This blue-green hue has a his­tory as vast as the calm, sum­mery seas it re­sem­bles

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Decorating -

In Homer’s Odyssey, on his re­turn home, the hero meets Pro­teus, known also as the Old Man of the Sea. Pro­teus is one of the stranger deities in the Greek pan­theon: he has the gift of proph­esy, but hates us­ing it, so to get the truth, you have to hold him down while he squirms and trans­forms him­self into myr­iad shapes – tigers, snakes, even water it­self – try­ing to break free. Given this at­tribute, Pro­teus is the god most as­so­ci­ated with the vari­able na­ture of oceans, rivers and lakes. The word ‘pro­tean’, taken from his name, means change­able – and it feels ap­pro­pri­ate that water should have a god ded­i­cated to its in­con­stancy. Even its colour is up for de­bate. Homer fa­mously re­ferred to it as ‘winedark’; James Joyce, in his Mod­ernist take on the Greek writer’s epic, was less ef­fu­sive. ‘The sea,’ he wrote, ‘the snot­green sea’.

Water, as ev­ery­one knows, has moods. If the sea is stormy and treach­er­ous one evening, you might well wake the next morn­ing to find it pale blue and be­calmed. Navy one mo­ment; brown-grey with beigetipped waves the next. The rea­son we tend to think of it as blue is com­pli­cated. In a glass, of course, it usu­ally looks clear, but if water is deep enough, more of the longer wave­lengths – reds and yel­lows – are ab­sorbed, leav­ing the shorter wave­lengths to be scat­tered, thus mak­ing calmer, clearer water more likely to ap­pear green­ish blue.

Another rea­son why we tend to im­me­di­ately as­so­ciate water with the colour blue is cul­tural. Per­haps due to ad­ver­tis­ing, hol­i­day mem­o­ries or child­hood im­agery – seas are nearly al­ways per­fectly azure in pic­ture books. Aqua’s wa­tery as­so­ci­a­tions lend it some ocean-like at­tributes: it’s re­fresh­ing, sum­mery, nau­ti­cal, a lit­tle mys­te­ri­ous and very ca­pa­cious. Aquas come in al­most as many shades as the sea it­self: near-turquoise, minty, dark teal or the clear, un­trou­bled blue of the aquamarine stone.

In our homes, this colour can be taken in many de­sign di­rec­tions. One is the more syn­thetic, mid-cen­tury route, with less grey and per­haps a dash more blue. Think icy movie-god­dess dresses deep­en­ing to that tint redo­lent of Stude­baker cars – this works bet­ter on ac­ces­sories than on whole walls, where its sin­gle-mind­ed­ness soon palls. The inkier, greyer aqua hues have a more mod­ern feel. Lit­tle Greene’s ‘Turquoise Blue’ ( see above right) feels clean and re­fresh­ing, mak­ing it per­fect for bath­rooms or kitchens. Toe-dip­pers might try Claire Gau­dion’s abstract ‘Rhyth­mic Tides’ rug (£359; claire­gau­, which in­cludes sev­eral of the sea’s in­fi­nite hues, from winedark to… let’s call it green.

‘Turquoise Blue’, £43.50 for 2.5 litres, Lit­tle Greene ( lit­tle­ ‘Deep Water Green’, £48.50 for 2.5 litres, Paint & Pa­per Li­brary ( paintand­pa­per­li­ ‘Ma­rine’, £44 for 2.5 litres, De­sign­ers Guild (de­sign­ers­

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