A Color Story - The Blue Porch

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Someone once told me that curiosity killed the cat.  Then again, I’m allergic to cats so this really is no skin off my back.

While editing photos of a trip to New Orleans for KBIS last year, one of these moments of curiosity presented itself and an exhaustive search of Google resulted in two separate answers One, an idyllic reminder of times past. The other, not so much.

In New Orleans, as it is common nearly everywhere else in the South, it is almost expected to have a blue ceiling floating above one’s porch.  And not just any blue… a creamy light blue somewhere between “waters off the coast of St. Barts” and “just before the end of the 2000 Flushes capsule”.  So common, in fac,t that it’s a rare sight to see a front porch NOT painted in some variation of this hue.

And being that we’re also contemplating adorning the ceiling of our own front porch in a similar fashion I just had to ask why.

Haint: Ghost, apparition or lost soul....

The Romantic Approach.  NOLA, and again, most of the South, is a city firmly rooted in cultural beliefs which span the casual pretensions of the French who settled the low lying banks and  the spiritually rich West African population who literally built this city (no, not on Rock and Roll).  The Gullah, a group of people originally from the rice growing regions of West Africa, believed that spirits, or Haints, were unable to cross over water.  As such, their practice was to paint porches, shutters, window & door frames… any access portal into one’s home… a watery version of blue to trick these lost souls, mis-leading them into believing that they were, in fact, crossing over water.  

Of course, the practice continued well beyond the doorsteps of the Gullah and became common practice among New Orleans architecture if only because it was aesthetically pleasing and gave porch dwellers a bit of sky while lounging, mint julep in hand, during hellish heat waves.

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The Not So Romantic Approach.  Leave it to scientists, even those from the turn of the 19th century, to muster up a not so romantic conclusion for a wonderfully romantic ideal.  Apparently Haints aren’t the only "creatures" who are fooled by the color blue.  Birds and bugs also seem to have a bit of naïveté in their blood.  It’s been noted (though not with any real scientific evidence) that birds and bugs are also confused into thinking that this blue is something it isn’t – the sky.  And because both are defense-less in open sky scenarios (unless you’re say a big-a** Bald Eagle with even bigger talons...yes I said talons) neither will make their nests on or near a blue porch ceiling.

Though there is almost no physical evidence supporting this theory, the fact that a hundred-bajillion Southerners on the internet say it is so, makes it so.

There you have it!  One of life’s mysteries solved.  

You’re Welcome.

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