Many moons ago, when I first started off in the contracting trade, one of the projects we took on was the exterior painting restoration of a cool, old farmhouse in Northern RI.
I remember vividly as we worked on this project in the sweltering late summer heat that is synonymous with Northern RI at this time of year.
The home’s exterior body and trim was painted in a traditional all-white finish coat, with one exception – the ceiling of the farmer’s porch that made its way through a full two sides of the home.
At the time, I thought it was a cool-looking ceiling and as I was gathering the final specifications for the project, I remember asking the homeowner what color he wanted to paint the house.
To which he replied that his desire was to keep the same color scheme as had been there previously.
That seemed pretty awesome, and I commented to our client as to how much I really liked the blue ceiling color of the porch and was glad he was keeping it.
“Of course,” he replied, “…it keeps the bees out!”
Hmmm…keeps the bees out?
I nodded my head in acknowledgment while pretending I knew exactly what he was talking about and then went about researching if what he said was true.
Now these were the days before everyone predominantly had cell phones and heck, even getting onto the internet was not a very easy thing to do, but I proceeded to look into this a bit further and by-golly, my Northern RI peep was correct.
What I found out was very interesting to me…
The tradition of painting porch ceilings blue was originally started in the Southern United States by the Gullah people who believed that ghosts (known as “haints”, pronounced ‘haunts’) were not able to cross water and by painting one’s ceiling blue, they would be able to keep the haints away from the house (there are even colors in certain paint manufacturer palettes called ‘haint blue’!).
Over time, the much more common reasoning – aligned with our Northern RI friend – of painting porch ceilings blue to keep insects away developed.
The theory was that the insects would mistake the blue ceiling for the sky and decide to set up camp elsewhere, essentially serving as easy pest control against potentially annoying nuisances.
Years ago, probably unbeknownst to most folks at the time, paint was often mixed with lye – a natural insecticide – therefore any paint (regardless of color) with lye in it would serve to ward off the insects.
Nonetheless, the tradition of the sky blue porch ceiling had begun, lasts to this day, and you would be very hard-pressed to find any insects building homes within the area of a blue porch ceiling.
Furthering the benefit of a blue porch ceiling, people that happen to be on the porch at the end of the day, may feel the illusion the sky blue ceiling can create when one glances at the ceiling and feels the impression of extended daylight, particularly when compared with other colors which may be darker and not as prone to reflecting the light of the day as the sky blue is.
I find blue porch ceilings really fun, especially the fresher the paint!
They have always provided a serene feeling to me and knowing that their color is viable beyond simply looking great, is all the more reason to consider keeping your porch ceiling painted blue if you are repainting or switching to blue if you have never experienced the pleasantry of this phenomenon for yourself.
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