Code blue

Code blue

Blue and white’s new look is fresh, modern and thoroughly Scandinavian.
By Tess Paterson

The new blues

As classic combinations go, blue and white is about as serenely pleasing as you can get. From national flags to tableware, it’stimeless, familiar and easy on the eye. Take Cornishware, for instance, the gorgeous blue-and-white-striped crockery that lies somewhere between bright cobalt and the colour of a blissful Paternoster summer. Team a simple mug with a raw timber table and a fresh batch of scones and you’ve got yourself a tiny piece of heaven right there. Spode’s iconic Blue Italian design, which first turned the ordinary dinner party on its head in 1816, is still being produced today. From the deepest indigos to chalkier beach-house hues, this is a palette that translates effortlesslyinto the interior realm.

‘Blue and white is so easy to live with, and you don’t tire of it as you do with neutrals or brights,’ says decorator Claire Frost. And unlike say burnt orange and tan, which tended to relegate your decor to ’70s sunroom, blue and white works across any number of styles. ‘For me, it is neither blatantly masculine nor feminine, traditional nor contemporary,’ says Tessa Proudfoot, an interior designer. ‘It can be interpreted in countless ways to suit any style of architecture, and this makes it a widely requested palette.’

If you’re less Willow pattern and more pared-down at heart, there are clever ways to adapt blue and white to a modern space. ‘Adding either light- or dark-stained oak will immediately dilute any prettiness and add a contemporary edge,’ says Proudfoot. ‘This is also true of metal accessories such as aged or beaten copper
and steel. Palette-wise, choosing deeper, bolder tones of blue with plenty of indigo in the mix will have the same effect.’

Proudfoot’s Scandi must-haves include herringbone floors of pale, bleached oak, as well as a low-slung structured sofa on metal feet. ‘Upholstery-wise, think about a fabulous indigo linen or charcoal suiting fabric. I would also add some ombré scatters and look for details such as chairs or side tables with tapered, pale-oak legs.’

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Artisanal elements

Handcrafted accessories are a great way to offset the clean lines of Scandi spaces. ‘This look really hinges on the simplicity of natural products,’ says Frost. ‘Look out for pieces such as one-off ceramic vessels, which will add colour, texture and scale to a scheme.’ The joy of these accessories lies in their uniqueness, in details such as matt or shiny glazes, and in their inherent imperfections. ‘There’s a noticeable move towards finding a history or a story in decor and design, and this makes the addition of items that have been made with care hugely appealing,’ adds Proudfoot. ‘The world is overrun with mass-produced, cookie-cutter products, and a piece with a bit of provenance will always convey a sense of personality.’

The trick, of course, is to be more ‘now’ and less mad potter, and that’s where adept combinations are so important. ‘It is a good idea to try to achieve a balance between highly polished, beautifully tooled pieces (such as couches or side tables), and rougher, irregular items, as this brings texture to an interior,’ says Proudfoot. ‘This extends to rugs and throws too, which will add more layers of pattern and create a tactile, lived-in feel.’ In order to enhance the Scandi mood, cotton kelims in zigzag or abstract patterns work beautifully on timber or screed floors. Likewise for a pure-wool carpet that will designate a seating space while at the same time add interest to a neutral backdrop.

‘Throws are always an invitation to comfort – think bamboo, mohair or even velvet,’ adds Frost.

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Pattern mash-up

Few things are more head-turning than a simple broad stripe. This timeless design always puts me in mind of the Croisette beach in Cannes, where I discovered on one working trip, those photogenic rows of striped umbrellas grouped in stylish blocks of colour. I chose a blue-and-white lounger beneath its matching brolly and spent a happy couple of hours watching the jet set. This enduring mix will never fade, and blue and white continues to evolve, seen to beautiful effect in today’s fabrics.

‘The new prints and weaves have moved away from the more traditional and beach house looks,’ explains Haidee Kramer of Dreamweaver Studios. ‘They now feature soft graphics, abstract patterns and a far more contemporary vibe.’ Kramer adds that fabric texture is all-important, a quality that lends itself to the Scandi aesthetic. ‘Look out for soft painterly and watery effects, as well as textures which capture a hand-dyed and handcrafted look. Structured cloths such as heavy linens and dobby weaves add dimension and character.’

‘Creating a contemporary blue and white scheme is easy if you select bold patterns,’ says Frost, ‘and don’t be afraid to play with scale.’ Frost suggests using a broad spectrum of blue tones and combining these with sleek, clean-lined furniture. ‘Sticking with neutrals such as charcoal and white on your furnishings will keep the look slick and on trend. And if you want to steer clear of a cottage-style then avoid traditional striped designs and opt for alternatives such as ombre or irregular stripes.’

From honeycomb and trellis designs to ink-splatter abstracts, the beauty of this palette is that you can combine patterns without making it overly busy.

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Artistic licence

Choosing the right artworks and furniture will go a long way to creating a modern blue and white scheme. ‘I love the idea of contemporary abstracts and bold etchings for a Scandi-style interior,’ says Proudfoot. ‘The look is simple, classy and original, and puts the space firmly into the 21st century.’ She adds that decor is moving towards a far more considered, less-is-more approach. ‘There’s a shift away from acres of bric-a-brac and picture frames on every surface. Art plays a huge role in interiors today, and in this sort of setting especially a single large abstract piece will make a wonderful impact.’

Much like the timber picture rails of old, picture shelves are becoming the norm. Not only do they reduce visual clutter (painting the shelf the same colour as your walls is a good idea), but you’ll also avoid unnecessary patch-ups when you feel like a change.

Grouping artworks of a similar style together will keep the look cohesive, as will unfussy frames. ‘For a Scandi look, consider artworks that add interest but do not dominate the interior,’ suggests Frost. ‘And keep the framing simple too – natural is best for this look; the frame shouldn’t overpower the art.’

Proudfoot adds that furniture shapes play a vital role in this pared-down look. ‘Look out for forms that are structured and clean, rather than detailed and fiddly. Furniture legs need to be tapered and slim rather than chunky, and overall you want proportions that are neat and tailored.’

Above all though, this look is all about longevity, and introducing charcoal tones is a great way to help your decor last. ‘Charcoal and black are beautifully contemporary,’ adds Frost. ‘Introducing this colour on key areas such as a modern sofa will not only update a blue and white space, but will make it both child- and pet-friendly.’

Styling: Rochelle Malherbe, Francoise Jeanne de Villiers; Photography: Andreas Eiselen/HSMimages.co.za; Assistants: Robyn Lane, Charlene Amos, Melissa Shimwell
June/July 2016

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