Renovation & Design

DEBBIE TRAVIS: Stressed out? Roll on a nice shade of blue

This radiant blue bedroom wall has the power to bring down your blood pressure and clear your mind.

The colour blue has a power all its own. It is the most familiar and most favoured colour in the spectrum, not surprising as we are surrounded by the many blue hues seen in the sky and oceans.

Pastel blues are delicate, cool and refreshing, a natural choice for a bathroom. Medium tones with grey in them are sincere, a trustworthy colour we associate with safety and stability. Add some red to warm it up and blue becomes friendly and fun, especially teamed up with yellow or red accents, great for a den or play room. The deepest, most saturated blues recede like the midnight sky and are peaceful and relaxing.

In colour therapy, where the psychological affects of colour are studied, deep blues have been shown to improve our powers of concentration and memory; we tend to become introspective, imagination flourishes and our creative juices flow. It’s a good colour for a library, producing a peaceful ambiance in which to study. Indigo’s relaxing ethereal side is conducive to a bedroom.
Extracted from the leaves of the indigo plant, indigo was one of the most rare and expensive dyes in ancient times. It came to connote great wealth, royalty and high political office. But this dazzling deep blue also carries the mysterious power of divine knowledge and spirituality.

I was conscious of all these qualities when I was asked to redecorate a large master bedroom that lacked any character. The owners wanted to keep their bedroom furniture as it was good quality, but agreed to any painting I had in mind.

The four walls were colourwashed using three shades of blue. The base coat is indigo. I mixed two coloured glazes, a darker blue than the indigo and a light blue. The glaze recipe is one part water-based paint to two parts water-based glazing liquid. The colourwash is worked in sections of four-foot squares; this allows you to work the glazes before they dry. Start with the dark blue glaze and apply with a roller loosely, allowing some of the base coat to show through. Immediately dab with a soft cloth to remove any roller marks. While the glaze is still wet, apply the pale blue glaze randomly and dab with a clean rag to soften any lines. Move on to the next section and, if edges have dried, roll on some clear glaze to open the paint.

I’d met an artist who was happy to paint a mural on the headboard wall, and he was especially enthused by the indigo colourwash that was to be the background. He used rollers to make the images with dark blue for the outlines of the figures graduating to light blue for the highlighting. If you have an art school near by, ask a student to help you out.

The headboard was painted white with faux buttons and shadows painted on to replicate the look of tufted fabric. The overall effect is comforting and dreamy, like floating on a cloud in a gentle night sky.

An email from Annette describes her dream master bedroom and bath theme as navy and white, and asks if all four walls of blue would be too dark. Colourwashing is a good option as the shading adds texture and the white linens pull out the lighter blue in the wash. Navy is a bit dark for the bathroom walls, but you could put down navy tiles on the floor and have a mix of navy and white towels.

Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to


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