Designing With Contemporary Blues

Blue is the world’s favorite color for a reason: Reminiscent of sea and sky, it creates a soothing natural effect in any space. For a cool, fashion-forward look, try layering several shades of blue in the same space, as the designers of these ten gorgeous did so well.

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August 07, 2017
By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Eric PIasecki

Photo By: Sarah Hebenstreit, Modern Kids

Photo By: Colin Price Photography

Photo By: Peter Murdock

Photo By: Emily Gilbert

Photo By: Jason Denton

Photo By: Shelby Halberg Visuals

Photo By: Thomas Kuoh

Photo By: Ryan Rhodes

Photo By: Regan Wood Photography

Grand Entrance

"€œBlue seems to be a color that almost everyone relates to and I can'€™t really think of a shade of blue that I don't like,"€ says designer Gideon Mendelson. "€œIn this foyer on the Upper West Side of Manhattan we painted the paneling a strong blue and inset it with a fun, painterly wall covering from Porter Toleo. The rest of the furnishings fade into the background, letting the design of the paper shine."

Tile Style

To update an overly chilly master bath, designer Regan Baker used cement tile—a trendy material that’s more often seen in black and white—to great effect, adding color and pattern, while preserving the home’s contemporary style. “This master bathroom was originally all white, which made it feel pretty cold, impersonal, and sterile, but it was also very contemporary,” says Baker. “The clients are fun people, and the space didn't reflect their personalities well. In addition, the bathtub got lost against a white wall, so the blue cement tile was a great way to warm up the space, and add a fun color and pattern. This tile also creates a great focal point when you walk into the room. Choosing a pop-y shade of blue keeps the room feeling modern and bright, while adding warmth to the space.”

Navy Rules

"Modern and contemporary spaces are great blank canvases for incorporating colors, including any shade of blue. I love using blues on walls in spaces with hardwood floors because the warm tones in woods contrast so well with true-blues, navies, and teals/turquoises," says designer Noz Nozawa, who put her love of blue to work in this San Francisco townhouse living room. "The home had great floors and a smart layout, but it was feeling a bit lifeless and austere on move-in, and was making the client's colorful art collection and cherished hand-carved pieces feel out of place," she says. "By painting the wall surrounding the window and glass doors navy (Benjamin Moore Hale Navy), we've framed the light sources, making the natural light feel even brighter." Adding ink-blot wallpaper on one wall and a few brighter blue accents completed the effect.

Water Views, Inside and Out

"As this is a summer house with close connections to the water — bay and pool — using blues as strong accent colors was only natural," says architect Stuart Disston, who designed the house (and is also the artist of the three blue photo collages on the wood-paneled wall). The rug takes its color cues from both the door and ceiling, which is painted the color of the palest blue sky.

New Blue Neutral

In the contemporary dining space of an artist, designer Elizabeth Aurandt used shades of blue to create a rich, refined look. "On the walls, we used blue as a neutral to show off the client’s colorful artwork. If you choose a deep, muted blue tone it can be used as a dark neutral."

The Big Blue

To give a home office a vibrant—yet hardworking—vibe, Alix Helps Interiors paired crisp white cabinetry with a bright blue vintage map of the world and its oceans on the wall. “Antiqued metal pendant lights and a natural-fiber rug add textural contrast to the contemporary design,” say the designers.

Balancing Act

To create what she describes as a “textured, clean, functional, contemporary look” in this open living space, designer Melissa Torres of HoneyBee Designz deftly balanced large areas of white and off-white with a variety of shades of blue, from cobalt (glimpsed through one doorway) to gray-blue on the back wall. A tip from the designer: “Keeping the main elements in neutral tones and accessorizing in colors will add longevity to your design.”

Sleeping Beauty

Designer Jaclyn Christensen of IDF Studio used a soft, neutral color palette infused with bursts of blue to create an atmosphere of “casual comfort and youthful energy” for her San Francisco-based clients. “For a more modern space that’s still fresh, we recommend using mostly natural hues like deep ocean blues and cloudy blue-grays, then picking a focal point to introduce a louder, more vibrant accent color. The same goes with pattern; focus more on subtle texture changes and reserve the pattern play for a decorative pillow or large-scale rug.”

Contemporary Charm

Without nuanced design intervention, contemporary spaces can sometimes feel cold and featureless. Not so in this kitchen designed by Ryan Rhodes: Although the cabinets, island, architecture, and furnishings are simple to the extreme, strategic use of color adds interest and personality—without detracting from the sleek simplicity of the space. Rhodes covered the backsplash with handmade tiles in a rich blue glaze ( and lined up four bar stools upholstered in a slightly different shade. The effect is fresh and fun, but still contemporary.

Floor Show

If you have a showstopping piece of furniture, artwork, or rug, it makes sense to focus all the attention on it. Designer Claire Paquin of Clean Design Partners did just that in this contemporary dining room. Keeping the furnishings simple in style and color allowed her to highlight the spectacular blue floral rug. Blue curtains nod to the color in the rug and help link the individual spaces within the open-concept floor plan.