Designer Suellen Gregory chose a pale blue ceiling for a client’s porch in Virginia Beach. The color is Icy Moon Drops by Benjamin Moore. (Kip Dawkins)

In Richmond, people debate their favorite sky blue paint color for porch ceilings like they do their favorite biscuit recipe.

“It’s all about bringing the outside in,” says designer Suellen Gregory, who says she’s seen them on front and back porches, screened-in porches, loggias and garden rooms. “My clients do ask for it. It puts an interesting spin on what would be just a plain white ceiling.”

Across the South, the tradition of painting ceilings blue is passed down from generation to generation. There are many stories and legends as to why, and it’s not just about keeping bugs at bay. In the Deep South, a darker blue sometimes called “haint blue” is believed by some to keep away evil spirits.

“I was always told that the color of our porches was ‘dirt dauber blue’ and that they kept wasps from building nests in there,” says Jonathan Savage, an interior designer in Nashville. “Then some people say, if you are on a porch with a blue ceiling, it seems to keep the daylight around a bit longer.”

Gregory says blue ceilings are such a tradition in the South that they evoke a feeling of the past and make people feel comfortable and cozy. “I like them because they add softness and interest,” she says.

This porch ceiling outside a Connecticut home is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Harbor Haze. (Benjamin Moore)

Hannah Yeo, Benjamin Moore’s color and design expert, says that although “blue porch ceilings have been a long-
standing tradition in many parts of the Southern states for centuries, the tradition has made its way beyond the South, influencing design across the country.” Her picks for best Benjamin Moore blues: Arctic Blue, Clear Skies, Palladian Blue and Harbor Haze.

Sometimes to get the pale color you want, you might need to dilute the intensity of the blue a bit. “Always test and never be afraid to cut the color in half with white. The paint store will do that for you,” Gregory says. Her blue choices: Sherwin-Williams’s Atmospheric or Breath of Fresh Air by Benjamin Moore.

Nashville designer Jonathan Savage’s 2017 Kips Bay Decorator Show House space features a ceiling of Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light (powder blue). (Donald Friedman)

In the 2017 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York, Savage used Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light for the ceiling in his dramatic stair hall in the grand 1905 townhouse. “I wanted to incorporate different elements of the South in my space,” Savage says. “A powder blue ceiling, although normally found out of doors, felt Southern and sophisticated here.”

Gregory says another ceiling paint application she’s used often came from a savvy Parisian hostess: Paint ceilings pale pink so your skin glows by candlelight. Gregory likes to paint a dining room ceiling with the faintest tint of pink. Her favorites: Benjamin Moore’s Beautiful in My Eyes or Pink Essence.