Ceilings. Every room has one, but few rooms highlight it. Ceilings don’t often make a statement because they’re not supposed to. The thinking is that if it’s just painted white no attention will be drawn to it, thus making it visually ‘disappear.’
But that is kind of boring. And what ends up happening is the largest wall in the room is stark white with no contribution to the design of the space. I’m happy to say that lately designers are changing their approach to ceilings. Instead of keeping them a blank canvas, I’m now seeing a variety of alternative ceiling treatments. Below I’ve come up with my favorite approaches to this design element…
Who doesn’t love a coffered ceiling? No one? That’s what I thought. This classic detail has been around forever, but until recently was only in the most formal of spaces. Now people are applying coffered ceilings to more casual rooms or using it to elevate an otherwise ‘cookie-cutter’ living space. Additionally, coffered ceilings aren’t always as ornate as they use to be. People are simplifying the look to make it blend with the rest of the house. There are tons of DIY tutorials online for how to install a simplified coffered ceiling. I recommend this treatment for any area that has an enormous span of standard height, or slightly higher, ceiling. It will give the massive flat space human dimension and add interest.
Obviously all ceilings are painted. Hello, you’re not looking at drywall. But you rarely see many other colors beyond white, cream, or slightly tinted hues. More and more I’m seeing designers, and on-trend homeowners, painting their ceilings fun colors. The way I see it you have two choices when he comes to painting the ceiling a fun color. First, you can paint it the same color as the rest of the walls for a unique cozy look. Or you can paint it a contrasting color from the rest of the room. If you chose this path, I recommend keeping the rest of the walls pretty neutral. This will help the ceiling take center stage and not fight with the other walls. As one of the easiest alternative ceiling treatments, I recommend this look for smaller, enclosed rooms like offices, bedrooms or sunrooms. If you’re worried about it appearing too dark, I suggest using a high gloss paint so that light is reflected from the ceiling, not sucked into it.
In our last renovation I told Ian that the only thing I cared about (slight exaggeration) was having a wood ceiling in our bathroom. The bathroom pictured below, designed by Summer Thornton, was the inspiration for my design. What makes this room work is the wood ceiling. A standard white painted ceiling would have offered no warmth to the room and made it feel institutional and sterile. I love wood ceilings for this reason – they make a space feel warm and inviting, even when painted. I recommend this treatment for any room that seems cold and uninviting. With all-white-everything these days, a natural wood element on the ceiling can go a long way to warming up a space.
When I told my contractor that I wanted to wallpaper the ceiling in our sunroom he looked at me like I was insane. But between you and me, I’m getting used to that look from him! Honestly, I think wallpapering a ceiling is an vastly underused way to bring pattern and interest (even a little whimsy) into a space. Like painted ceilings, I recommend using this treatment for smaller, enclosed spaces. If you like the look, but are a little hesitant, try it in a nursery or playroom first. Tip: be sure to pick a non-directional paper so no view is ‘upside down.’
Honestly this is one of my very favorite alternative ceiling treatments. Often times they are needed for structural purposes, but more and more people just like the look and are installing faux beams (like in the first picture below). These faux or real beams add dimension to an otherwise wide, empty span of ceiling. Ceiling beams help define a space which helps when ceilings are multiple stories high like in an entry hall or large living room. I recommend using this treatment if you have a room with extremely high ceilings that needs some definition and containment. Additionally, if you have a long (narrow or wide, it doesn’t matter) flat ceiling, wood beams can be a way to jazz it up.
So I’m kind of cheating with this one, since high ceilings aren’t really alternative ceiling treatments, since they either do or don’t come with a home. BUT high ceilings are still used as statements within themselves, so I’ll count it! If you’re building a house and considering high ceilings throughout or in a few important rooms, it’s worth the extra expense. Additionally, if you’re shopping for a new home take ceiling height into consideration. High ceilings always make a space feel larger (because, duh, it is) even though the overall square footage isn’t affected. I recommend using this ceiling treatment pretty much any time you can! Haha, but no seriously.
I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for alternative ceiling treatments to bring interest, dimension and a little something extra into your home!