Haint Blue Porch Ceiling – Southern Front Porch Makeover – Spring 2020 One Room Challenge – Week 4

By now, I think you might have realized how much I love old homes. Our house was built in 1926, and Jonny and I have decided we’d love to only buy older and older homes for our personal homes. As a little girl, I dreamed about living in a sprawling, Southern, antebellum mansion, or having my bedroom in a turret of a creaky Victorian with yellow painted siding and white gingerbread trim. There’s something magical to me about an old home filled with decades or even centuries of stories in every room. I love the idea that someone who used to live here might drive by and smile at us painting our porch floor because they remember their dad doing the same thing fifty years ago while they learned to ride their bike in front of the house. One of the very best things about owning and refreshing or renovating an older home is that you get to breathe new life into a space while letting it tell you all of its secrets and stories along the way.

Our next door neighbor’s parents were the second owners of her house (built by the same builder and during the same year as ours) and she’s been a wealth of knowledge. She’s told us how our house fared during the 1998 tornado, the 2010 flood, through renters, renovations, being a duplex, and even having a squatter between renovators. As we’ve done renovations, we’ve uncovered stories, and sometimes more mysteries, like finding yellow painted siding behind our breaker box when we redid our mudroom last fall–I did get my yellow painted house after all!

This week’s ORC project was to paint the porch–if you don’t remember, last week was removing all of the old, chipping layers of paint from the porch floor and front walkway. I decided I wanted to paint the floor a nice, neutral taupey-gray, just something that would look like clean concrete and not too blue like our last porch paint color (below).

I also decided that I wanted a Haint blue porch ceiling. For those of y’all who aren’t from the south, you might not know what Haint blue means. Just like the houses I love so much, blue porch ceilings tell a story. Their history in the south goes back hundreds of years, and is filled with superstition, ghosts, and old wives’ tales, just as any good story should be. There are many guesses as to the why behind painting a porch ceiling blue, and I’m sure that the reasons are as regional as the hues.

In old, southern coastal cities like Savannah, GA, and Charleston, SC (two of my favorites for history and architecture), Haint blue is said to have originally been painted on porch ceilings to ward off evil spirits, or “haints” (haunts). Supposedly, the sky blue color was supposed to mimic water, which ghosts supposedly can’t cross. Some coastal towns where this superstition still reigns supreme have entire neighborhoods with houses all painted blue from top to bottom. Other stories attribute the superstition to the Gullah Geechee people, descended from Central and West-African slaves, who believed that the blue mimicked the sky and ghosts would fly right through and bypass the house and its inhabitants. Old wives’ tales say that the blue color repels bugs, wasps, and birds from making themselves at home in the corners of a porch ceiling, but this is largely unfounded. Today though, Haint blue porch ceilings are a staple in Southern home design.

Although Nashville is a day’s drive away from Savannah or Charleston, many antebellum and historic homes around this area currently have or had Haint blue porch ceilings at one point. So, when we decided to take on our own porch, I thought it only fitting to bring this 1926 craftsman bungalow some Southern style.

While Jonny was pressure washing the ceiling in order to clean it for painting, a little bit of white paint chipped off, and we found a beautiful green-blue hue underneath. In another place, a pretty baby blue popped through when I pulled off some old painter’s caulk. You know what that means? This porch ceiling has been painted Haint blue at least twice before in its 94 year old lifetime. It makes me so happy to know those details, and imagine that we’re restoring some history at the same time as we’re updating.

Let’s all ignore how badly I need a manicure, okay? I blame quarantine.

It’s important when painting on any surface, but especially a ceiling, to test your samples and make sure they look good from every angle. Light reflects differently off a ceiling than it does off a wall or floor, and since color is reflected light, samples are key in making sure you get the look you’re going for. We tried seven different paint samples on the ceiling, and finally narrowed it down to two: Woodlawn Blue by Benjamin Moore and Rainwashed by Sherwin Williams. After sending photos to friends, getting our neighbors’ opinions, and lots of me saying “Jonny, which do you like?” and him trying really hard to care which of the two I chose, we ended up going with Rainwashed. It’s subtle, with lots of green and pale blue undertones. I wanted a subtle effect that wouldn’t be bright, glowing teal but would still make people look up and smile when they saw the blue peeking out from our porch.

We used a flat exterior paint from Sherwin Williams since this obviously won’t get any foot traffic (unless we DO get ghosts up there). Once we ripped off all of the painters’ tape and admired our pretty blue porch ceiling, we moved on to the much more difficult, but less neck straining, task of painting the porch floor and front walkway. You may remember just how bad it looked when we wrapped up last week…

Woof. I’m sure our neighbors are glad we are finishing this project and not leaving paint stripper and tarps all over our yard any longer. For the porch floor, we used Sherwin Williams’ Porch and Floor Paint in Taupe Tone. Since the ceiling is blue, my hope is that this color looks pretty close to boring, clean concrete, and the eye will naturally focus on the Haint blue above.

I am loving how this is coming together. I really love painting, and this week felt like a light at the end of the tunnel after so many weekends of pressure washing and landscaping. This coming week’s project should also be fun: building our daybed swing and a surprise for Hank, our puppy.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for following along! Until next week,

Grace

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