Southern Accents most recent salvage mission found us tearing out a beautiful powder blue porch ceiling from an 1890’s house in South Alabama. As we began posting pictures of this beautiful wood, we received several comments regarding the paint color of the wood. We had heard a number of tales regarding the blue porch ceilings and decided to do a little research which uncovered three very interesting theories!
1) The tradition of painting porch ceilings the color blue seems to have originated in the South as a spiritual and cultural custom. Folk lore states that the blue color was first used by African slaves to secure the entry of their homes. This color was supposed to protect both their home and it’s inhabitants from “haints.” Haints are restless spirits of the dead who have not moved on from this physical world. The belief was that the color blue represented water, which spirits could not cross over. Not only were the porch ceilings painted blue, but often the frames of doors and windows as well. It was also believed that the blue color extended the daylight hours, thus scaring away the evil spirits. Southerners specifically have held to this tradition through the years. In the South Carolina Lowcountry, there is a name for the specific color of blue used on the porch ceilings. It is called “haint blue.”
2) Another widely held belief was that the blue color repelled insects. For years, many believed that the light blue color fooled the insects into thinking that the porch ceiling was the sky, thus preventing them from nesting there. Although there is no evidence to indicate that this was sound reasoning, the blue color paint contained lye, which is a known insect repellent. The lye paint would fade quickly so the wood was supposed to be repainted every year. It is feasible that the lye in the paint acted as an insecticide that helped ward off bugs and spiders, thus giving credibility to this theory.
3) The blue porch ceilings are especially common to Victorian houses, which are known for using the soft color tones of nature. Soft shades of blue have a calming effect which lends itself perfectly to what was typically everyone’s favorite spot in the house… the front porch!
Although we will never know for sure why the porch ceiling that we just salvaged was painted blue, the wood is gorgeous and the beautiful blue color makes for a very interesting story. This wood has been delivered to our wood warehouse where it will be de-nailed and made ready for it’s next purpose. Stop by our wood warehouse to view our large collection of salvaged wood or stop by our showroom in historic downtown Cullman, Alabama and speak with one of our sales representatives.
Written by: Lisa Jones