If you find yourself reading this post at home or at work, look up! Chances are most of you will be looking at a plain white ceiling - and there is nothing wrong with that. A plain white ceiling is like a plain white t-shirt, classic and aways in style. Oftentimes though, a bare white ceiling is a missed opportunity to change up the look and feel of a room, so today I thought I’d share some design tips for the "5th wall" of the room.
Because we really do have to *look up* to see them, and thus can’t touch or inspect up close, ceilings provide one of the easiest and cost effective solutions to fool the eye and completely visually change the style of a room. For example, most of us have plain white ceilings for a reason: they reflect light, thus can make a room feel open, light, and airy. But what if we want the opposite? A room to feel cozy and sheltering? Yes, we can simply paint the ceiling a darker color, but that often falls flat. So how about shaking things up a little bit by adding both color and tactile warm by using a grasscloth wallpaper?
Tall ceilings are very desirable, yet conversely, also can feel very cold and stark, especially in a small space. So what do you do when you want the best of both worlds? In a recent commercial day spa project, I had this exact issue, so I solved it with a dropped soffit ceiling with a dramatic oval shape, and then painted the original ceiling a deep gray to contrast against the dramatic centerpiece chandelier. Bonus: all sorts of ducting and wiring were cost-effectively hidden behind the dropped soffit, which also pleased my clients!
We all love a rustic wood-beamed ceiling, straight out of farmhouse in Tuscany, or the south of France, but just between you and me, if you see them here in the U.S., 9 times out of 10, those structural wood beams were added on after the structure was built, and are purely decorative, not structural at all. And I take the fifth about ever doing so in one of my own projects.
Speaking of old world, what’s more dramatic than a tented fabric ceiling? The artist I employed to create a trompe l'oeil (trick the eye) tented ceiling did such a fantastic job in this master bedroom, that it’s better than the real thing!
Old world plaster craftsmen would painstakingly build-up intricate, tracery details in plaster on the ceilings of the great 18th century manor houses in the UK, but today, new world craftsman can do the same with pre-carved wood moldings available at any specialty lumber house.
I’ll close with another favorite designer “trick” that works especially well in light-challenged spaces. Start by embracing the darkness and paint (or paper) a room a deep, moody color, then use a metallic silver or gold leaf wallpaper on the ceiling and turn what light is available in the room into ethereal reflections above, which seem to move with you as inhabit the space. This treatment is particularly affective in entries, powder rooms, and dining rooms. Pure magic.
For more 5th wall inspiration, please visit my “Ceilings” Pinterest board.