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Demystifying Design

Patti L. Cowger, Demystifying Design: Blue and white, always right

  • Updated
patti cowger 2021
plc bedding

Custom blue and white bedding with intricate detail gives this pull-out, pop-up trundle bed a lot of style in this San Francisco flat. 

There are, quite literally, an infinite number of possible color combinations. Some have high contrast. Some are monochromatic or “tone on tone.” Others are complementary (opposite each other on the color wheel), analogous (next to each other on the wheel), or triadic (three evenly spaced on the wheel.)

I like all colors except rust. Love orange and persimmon but not rust. Also, I am not fond of forest green. If you had to choose just one combination, what would be your favorite?

Many of you might say blue and white. Even if it isn’t your favorite or wouldn’t use it in your own home, chances are that you would still consider it pretty. Why? It’s classic, fresh, and serene. It’s embraced all over the world. I think of Greece with its white stone and blue-domed buildings or China with its precious blue and white porcelain or Holland’s popular delft blue.

plc fountain

Designer, Patti Cowger, used 200-year-old reclaimed tile from Tunisia for this award-winning fountain and landscape design. Blue and white, with accents of terra cotta, are used throughout the backyard patio and garden as well as on the fountain.

Here’s an interesting side note: While I knew that Greece used volcanic rock to build homes (because lumber was scarce) and painted them white to reflect the heat, and while I thought the blue accents were a nod to the surrounding sea, I wasn’t exactly correct. In reality, the dark rock was painted with white lime because it was thought to have antibacterial properties. And, blue was the cheapest color to use. It’s just a mixture of water and a blue powder cleaning agent called “loulaki,” which was readily available.

guest bath 2

A Jack and Jill bathroom was designed using blue and white wallpaper, blue glass tile, blue marble floor tile, custom blue vanities and custom hand-blown light pendants. 

No matter the country, blue and white interiors have many advantages. In addition to being classic, fresh and serene, this combo is also seen as a neutral. It has the strength to stand on its own or work with virtually any other color. It’s also not bold like red and white, yellow and white, or black and white.

Blue and white is a flexible color combination as it suits different design styles from formal, traditional homes to casual, beach-y cottages and every aesthetic in between. Keep in mind that the darker the blue, the greater the contrast and the more dramatic the ambiance will be.

As such, you may want to use lighter shades where you want your mind to rest -- a living room where you enjoy relaxing conversation or a bedroom where you sleep, for instance. Royal and navy blues work well in kitchens and home offices. What about powder rooms and bathrooms? I say anything goes but I tend to favor turquoise and white as they remind me of clear, tropical waters.

Register Dina Bandman 2

A laundry room and dog spa designed by Dina Bandman for the 2017 San Francisco Designer Showhouse. Bandman chose de Gournay’s “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains” wallpaper, Country Floors’ subway wall tile and vein cut marble floor tile. Artistic Tile’s Calacatta gold backsplash mosaic and Cambria’s Ella quartz. 

Do you know who used a beautiful true-blue and white combo in an amazing way and where she used it? San Francisco-based designer, Dina Bandman, selected luscious shades of blue in a laundry room for the City’s 2017 Designer Showhouse. It should be noted that she also incorporated a doggie spa where furry friends can conveniently get their own wash, dry, and fluff.

Bandman, who describes herself as “obsessed with blue and white,” chose de Gournay’s hand-painted wallcovering called “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains.” It reminds me of sudsy water you’d see from an active front-loading washing machine. It’s both beautiful and hypnotizing.

The wallpaper inspired the rest of Bandman’s design where she used cobalt blue wall tile and then softer shades of blue and gray in her backsplash, floor, and countertop materials. You can’t help but imagine the clean fragrance of fresh laundry as it comes out of the dryer. 

Thibaut Haven

Thibaut Design's Canopy Collection features its Haven wallpaper, Dixon sofa, Westover ottoman and fabrics from the Windsor, Piper, Hamilton and Vista series. This inviting blue and white living room welcomes accents of yellow.

One of the best ways to establish a blue and white room is to start with wallpaper. Thibaut Design, the nation’s oldest wallpaper firm (since 1886) has a wide range of unique patterns. It has since developed lines of fabrics and furniture which enable one to create cohesive and coordinated spaces. All styles, all patterns, and all colors. Two of its many blue and white options are seen in its Canopy and Natural Resources 3 collections. 

Why we do like blue and white? Maybe we are inherently drawn to it because of the sky above and the ocean beyond. Maybe it’s a part of our DNA in a sense. In any case, blue and white are always right.

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Patti Cowger is an award-winning, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. To learn about her services, visit or email

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