We’re not a superstitious bunch, but we are aficionados of the unexpected—like a pop of soothing blue, also known as haint blue, on a porch ceiling. Though we’ve seen this colorful treatment on many homes in the Southern United States, we’ve noticed it in a variety of cities around the country, and that got us to wondering about the roots of the haint blue tradition. Where did it come from, and how is it used today?
Haint blue paint originates with the descendants of African slaves known as the Gullah or Geechee people of the South Carolina and George Lowcountry. They believed that haints—restless, troublemaking spirits of the dead that had not yet crossed over from the physical world to the noncorporeal one—could haunt a home, so they took a variety of measures to keep them from taking up residence. One of these was painting the porch ceiling—as well as openings like windowsills, shutters, and doors—with a watery blue-green shade that was meant to mimic water. Since the haints were unable to cross water, the blue paint protected the home and its occupants from evil.
While true haint blue is a soft blue-green shade, and was a milk paint wash, these days, the hue is a bit more open to interpretation. From aqua to a sun-washed cerulean, the many versions of haint blue make it easy to find one that works with your porch and house color. Here are a few of our favorite examples.