Watchet Blue Watchet Blue

In autumn, people in many parts of the United States think of "fall color" as describing the yellows and reds and oranges of maples, beech and oak leaves as the chlorophyll drains from the leaves in summer's last rush, leaving just the shades on the yellow side of the color wheel, bleeding out the green.

But if you stretch your imagination a little, you'll see there's another color that's surprisingly associated with fall: watchet blue.

It's the light, bright blue of the sky, that slice of sky you see between those colorful fall leaves as you ascend a mountainside, the air crisp in your lungs. It's the blue that's central to the mist hovering over the lake at dawn, and the palest blue of the smoke from burning leaves as it drifts up into the clear sky.

Most people don't even know the word "watchet," unless they're thinking of saying "watchet, kid!" as a football comes tumbling through the air in a final pickup game of fall. But watchet is a very particular blue, and while it's associated most with the color of a clear sky, it's also a color that you can use in your home.

The word "watchet" originally was used to describe the material used to line cloaks in 15th century England. This material was blue, and later the word came to mean just the color, not necessarily the fabric.

Watchet blue is similar to the pale denim of a favorite, worn workshirt - lighter than royal blue, with more white, yet richer and just a shade lighter than sapphire blue.

Often we think of blue as a warming color: think of a deep azure or an indigo, and you'll see how it's got enough red hues that it warms rather than cools a room. Watchet blue, having more white than these, is a little cooler, yet it will still add a note of warmth to a room.

Because it's a fairly bright color, it's better for living areas rather than for bedrooms; you want to keep the bedroom of a home calm, and in the deeper, darker tones that will help induce a deep and restful sleep.

In a living room, bathroom, or kitchen, watchet blue would make a perfect accent or wall color. A whimsical decorator might want to mark the walls of a bathroom about four feet from the floor, put in some waist-high wainscoting, and paint the upper parts of the wall and ceiling watchet blue, and the lower part a deep green. An even more whimsical decorator could add puffy white clouds sailing across the ceiling, to create a little roomful of the outdoors inside the house.

Wachet blue is an attention-grabber, and probably too much so for an entire wall in a living room. But it's an excellent color for accent pieces, drawing the eye by its bright, pure color. Try it in throw pillows against a striped green sofa, or look for a piece of artwork that features watchet blue to pick up the blues of an Oriental carpet.

Wachet blue is one of those colors you may not readily think of when you're casting about for color ideas for a room. The palette we have now, as compared to that of our ancestors, is limited only by your imagination. So get outside into those fall colors - even if you live in a climate where the fall colors are predominantly green - and look for the subtle variations available to you. If you bring a small set of watercolors, you can paint swatches from the natural world to bring back to the paint store, so you can replicate the burnished red maple leaves, or the deep green of a boxwood hedge, or even an autumn sky of watchet blue.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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