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349 Hagley Road, Edgbaston,
Birmingham, B17 8DL

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I’ve never felt more like singing the blues . . .

As Guy Mitchell famously sang way back in the fifties. In his case of course it was a lament, but this month I’ll be singing in praise of the blues – the colour that is.

Blue is undoubtedly the most misunderstood of all the colours. If I had a fiver for every time a client has said to me “Ah yes, but blue is a cold colour” I’d be writing this article soaking up the sun while sipping on a cold beer in Barbados, rather than drinking a hot cuppa in my office on a dull Thursday afternoon.

For interior designers blue is the most versatile of all colour groups, while for historians it offers the richest of stories. Since ancient times the precious nature of naturally occurring blue pigments has given these shades stature and gravitas in art, fashion and decoration. Ultramarine, originally extracted from Lapis Lazuli by the Venetians in the 14th Century, had a greater value than gold. In fact, this pigment was reserved for the exclusive depiction of the robes of the Virgin Mary until around 1520. In our interpretation of the world around us, blue represents not only both sky and sea, but also space and infinity. In this way blue colour schemes can naturally offer security, longevity, depth and calmness.

The range of the colour blue is probably wider than any other, from the most subtle pale aquas, through lively turquoises and rich jades, to the depths of navy and the near black shade basalt. It’s a funny thing, but over the years I’ve become totally convinced that people see the blue end of green, and the green end of blue quite differently. And I don’t just mean folks with no experience of working with colour. There are 4 of us designers in the showroom, and we’re often split pretty much 50 50 as to whether a shade is in the greens or the blues (I like to think I’m usually right of course – ha ha !!!, or lol as the yout’ currently say).

So what’s inspired me to wax lyrical in favour of the colour blue? Well, regular readers of this editorial will know that we at John Charles Interiors have long since championed Little Greene paints. Not only is the quality of the paint outstanding – they use up to 40% more pigment than ordinary paints, thus giving a much better covering power – but their colour palette is truly superb. They began many years ago with their Colours of England range, developed in collaboration with English Heritage, and went on to produce Colour Scales, taking 12 of their best colours and expanding them into 4 hues of each colour. In 2013 they launched the Grey colour card. This was an instant hit, a proven palette of graduated greys, formulated on 4 naturally occurring pigments; Verdigris, Umber, Ochre and Red Oxide.

Well now they’ve done it again. Their brand spanking new offering is the Blue range, comprising 21 shades, 17 of which are previously unpublished by Little Greene, representing blue at its very best. As you would expect, the palette encompasses a wide spectrum of tones, from confident indigo to calm linen hues. These are truly beautiful colours, which when teamed up with Little Greene’s standards such as Joanna, Hammock and Rolling Fog defy anyone to utter the word cold.

But the crowning glory, the absolute Oh My Goodness showstopper is a paint called Ultra Blue. It’s a limited edition paint, made in small quantities from the single pigment Ultramarine. Only available in their Absolute Matt finish, it’s quite different from anything I’ve ever seen from Little Greene. Coming as a 2 tin package, comprising a base coat and a top coat, the secret to its amazing depth of colour is the translucent top coat. First you apply 1 coat of the opaque basecoat by brush or roller, followed by 2 or even 3 coats of the top coat – a process, I’m reliably informed by the ladies in my family, that equates to building up layers of nail varnish. The result is totally stunning !!!.

Mind you, Little Greene aren’t the only company to recognise the merits of the colour blue. Designers Guild have for many years produced the most spectacular fabrics and papers incorporating the lushest (if that’s a word – oh well, it is now) of blues. While other more mainstream fabric houses were shying away from the colour, Designers Guild were offering rich and vibrant cobalts, navys and cornflowers.

The beautiful new Artisan collection by G P & J Baker celebrates the ancient art of block printing, which was integral to the company’s early success. This rare craft uses incised wooden blocks, skilfully carved by a master craftsman, to imprint precise repeats, resulting in a highly artistic and unique effect impossible to achieve by any other method. Each artisan printer brings a very personal quality to the fabric, meaning that no 2 impressions are the same, thus adding texture and character to the final design.

That’s all very interesting you may say, but what’s that got to do with the price of fish? Well, guess what – they’re all blues !!! Yes, the whole splendid collection is a cornucopia of fabulous blues, ranging from indigo to aqua, teamed up with neutrals and painstakingly printed onto robust linens and smooth cottons.

So, next time someone tells you they’ve got the blues, you can offer them hearty congratulations !!!

Image above & header courtesy of Little Greene

John Biddell, John Charles Interiors

Live 24 7 magazine editorial - October 2015

Image above & header courtesy of Little Greene