullmcraig designed by @richardsonstudiointeriors styled by @carolinedavis

While the paler blues can be hard to get right – like grey they change enormously depending on the light from deep sky to cold grey and it can be hard to find what you want in a room that has to function well in both electric and natural light. Navy blue, however, is much much easier. Whether you go for a more greeny based shade or one with a cool dollop of grey it will create a cocooning effect.

So you can take inspiration from the top image and paint everything. This is a really restful way to use a colour as there’s no distraction created by contrasting woodwork. Yes blue and white can look smart but it’s also a bit nautical. And if you paint out the doors then the space is automatically more relaxing.

hicks blue by little greene
hicks blue by little greene  David Hicks, one of the most important designers of the 60s and 70s  also worked on many commercial projects and used this blue in the restaurant at the top of the London Telecom Tower in 1962.

If that isn’t your vibe, and look at the second picture to see how painting out the background allows the books, ornaments and furniture to really stand out, then rather than white, which might be too high contrast, pick either a paler shade of blue or a contrasting colour for the woodwork, perhaps a soft ecru or milk shade rather than hard white.

designed by kingston lafferty design
designed by kingston lafferty design

In the next two images, the designers have picked a contrasting shade to pop against the navy blue. A mint green stool provides the disrupting colour in the kitchen while this pink painted table is a stronger, brighter version of the curtains. And here, the cornice has been painted white to create a breather between the green ceiling and blue walls. The white also ties in the light and the tiles. The green brings an unexpected touch and stops it all feeling too co-ordinated, which more pink might have done. At that point it becomes contrived rather than considered.

mansfield tablecloth by la redoute
mansfield tablecloth by la redoute

Finally, navy blue in pattern. Actually the tablecloth above might be sliding slightly towards green but it’s pretty and it’s the same principle so it’s staying. While below the wallpaper, which is quite traditional in style, has been given a modern feel by painting the woodwork blue and black. White woodwork would have been very traditional, this pale blue gives it a totally modern feel.

These days I think I would only suggest using white on woodwork if it matches the walls. And I do have plenty of off white walls and doors but if you don’t then think about a contrasting, toning or matching colour for a more contemporary look.

stag trail wallpaper by little greene woodwork in james
stag trail wallpaper by little greene woodwork in james

And is anyone sold on navy blue? I have a navy blue bathroom in the loft but that’s as far as I’ve gone with it in this house.


Tags : decorating with navynavy bluenavy interiorsPantone classic blue
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I have just painted my lounge in blue blood (it can also be seen on the P&P Library instagram) and I love it. It’s dramatic but also softer than some navy blues.
    I keep changing my mind on what colours to coordinate with it though, and my ceiling is white, which I am clearly going to have to address now!

  2. Dark blue works wonderfully in a north facing room which can feel oh so cold if painted in a pale colour. F&B Hague blue was chosen in the north facing dining room which has a sofa so a standard lamp placed close by for reading books was essential.
    Stiffkey blue looks stunning against white porcelain in the bathroom.
    But sadly F&B Inchyra Blue gloss painted by a professional on the south facing front door (even though it’s in a set back porch) bubbled in the sun’s heat.
    Looking at all my daughter in law’s choices for their Arts & Crafts house, I would say Hague Blue in that cold north facing room was the best choice they ever made. We all love being in that room.

  3. Great post, I love this! …
    “It’s about collecting our thoughts, peace and tranquility and laser like clarity.”

    I just completed (in time for Christmas) painting our entire living room in Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue (walls, ceiling, skirting, door, picture rail & window frames) and it’s so blissful. Unintentionally we now have a cinema experience which doesn’t require a sheet as the wall makes the colours in film jump out!

    We’re now planning to go bold & radical all over the house.

  4. I had a navy blue sitting room in our Victorian house but after a couple of years of my partner bitching about not being able to see anything I painted it a mid green instead. It did look good, but it is nice to be able to read in there now.

  5. I LOVE a deep blue. I personally prefer darker and deeper shades than what is shown here, almost black. When a room is painted in these colours I feel like it embraces you.

    Have a nice day.

  6. I’ve just repainted a spare room , with Farrow and ball, and Fornasetti, deep blue black wallpaper, and it’s stunning.
    Small rooms painted, dark, contrary to what is generally said, look wonderful. very happy with the decision.

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