Monday, February 2, 2009

Blue and green should not be seen without a colour in between

When I was a child, my British mother used to say ''Blue and green, only on the Queen'. I thought about this expression last week, when debating whether to hang my collection of early 1900s flow blue china on a green wall in my kitchen. Would it look horrible? Are blue and green not meant to be together? I tried to google the expression, and there was not a single match. I began to suspect that I was remembering the expression incorrectly. I emailed my aunt in Scotland, and she clarified that the expression is "Blue and Green should not be seen without a colour in between", and this saying relates to clothes. (She also noted that it is one of those old fashioned sayings that is completely disregarded now). I wonder what this expression means? I suppose it means that blue and green need to have another color in the mix in order to work together.
In the meantime, I have now started to notice pictures of blue and green used together all over the place. Blue and green are two of my favorite colors; in fact, in my house, the downstairs is predominantly green, and the upstairs is predominantly blue. This is a color scheme I have stuck to for many years, and even when I move I will continue with these colors. I think this is why Swedish and French design is so appealing to me, because soft and muted versions of these colors are used so frequently. However, I must admit that I usually do not mix the two.
One of my favorite posts of 2007 was about the use of turquoise in a room. I saved this picture because I loved the use of turquoise and green. Look at the how the colors in the Marimekko framed fabric are repeated in the half green, half blue jar. How does this measure up to the 'blue and green' saying? The painting is pretty much all blue and green, but the white of the buffet and the walls helps balance it out.
A picture of designer Barbara Barry. I love much of what she does because her signature colors are blue and green. The main reason I love this picture, though, is the beautiful painting in the background. My two absolute favorites colors, in one place - and no color in between! And yet, it is the main pop of color in this scene (other than Barry's skirt). Do you notice how the skirt picks up the blue, and the stripe in the fabric picks up the green? I found this picture from the amazing color and design blog Colour Me Happy. If you have not yet visited this blog, you are in for a treat. The author is a designer and a color expert, and her posts are wonderful and informative about both subjects.
This room is iconic in the design blog world. I wonder what came first in this room? I suspect it was the fabric on the chair. She used the green on the walls, and the blue in the accents. The contemporary art and the window shade offer a little relief from the predominant green. but I must admit that this is not my favorite picture of a dining room. I think it is the predominant color of the green on the walls, or maybe it is the shade of the green. Interior design by Sheila Bridges.
Same house, and look what happens outside the room: the blue is carried out onto the walls. It makes the rooms flow well and connect to each other, don't you think? Although the dining room was not my favorite, I love this little scene of a chair with an interesting wall art collection above it.
Two more images from Colour Me Happy (Elle Decor, interiors by Jamie Drake). She did an amazing post on green last month, which analyzed Drake's design from a color perspective. My favorite room was the dining room - I love the chairs (which I suspect are the Dessin Fourir Gibbons chair) and the blue glasses and vase on the table. The blue against the green really pops. The abstract painting also has the vivid blues and greens. I would not say that the green dominates this room, and the blue is used as an accent along with white and cream.
Here is a nice scheme with blue and green, and white used in between. In fact, the white is the main color, with the blue and gren as the accents. I love the painting above the bed.
In a dining room designed by one of my favorite designers, Liz Williams (Liz, email me when you get a website - I will even develop it for you!!!), an olive green settee is used with robin egg blue pillows and walls. Again, the prints seem to provide the color in between, the contrast and relief to the blue and green.
This is one of my favorite pictures, from the store Max & Company in Atlanta (owned by the designer Phoebe Howard). I love this table arrangement. The indigo blue of the painting is almost a purple, and it contrasts beautifully with the green vases, the yellow-green painting, and the intaglios mounted on green. The white of the walls and the upholstery balances out the color scheme.

Although I tend to stick to either blue OR green in my own decor, I love paintings that combine the two. This is a painting by Dusty Griffith, who is represented by the Lowe Gallery.
A painting by New Orleans artist Amanda Talley combines blue and green beautifully, but the white and gray help balance it out. I love this painting, not only because of the style but because of the beautiful colors.

One of my favorite bedroom scenes, I still get emailed about this picture from a post I created in 2007. The designer is James Michael Howard, and he combines blue and yellow and green to great effect - and again, the white (of the blanket cover) helps balance it out.
In a picture from Country Living, the blue of the walls of the pantry in combination with the green of the garland struck me as quite beautiful. (white predominates, though).
Michael Smith has a fondness for combining blue and green in this room (and again, the light colors, in this case cream, balance it out).
Favorite blogger Cote de Texas is the one who convinced me that it is indeed acceptable to combine a green wall with blue and white china - as seen in her own bedroom. Her walls are a light, soft green, and she has blue and white Chinese ginger jar lamps on her bedside table. However, again there is a balance with the light color of the pillows and bed cover.
Cote de Texas sent me this picture to prove that blue and green do indeed work together, but she admits to not liking this particular combination of blue and green (the curtains being a bit too olive green for her).
The recent cover of Traditional Home had a room that combined green and blue quite beautifully. The teal of the walls has a lot of both green andblue in it, so the accent of turquoise vases works well. The light rug balances it out. Interior design by Suzanne Kasler.
Another iconic picture of the blog world, from Domino magazine. The green in this room is quite olive, and is combined with a lovely blue on the walls (and on the trim of the curtains). This is definitely not a color combination that I would ever think of or even be so bold to use (this seems to be a popular color combination among bold designers). There are some other colors used in this scheme too - brown and yellow - which helps balance the room out.
heidi friedler
In a room designed by New Orleans decorator Heidi Friedler, green is the star of the room, but there are definite blue accents in the pillow and the art. The white of the walls is a good contrast and relief to all of the green.

So, does this post prove or disprove the old British saying 'blue and green should not be seen without a colour in between'? Just like in fashion, I think it is a matter of personal taste. My personal taste is to throw a color in between - preferably white or cream, but I think it depends on the tones of the blues and the greens being used.

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  1. that grass cloth wallpaper in teal is amazing! In a sample book, I would have thought Ewww..but look at it in all it's beauty!

    Great post!

  2. Miles Davis wrote and played a song called "Blue In Green" in the sixties. John Coltrane on tenor. The sea is blue and green. Your site is very beautiful.

  3. I will need to take more time to study your photos, but what a beautiful post - exhaustively researched! I personally love blue and green, but generally not together. It is a combination I struggle with and when it happens to be executed with just the right tones, I am always thrilled to bits. Just the other day I moved a piece of slate pottery and it looked gorgeous with my sage sofa. But then again, that isn't really a clear pure blue and green, which I struggle with! But you have some exquisite rooms here I will need to go study.

    My favorite combination is the one with the big painting that looks almost purple, which is why it looks so darned great with blue. Now there's a combination!

    That photo you did not attribute with the green garland was from Country Living. I believe it was a Christmas issue.

    Thought-provoking post! Terri

  4. Ooops, I meant the big purple painting looks amazing with GREEN. It's green and purple that look so great together - like a field of lavender!

  5. I love this! Like I told you - one of my favorite fabrics is a Carlton V wide stripe in blue and green - so beautiful! What a great post - as usual, well researched and thought out!

  6. I had a little chuckle when I read the title of this post because my Mom used to tell me the very same thing: "Blue & Green cannot be seen without a colour in between"! There I'd be with my jeans and bright green tee-shirt on and I'd groan at her... "Mo-ooom"!! But you know, I've always like the two colours together - like you concluded though, it really does depend ont the tones of the two colours. I agree with Terri about that room with the large purplish blue painting... it was terrific!
    Thanks for sharing all these wonderful inspiration pictures!
    Victoria (one half of DesignTies)

  7. Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog! I'm so thrilled you mentioned me TWICE wow! I loved the way you began this post with that question. Colour combinations have really evolved from what used to be 'correct'. I never thought one could wear brown and black or navy and black together, but we're doing it now!

  8. FYI: The art in the top picture isn't a painting, but stretched fabric from Marimekko: http://www.kiitosmarimekko.com/onap660gr.html

    I have this very same fabric hung as art. And for the record, I ADORE blue and green together! ;-)

  9. What a treat to wake up to such interesting comments! I must admit, I created this post on my laptop, which does not always portray color very well. I should go upstairs to the Mac and see what this post looks like with good color resolution; some things I was interpreting as blue or green might tilt towards another color.

    When I wrote this post, I thought about the sea - how beautiful the greenish blue sea of the Caribbean looks next to a clear blue sky.

    I find color to be such a fascinating topic, in part because of the daring combinations I sometimes see in the design mags.

    Design Ties - I didn't say it in the post, but I heard this expression a lot because of my clothing choices as a teenager! I think my mother was trying to help, because I would sometimes use strange combinations of colors. Maybe I was ahead of my time!

  10. I have Scottish Parents and I never agreed with that saying. I use to always argue that the sky and land is a perfect match!! Even the blue and green waters of the Greek coast...how delicious is that?
    I love these pictures btw.
    Ness xx

  11. Amazing post. I never really thought about the blue green combo. Your post got me thinking, and brought to my mind clear pics of the blue walls, and green bedspreads in our childhood home.

    Yep, they look great together. Just depends on what shades you pick.:)

    And, seconding what Dan said, the blue-green shades of the sea are proof enough that these colors gel, and quite well!

  12. The only time I like blue is when it is with green...I had never heard the saying before. I found this post very interesting. Thanks for sharing. vickydarnell

  13. Blue and green together is one of my favorite color combos along with pink and orange. I just remember studying analogous color combos in design school and they are supposed to evoke a calm color scheme because of the lack of contrast...maybe that's why I'm drawn to them.

    Great post!

  14. Stamford wife, you must have loved Sasha Obama's outfit at the inauguration - pink and orange (and a bit of red) galore! I really hate pink and orange together, but I admired Sasha's outfit and thought it was absolutely perfect for the day.

  15. Funny! When I worked in Wales, our designer did a report that was blue and green. Lady Pen, who worked in our office, said "Green and Blue will never do, Blue and green are never seen." It must be a British thing.

  16. I too love the combination of blue and green. The beautiful image with the purple painting is from Mrs. Howard's Max and Company in Atlanta. Here's the link:

    I enjoy your blog very much!


  17. What a great post on color combinations. At least to my eye the key to combining the two colors is a similar saturation of color. Light with light, and dark with dark.

  18. Blue & Green , yes! Do take a look at my latest work of art posted just yesterday!

  19. Pigtown, my British relatives must have been appalled because my 'going away outfit' after my wedding reception was a green suit with blue trim, blue and green buttons. It was the early 90s, when people still wore dressy suits. I love that suit, and it still hangs in the back of my closet - sentimental value!

    Diana B, thank you for the information on that picture with the blue/purple painting. I should have known that it would be from one of my favorite designers! I love Phoebe Howard, and feel so fortunate to have her two stores just a few miles from me.

    A, I think you are right about saturation. My favorite combo is when the light gentle shades combine. In fact, I just ordered a desk for my downstairs that is from Chelsea Textiles, in seafoam green, which is not really a green or a blue but something that is in between. The name of the color sounds a bit garish, but those who read my blog know that I would never order something in a garish color. It is a quiet, gentle, muted color, and it works just as well with my blue bedroom as it does with my green family room.

  20. Quite a convincing post, Sarah.
    I think blue and green definitely can work together. But I agree with you, I prefer them with a little white or cream "in between"!


  21. I tend to think of it as two cools will look better with a little warmth as a chaser. So the Michael Smith curtains pushed the blue towards violet and used pale pink in the rest of the room. The domino room used red in the green curtains to get olive, and yellow on the furniture to break it up. A crimson vase, lime green silk, some really hot colored blue, or a really strong white accent( stripes on navy)would work for me, but the all pale blue and green and cream rooms remind me of ice cream. Personal taste, of course. And I live in the north,-9F last night, where the colors tend to be pale 9 months of the year outside as well. Maybe when its 110, pale and cool feels different.

  22. B - this is why I think of great designers as artists. I'm sure that Michael Smith and the designer in Domino were either very aware of their color theory (and deliberately chose specific additional colors in the room as a 'little chaser' to add some zing to the room), or are among those lucky and talented people who can just see how certain colors work with and against one another.

    B, you've made me look at this post in a whole new light. Thanks!

  23. Gorgeous pics- I'm a definite believer now. I actually do love the olive and blue combo.

  24. These colours together gives the room such a springfeeling, great post! Have a nice day:)

  25. The color palette of our house is actually green and blue... With a dash of white and golden beige. Even nature adds an extra color in between... http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_cUVI7Tsgfww/STuaBJV5lgI/AAAAAAAAAQ4/LaCafirI1-k/s1600-h/brambleberryfarm.jpg (picture of different shades of actual duck eggs)

    The living room pic with the green couch from domino is actually one of the pictures that inspired the palette in my decor. :)

  26. I love blue, green and white! Great background info!

  27. What a fantastic post! Green and blue is definitely one of my favorite combinations. I love them together. These images are exactly why! Beautiful! :)

  28. I am so thrilled you left a comment on my blog because now I have found yours. Great post! I love blue and green together as a matter of fact I wore the 2 colors to work today. I do like the blue to be a turquoise shade and the green light and bright ie apple or a soft spa shade with a bit of red in between!
    The fabric by Marimekko in your
    1st photo is terrific, I love Barbara Barry I carry her line of wallpapers in my studio as well as her fabrics. You have out done yourself with this. Great Job.

  29. LOVE the colour combinations! Lovely post!

  30. I'm not quite sure how that staying got started, but I'm all for green and blue together. Great combination.

  31. great post! love all of the photos. i just left you a little surprise on my blog... to let you know how much i enjoy reading yours.

  32. Nature has the answer!! Green grass & blue sky :-) And I suppose the white fluffy clouds could be considered the colour in between :-)

    I'm not a big fan of green in general, but there are some greens that I love -- especially when they're paired with blue. Fresh apple green and watery blue is one of my favourite colour combos.

    As a few others have mentioned, the room with the large purpley-blue painting is beautiful. Green & purple is another colour combo that I really like.

    Kelly (the other half of DesignTies)

  33. i think the expression you've quoted is more likely to be localized to your family, the true english expression is "red and green should never be seen, without a colour in between, except in a christmas scene"...all of your pictures look great, and i think prove "blue and green.." saying can't possibly be true. They're all really fresh, co-ordinated images.

  34. i love blue and green together. excellent post!

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Such a wonderful post and one of my very favourite colour combinations. Although, like you, I have that warning that still rattles around in my head from childhood. I think this posting should put any blue/green reticence to rest once and for all!!

  37. As Linda from Lime in the Coconut said, "The calming blend of blue and green... It's like a little vitamin B boost shot right in your arm. "


  38. We grew up with the saying:

    "Blue and green should only be seen - if only in the washing machine".

    We love the color combo....


  39. Wow what a great post. I feel like a learned so much from it.

    I've always enjoyed green and blue together and this made me lust after it again.

  40. I was always told "blue and green look really keen"!

  41. Thanks for the comments, everyone. I have really enjoyed reading the reactions to this post! I do think that the saying is uniquely British, but even those with UK ties have heard different variations to it.

  42. I have also heard that expression but never paid too much attention to it. Blue and green are alway seen together in nature: the sky and the trees. So I guess they work together naturally. Great pictures you have shown on how these colors relate together in Interiors!!

  43. wow all these interior designs are beautiful. i want the fabric that made her blue swishy skirt!

  44. Great post TTI! I love the color combinations too. Especially the apple greens with the turquoise blues. Love it! Thank you! When I think of these colors together, I also conjure up images of big mophead blue hydrangeas with their luscious green foliage in the summer time! Blue + Green -- if it appears in nature, it must be okay together in my book!

  45. about the 'green & blue thing , '


    when i recently interviewed carleton varney,
    i asked him what his favorite colors were.

    * he too loves green & blue.

    you are in good company, no doubt.

    i love those rooms !

  46. Loving your blue & green post - it is such a beautiful colour combination. Thank you for your lovely welcome back! Amanda x

  47. Sky and grass = blue and green.

    I do like the white in between.

  48. I love blue/white with green but you do have to have just the right shade of green. I have a large collection of romantic Staffordshire platters/plates and, in this house, they are on yellow walls in the hall and a deep sky blue in the living room. Loved & lived with this for years now but I'm trending towards more turquoise which does NOT work with blue/white Staffordshire! But anyway, the white in the ceramic really helps tone down the contrast and makes for a lovely and very pleasing setting.

  49. Thank you so much for including me in your post about blue and green! I have gotten a great response from people who found me on your blog! Let me know if you are ever looking for any paintings to pair with any post again and I can email you a picture. I love your blog--Thanks Again Amanda Talley

  50. Beautiful images! Love the colors, love the different combinations. Great post.

  51. My kitchen walls have just been painted an olive green, with "vanilla mist" - a light cream - painted on tongue and groove panels which I have used as a splashback instead of tiles. You might realise I am aspiring to go "country" here! Outside there are hedges which are green with a bright lime/yellow colour, so am considering whether to use lime coloured appliances. The saying re "red and green" is the one I remember from childhood, and yet red is opposite green on the colour wheel, and I think the red flowers on your last pic help make the room "pop"!......now I am in a quandary what colour to use for appliances - there are plenty of red coloured appliances at the minute, so should I opt for these, or look for duck egg appliances or for pale limey yellow?? Help! Incidentally my cupboard doors are the same shade as the tongue and groove with oak mix worktops.

  52. I have always love Blues & Greens together. When I was 13, my mom asked me what colors I would like as the theme for my Bar Mitzvah party...I said, "Blue & Green" Well here I am decades later, an Interior Designer and still loving it!

  53. I remember coloring at my grandmother's house
    in Midtown Atlanta and with her usual direct opinion she stated: "Blue and green do NOT go together". But Grand, I like them together, I said and I have always followed my love of these primary/seconary colors. I also like reds and pinks and oranges mixed. so did Babs Paley. You have to be careful of the hue. Get it right and it works.

  54. All nice but what about kid rooms, Lime green and bright blue are good colors for kids and i need help on how to make it works for teens


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