One door, two doors, three doors, blue doors

A calming, mythical Taos tradition

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There is a long standing tradition in Taos of painting a front door blue. The color blue of doors and window frames next to the soft beige and flesh shades of adobe create a unique and striking contrast. You can see blue doors everywhere in Taos, and once you notice one, you’ll notice others. More and more they begin to appear. Have there always been this many? Yes, and some of the most beautiful blue doors can be found at Taos Pueblo, but not just there, they are indeed all over Taos. Start to look, take notice as you walk around Taos and explore. As Georgia O’Keeffe reminded us, “Take time to look.”

The blue doors of Taos come in many shades of blue. Here in New Mexico, blue indicates one of the four sacred directions of Pueblo life, the direction of the Southwest. The most popular notion is that blue doors are thought to keep evil spirits away. This has either been good advice for generations or an age old wives’ tale told over and over again. Painting your front door blue has traditionally been one of the most popular ways to keep evil spirits from your home.

“Mention the blue sky, and images of calm summer afternoons and wide-open spaces come to mind … Its effect, in architectural spaces as in language, depends on its context. Placed alongside natural wood, blue will heighten the warmth of the material at the same time it provides a respite from it.” from the interior decorator book "Color, Natural Palettes for Painted Rooms" by Kaufman, Dahl and Graeber.

The color blue is associated with royalty, peace, the natural colors of a clear sky and a shimmering sea. It is also the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary. To open and walk through a blue door is to walk into the arms of the blessed virgin herself, offering tenderness, warmth and love. Which are you more drawn towards, the soft blue of the inner robes of Our Lady of Guadalupe or the warm deep blue of the robes of Our Lady of Sorrows, the choice is yours.

“Blue. Shown to be the most popular color in many studies, a blue front door signals that the homeowner views his or her home as a place of refuge — calm, serene and relaxing, the perfect retreat from an often harsh and demanding world.” Debbie Zimmer for the Paint Quality Institute.

Your own version of "Taos Blue" may be slightly different from others versions, any of the local Taos hardware stores can help you with your own preference. Start by picking up some color sample chips, walk around Taos and try matching the right sample to what you like best on the doors you see here. There’s a vast array of blue doors all over Taos, finding exactly what you have in mind will be a worthwhile adventure. Shades of blue vary greatly, some blues are more of a turquoise color in appearance and some are a bit more green.

Painting contractor John Hayes of Casa de Colores developed his own version of "Taos Blue." "Basically, I started 'Taos Blue' 25 years ago. It’s simple, it’s just 'Taos Blue.' You can ask for it at Río Grande Ace Hardware or at Randall Lumber and Hardware, they have it on file. I get a lot of requests for it. It’s preferred in the landscape. It goes well with the color of natural adobe."

The tradition of blue doors may have come with the Spanish Moors from the Old World. In northern Africa, Spain, Portugal and along the Mediterranean coast, blue doors are prevalent. In those regions, blue is thought to be a deterrent and repellent to insects. The reasoning for this is clear enough, insects do not fly into the apex of a blue sky. The particular shade of blue you’re looking for in this case is the color of the sky. Look straight up at a blue cloudless sky, that’s the color you’re after. Painting your door and window frames blue keeps bugs from flying into your home. A simple logical conclusion, perhaps not as romantic as some of the other reasons given for blue doors, but it does make sense, no one wants insects flying into their homes.

Perhaps Taos has too many blue doors, that the color has become far too trendy. Has everyone painted their doors blue? Blue doors are even popping up all over Santa Fe. Is it possible that we may see fewer doors painted blue here in Taos? Will Taos blue doors go the way of the howling coyote and Kokopelli imagery and become unwanted and even shunned? Instead, let’s hope the phrase "Taos blue door" will remain in the vernacular, and that blue doors themselves will be forever popular with homeowners everywhere.

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