Haint Blue, It’s a Charleston Thing

March 19, 2014 | By | Add a Comment
porch ceiling painted blue

Photo by Jocelyne Deneau

If you have ever visited the Charleston / Savannah Low Country area you’ve probably noticed that many homes have their porch ceilings painted light blue.

When I first moved to the area I noticed the blue porch ceilings immediately. My first thought was that they painted the porch ceilings blue to mimic the sky. I then recalled hearing a myth saying a blue porch ceiling could trick bugs and birds into thinking it was the sky and they wouldn’t build nests on it. Still curious I asked a few locals and learned the proper name for the blue ceiling color was called haint blue.

What is Haint Blue?

The word haint is a variation of the word haunt, and the light blue color is meant to look like the color of water. So the ceilings were not painted blue to mimic the sky after all! ¬†After some research I learned the color stemmed from the local Gullah Culture. The Gullah’s believe haints (aka ghosts, haunts, or restless spirits) could not cross water and the light blue color would trick them from crossing into the home.

Who Are The Gullah?

The Gullah are an African American subgroup which reside in the Charleston / Savannah low county region. They are descendants of slaves and have a belief system that’s both a mix of African witchcraft and Christianity. The Gullah are also originators of haint blue, a painting tradition that continues today. In many cases they used the color not only on porch ceilings but on windows, doors, and in extreme cases the entire house. What’s interesting is there’s no exact haint blue color, just about any light blue will work. Back when the tradition began paint was made from whatever pigments could be found on hand so there is no universally agreed upon color.

Savannah haint blue house

Photo By Shelly Rowell

The Insect Myth

As I stated above, there is a myth that painting a porch ceiling blue will help repel bugs from nesting on it. Back when haint blue was started there was actually some truth to that myth. In that time period paint was milk based, which wasn’t nearly as durable as the paints today. It was made from a mixture of milk, lime, and indigo dye. Lime, being a natural insect repellent probably did help keep bugs off porches painted haint blue. So there may have been some truth to the myth after all. Now that doesn’t mean you should run out and paint your porch ceiling blue, now days the majority of paints are oil and latex based and do not contain lime.

Nice Haint Blue Colors

While there is not an exact haint blue color, below are some that are commonly used.

Sherwin Williams

  • SW6505 Atmospheric
  • SW6471 Hazel
  • SW6944 Pool Blue
  • SW6470 Waterscape

Duron

  • DCL012 Gullah Blue
  • DCR061 Prussian Blue

Benjamin Moore

  • BM 792 Mystical Blue
  • HC-144 Palladian Blue
  • BM 764 Crystal Springs
  • BM 2050-60 Artic Blue
  • BM 1674 Polar Sky

Here’s a picture of a back porch ceiling we painted just last week the color is Duron Prussian Blue

charleston haint blue ceiling

The Gullah Were on to Something!

Whether or not you believe haint blue will keep you house free from unwanted ghosts and bugs the color has a certain charm about it. It adds a nice accent to your homes exterior while providing a calm comfy feeling on those lazy days relaxing on the porch. So what do you say, are you ready to paint the porch ceiling blue?

 

Filed in: Exterior Painting, Paint Questions | Tags: , ,

About the Author (Author Profile)

I've been brought up in the painting industry and have learned everything I know from my father Paul Briggs. He is the founder of Paragon Painting and I joined him full time in 2003 after graduating college. I am now happily married with two beautiful children ages two and five.

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