I was once told, when walking outside, ‘look up’. Great advice; all that aesthetic beauty to see, instead of uneven paving. Why then, inside our homes, do we give so little attention to the humble ceiling?
A well-decorated ceiling can elevate a room, giving it that ‘wow’ factor. It provides an opportunity to add layers, to enhance your chosen scheme, and to be as bold as your creativity allows.
The belief that a white ceiling makes a room look taller is often a misconception unless you seek the all-white minimalist look. I recently completed the smallest bathroom redesign imaginable, and, by painting walls and ceiling in the same non-white colour, I successfully blurred their boundaries. The result is a bathroom, not limited by its modest proportions and which feels spacious and harmonious.
Ceiling fashion has changed over time, from the elaborate ceilings of the renaissance periods to ‘swirled’ or ‘stippled’ artex, woodchip and, heaven forbid, polystyrene tiles of the 70’s and 80’s! Today’s smooth ceilings bring a myriad of opportunities with a little imagination.
Cornicing, normally considered an extension to the wall, directly impacts on a ceiling’s aesthetic impact. I always encourage its retention, softening the hard angle between wall and ceiling and creating many decorative opportunities.
For relatively inexpensive impact, there is paper. You can enter the realms of whimsical to geometric here. Paper can enhance and extend the impact of elaborate coving. Awkward spaces and irregular ceilings can have their boundaries blurred by using the same paper on the walls and ceiling; a successful ploy particularly in bedrooms and attic rooms.
The second option is paint. From today’s vast selection you can choose both colour and texture – think dead flat oil, satin emulsion or oil gloss, the latter reflecting light into the room beautifully. A trick employed in the Victorian period was diluting the wall colour, which was then applied above the picture rail and then further diluted for the ceiling. This gentle gradation of colour has a subtle but powerful effect, drawing the eye up.
Personally, I favour adding extra ceiling detail, giving a more three- dimensional look and layering interest. An inexpensive option is to add inset beading but be generous with its proportion and place either on the ceiling or on the wall abutting the existing coving. With a more elastic budget, decorative plaster panels, such as those offered by Stevenson of Norwich, can be designed and mounted onto an existing ceiling.
Suspended or tray ceilings can also be introduced during refurbishment works. These help to hide lighting cables as well as provide an interesting visual effect. Hidden recesses offer an opportunity to install subdued lighting – think hotel lobbies or cocktail bars. My personal favourite, coffered ceilings, make a strong, geometric statement and can be used in any setting.
With so many choices it is high time we honoured our ceilings and move our sights upwards. Why not trial it in one room and see how much your ceiling gives you back in return.