Statement ceilings are grabbing attention with bold colors, patterns and textures.
"Ceilings are certainly that fifth wall that you can play with when designing a space," said interior designer Marina V. Umali of Marina V Design Studio, Paramus, New Jersey. "Painting the ceiling in something other than white is a great way to make it stand out. Wallcovering the ceiling could add great patterns, colors and interest to the space. Have fun with it and be brave."
Like any other design element, the ceiling’s style should be taken into consideration as how it affects the room as a whole, Umali said.
Residential homes usually use the ceiling as "a supporting feature, quietly crowning the room without drawing attention to itself," said Seattle interior designer Rebecca West at Seriously Happy Homes. "We only use the ceiling as a feature if it has unique or architectural interest, like box, tray or cathedral ceilings, or an attic space where there is more ceiling than wall."
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The same rules apply to using the fifth wall as an accent as with any other accent or feature wall.
"You need to think about the proportions of the room and whether drawing attention to the ceiling will add anything to the room," she said.
Adding wallcovering to a ceiling creates interest and texture, said interior designer Carla Aston of Aston Design Studio in The Woodlands, Texas. Trellis paneling, beams or even a paint color can make a ceiling more interesting.
Coffered ceilings and ceilings with plank paneling are real eye-catchers.
"It depends on the lighting and vent locations as far as what you can add into a space if it is already built out, but an overall treatment like planking can go just about anywhere," said Aston, who blogs at carlaaston.com/designed/.
"A beautiful and classic way to show off your ceiling is to add architectural details like crown molding and classic box beams or rustic wood beams," West said. "If you have sloped ceilings (like in an attic bedroom) it can also be wonderful to add a bold patterned wallpaper to that surface."
For a simple and inexpensive ceiling treatment, go for a new hue, which offers the most impact for the least cost, West said.
"Consider a deep navy blue ceiling in dining room, a romantic peach ceiling in a bedroom, or a bold emerald green ceiling in your Jungalow-style bathroom," she said. "Whatever you choose, remember that it will cover a very large, unbroken surface, so keep the other surfaces and walls simple, like white walls and bedding with the peach ceiling, white wainscoting in the dining with the navy ceiling, or white subway tile in the bathroom with an emerald ceiling. If your ceiling will be the star, make sure the other elements are supporting players — assuming you don’t want to end up with a circus in your home."
Before you start, take into account the cost of getting the surface smooth, Aston said.
"Most times there is heavier texture on ceilings to hide sheetrock inconsistencies, so getting a smooth surface is more expensive and labor-intensive than you would expect — plus it is really hard to work overhead like that for a contractor," she said.
Use height to your advantage.
"Ceiling heights greatly influence whether an accent ceiling is a good feature in your room," West said. "Generally speaking it works best in a room that feels taller than it is wide. Often that means ceiling heights of 9 feet or more, but it’s all about proportion. You might find that a tiny bathroom with standard 8-foot ceilings can handle a feature ceiling better than a grand ballroom with only 9-foot ceilings."
(This article appears in Fall Home & Garden magazine)