4 Tricks to Making Classic Navy Feel Fresh
Think beyond tradition.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:03 AM
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Navy blue is the celebrity du jour in the design world. The classic hue is in the middle of a renaissance, with PPG Paint naming it its 2020 color of the year and a recent ringing endorsement from the wellness community. (Apparently, painting your home navy promotes relaxation—who needs a spa when you have a paintbrush?) However, it can be hard to freshen up the go-to shade. Years of it being a preppy mainstay in beach homes have done nothing for its street cred, making it easy to write off as tired or boring. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With the aid of some of our favorite designers—and their decidedly modern, navy-infused spaces—we’ve rounded up four tricks to help the traditional color feel new and exciting.
Pair It With Abstract Forms
You can easily picture rich dark blue upholstery on an overstuffed velvet sofa. You might not expect it on a funky tubular armchair. “Although navy may seem conservative, it can be the perfect hue for nontraditional furniture,” explains Allison Crawford, who was behind the design of the above sitting room, where she used the grounding color to balance out the chair’s unusual silhouette. She adds, “Navy is the perfect color to use if black seems too harsh in the space.”
For an über-modern look, eschew the constraints of furniture altogether. This Emily Henderson–designed faux banquette really pops, not only because of the tonal contrast of the cushion against the light wood, but also due to its floating design.
If you have a room with a textured surface, like a shiplap wall or brick fireplace, coat it in navy. The combination of a saturated hue and architectural character will add depth in a way that plain old painted walls simply can’t. Arlyn Hernandez took this trick one step further, using the color in her dining room all the way up to her coved ceilings to pack a visual punch. “Go all in with using it top to bottom, particularly on moldings, built-ins, and architectural details. Those are traditionally either white or wood-toned, so bringing a color like navy in that way really freshens it up,” she explains.
Think Beyond the Walls
Don’t restrain your use of navy to just traditional surfaces. Keep the walls a clean white, then bring in the blue via window and door trim—it’s a low-lift update that feels super-contemporary. “Opting to create contrast with trim is a great way to incorporate a darker hue when you don’t want to take the plunge by painting the walls,” says designer Caitlin Murray, who anchored a sunny breakfast nook with navy window frames.
Go for Unexpected Color Combinations
Ditch the typical blue-and-white palette for something zippier. Juxtapose navy with a bubbly millennial pink to bring light into your space, or go moodier by pairing it with an equally rich hue. Dusty mauves, earthy terracottas, and rust oranges not only stand up to navy, but they’ll actually play up its luxe look.