5 Design Tips: How to Make Interiors with Blue Rugs Warm and Inviting

If you are searching for ideas on how to decorate with blue rugs, you will have to look for a long time before you find an example of a blue room that feels warm and inviting. I discovered this today. I had to search through more than 400 images before I found two rooms that were genuinely warm and inviting. I found hundreds of beautiful interiors with blue rugs and blue fabrics, but they all looked cold. I wouldn’t want to spend much time in them, except during the hottest summer days. If you live in the northern half of the country, you will find these rooms feel cold and un-welcoming during the spring, fall and winter. And yet, each summer Design magazines fill their pages with blue and white rooms. These rooms will be used for at most three months of the year and stay unused for most of the year. The surprising thing is that it is not at all difficult to design rooms with blue rugs that feel warm and welcoming all year round. I feature two masterpieces today, one is by Billy Baldwin and the other by Walter Lees. These interiors are great illustrations of our five design tips for making interiors with blue rugs feel warm and inviting all year round.  

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1. Billy Baldwin’s famous blue salon was designed in 1970 for Mary Wells Lawrence’s villa La Fiorentina in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. This room is a very rare example of an interior with a blue rug that will feels warm all year round. Notice how the French blue and white geometric needlepoint rug has large amounts of white which reduces the amount of blue in the rug. There also large areas of warm colors and an delightful mix of textures- dark wood table and doors, metallic gold of the antique French ormolu table , woven bamboo basket, polished stone floor and textured blue rug. Image courtesy Habitually Chic® Blog.

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1A. This view of Billy Baldwin’s blue salon in La Fiorentina in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. Billy Baldwin explained his design approach to this room: “Clear, fresh blue covers the upholstered sofas and chairs, a deeper blue checkerboards with white on the French woven rugs, and every blue imaginable mingles in the Indian handkerchief pillows. All over the room are masses of blue and white Chinese porcelains. The big lacquered coffee table was designed, as was much of the furniture spotted here and there, by Charles Sevigny.” The antique French ormolu table is just visible behind the sofa on the right. What Baldwin did not mention is the large expanse of warm yellow on the walls, the warm colored stone of the fireplace, the roaring fire and the gold baroque mirror. Image courtesy Architectural Digest, Billy Baldwin quote courtesy the Habitually Chic® Blog.

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 2. The Paris apartment of the late Walter Lees feels warm because of the golds and wood tones in the French chair and in the picture frames. The William McCaety designed blue rug has significant amount of warm cream. A visitor is stimulated by the the mix of cultures and styles-contemporary banquettes in brilliant white, tables and stools by Diego Giacometti and a collection of Russian, Indian, Chinese and Louis XVI objects. Image courtesy thepeakofchic.blog.

Hubert de Givenchy describes Walter Lees style in Christie’s catalog: “Walter, who was such a dear and special friend, had perfect taste – sober, simple, elegant and refined.The two apartments that I knew so well, both in Paris and London, reflected his style perfectly. His favourite colours – pale grey, off-white, and a clear dark blue predominated.

“Walter always chose to dress in fresh colors such as pink, sky blue and often white in summer, he was always elegant and the essence of chic. His taste in objects was eclectic. He loved beautiful things, but above all, he loved quality”.

Lees had a long and fascinating life starting with WWII where he was awarded the Military Cross for the great battles of El Alamein and El Akarpwia. He survived capture, escape and recapture by the Germans. After the war he served the British Government in Palestine, Cairo and then in India on the staff of Lord Mountbatten. Then Lees came to Paris as an attaché in the British Embassy and stayed there for 50 years. Lees left the embassy to work for the great shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos and then for Actor Yul Brynner through whom he met fashion and movie set designer Hubert de Givenchy. Lees led a glittering social life in Paris and his friends included the British ambassador Sir Duff and Lady Diana Cooper, Dame Margot Fonteyn, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Alberto Giacometti, Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker.

Five Tips for Designing Interiors with Blue rugs that Feel Warm and Inviting Year Round

1. Balance cold colors with large expanses of warm colors

The beautiful and sophisticated interiors by Billy Baldwin and Walter Lees demonstrate how inviting and warm a room with a blue rug can be if we use warm colors in large enough amounts. Billy Baldwin used a warm yellow on the walls and chairs to compensate for the cold blues in the blue rug and the sofas. Walter Lees had masses of gold and wood tones in his Paris apartment.

I am surprised by how many blue rooms have no warm colors at all, no wonder they feel so cold. You cannot make a flavorful dish with just one ingredient, by the same token you cannot design an inviting room with just blues. But somehow this principle is forgotten when it comes to designing blue rooms.

2. Look for blue rugs that have a balance of cold, warm and neutral colors

Both Billy Baldwin and Walter Lees chose blue rugs that had significant amounts of neutral or warm colors. The neutral and warm colors in the blue rug not only reduces the amount of blue in the room, but also allows you to introduce fabrics and accessories in warm colors.

3. Add interest by layering with several shades of blue

Billy Baldwin describes how many shades of blue he used in the Blue Salon. Using multiple shades of blue makes a room feel layered and more interesting.

4. Enrich by mixing textures and materials

Both Billy Baldwin and Walter Lees enriched the rooms by mixing many textures- wood, metallic gold finishes, stone, smooth and textured fabrics and textured blue rugs.

5. Energize by mixing small and large scale patterns and solids

Billy Baldwin used large amounts of plain fabrics and mixed these with pillows in small scale patterns and a blue rug with a mid scale geometric pattern. Walter Lees mixed the large scale pattern of the blue rug with the intricate carving on the French armchair and solid fabrics.

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