We’ve had a couple of inquiries lately about whether or not to paint a ceiling a color other than white. When we hear the same question from multiple people, it’s time to step up and try to answer. So here goes.
To Paint or Not to Paint
When is it a good idea to paint the ceiling of the room? There are a few major considerations: What is the overall result you want in the room? Do you want the room to feel large, airy, spacious, tall? Do you want a cozy, intimate feeling where you feel surrounded and safe? Do you want to create the illusion of space in a small room, or emphasize the smallness by using a stronger color? Is the room too big and cavernous so you’re trying to make it more human scaled?
As usual with home decorating, there are always exceptions, personal preference and style to consider. Plus, painting the ceiling is a lot of work!
Generally, when you have a small room with standard 8-9 foot ceilings, leaving the ceiling white but painting the other 4 walls will create the impression of greater height in the room. Or when the walls and ceiling are all the same light color, the visual impression of the room size increases because there’s no break in color between the walls and ceiling, creating the largest possible visual space.
Another advantage of white ceilings is that you have the same color of ceiling throughout the entire house which gives a strong cohesive element between all the spaces. If you like changing wall colors from room to room, it helps to have something unifying – all the same trim and ceiling color is usually the way it’s done. That being said, if you have a stand alone room that can be closed off and doesn’t need to connect to an adjoining room, it’s a stronger candidate for a painted ceiling.
Here’s a dramatic bedroom where a dark chocolate brown is used on the walls to create an intimate retreat. But to keep the room from feeling like a dark dungeon, lots of crisp white was used, including on the ceiling. The white ceiling adds to the feeling of height in the room (the drapes taken up to the ceiling reinforces that as well).
These mocha walls are set off beautifully with the crisp white ceiling. Photo via houzz.com
All the angles in this ceiling definitely do not make it a good candidate for color on the ceiling. Plus, it seems to be a vacation home (near Seattle, WA) so the homeowners likely wanted as much light as possible reflected around the home.
Decorating 101 says when ceiling heights are higher than normal, paint on the ceiling is a good option to visually lower the ceiling. The next decision is - how low do you want it to feel? A mid to dark tone on the ceiling will visually lower it several feet and I wouldn’t recommend that treatment unless you want the room to feel cave-like. A ceiling substantially darker than the wall color will make the contrast will too great and you’ll often feel uncomfortable.
However, once you’ve decided to paint the ceiling, a designer trick often used is to use the same color as the wall but at 1/4 to 1/2 strength. Using the same color keeps a cohesive feeling in the room yet allows the ceiling to be perceptibly lighter and brighter. Your paint store can help you with mixing the paint.
The high ceiling in this room made the room feel too big for a child. The room was made cozier for baby by the addition of molding trim at window height and then everything above that painted the same light blue, including the ceiling.
In this modern dining room the ceiling has actually been paneled in a warm gray wood effectively putting color and texture on the ceiling. Due to the size of the room and the wood color being close in tone to the wall color, it has the effect of creating a soft cocoon effect.
This room illustrates the cave-like result of very dark walls and ceilings. Definitely not for the faint hearted!
If you want to try painted ceiling on for size, start outside and experiment with your porch ceiling.
Another option for painted ceilings is to paint a sky mural complete with clouds or skies. This technique is usually reserved for a novelty treatment in kids’ rooms or maybe a eating area. It can be fun and whimsical and actually pretty easy to accomplish on your own.
Other ceiling treatment ideas include wallpaper, pressed tin, or beadboard.
What’s on Your Ceiling?
Are you a traditionalist with white ceilings, or a brave soul who’s tried something else? Have you experimented with color or pattern? We’d love to share some war stories about ceiling treatments. You can contact us as always by leaving a comment below (click on the word Comment under the ads) or emailing us at email@example.com. We love to hear from our readers!