Extending color to the ceiling can add visual interest, texture and sophistication to a room, without much effort. Here’s why you should try it and how to implement it at home.
Refinement on a budget. While homeowners have many choices when it comes to adding interest to the ceiling, not all are created equal. Tray, coffered and beamed ceilings, for example, change the mood of a room, but they come at a cost, says Arianna Cesa, associate director of marketing and color development at Benjamin Moore. “Painting your ceiling is the most budget-friendly upgrade if you’re looking to add a design element to your ceiling,” she says. “It can absolutely change the look of a space.”
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Unlike other ceiling treatments that cost more and require a firm design commitment, it’s easy to change paint if you don’t like it, says Hannah Galbreath, owner and designer at Hannah Galbreath Design in Salt Lake City. . And if your budget doesn’t allow you to hire a professional painter, you can do the work yourself. “It’s something anyone can do,” says Galbreath. “It’s low cost, low impact.”
Maximum heat. Small rooms, like dens and offices, can benefit from deep, saturated ceiling colors, which can add subtle warmth, Cesa says. “Darker paint colors can be comforting and cozy,” she adds. “Bringing this color to the ceiling allows you to be completely enveloped in this hue.” She advises reserving this technique for very bright rooms to avoid a “cave” feeling. “If the room doesn’t have natural light, consider bringing in additional artificial light sources,” she says.
“You’re trying to create more intimacy,” says Jesse Hunnefeld, owner of Hunnefeld Painting in Massachusetts. He adds that painting a ceiling – especially in a smaller room or a room with an unusually shaped ceiling – is a good way to draw in the room, create boundaries and privacy without adding architectural elements. artificial ones that can cost money and require more time and materials. .
A sense of continuity. In rooms where there isn’t a natural 90-degree line between the walls and the ceiling, painting the ceiling may be the best choice for a clean, crisp look, says Hunnefeld. “You don’t have a natural break, visually, like you do when you have 90-degree perpendicular angles,” he says. “So you’d have to recreate that line, and recreating that line is technically complicated, because it would basically require freehand.” Painting that line by hand, he says, can make you look less polished. Extending the color from the wall to the ceiling alleviates this problem.
“In some homes, where you might have a bullnose or a rounded wall, rather than creating an artificial line – whether it’s a horizontal line or a vertical line – just continuing to paint doesn’t doesn’t create visual truncation,” says Galbreath. “It allows you to continue your vision upwards.” The piece, she says, operates in a single visual plane, as opposed to several disconnected, jerky planes that draw the eye back and forth.
Contrasting sparkles. Even in a room where the ceiling is the same color as the walls, you can create contrast with the sheen of a paint job. Hunnefeld suggests using semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on accent points, like the trim, so the eye catches different elements in the room. “It’s a juxtaposition, and it can be very subtle,” he says. In a room where the color is the same, the differences are visible in the way the light hits the pigment. This is where shine can be important.
Or, Cesa says, lean into shine in a different way by using it on the ceiling. “If you want to accentuate the drama and bring a little more texture to the space, you can also opt for a more glossy ceiling, which will mean more shine and reflection,” she says. But brighter highlights, she notes, can affect a color’s diffusion, and it’s worth keeping in mind. If you’re using a shiny chandelier on the ceiling, consider painting your walls in the same finish, “to keep things simple and unified,” she suggests.
The illusion of space. While a common fear of painting a ceiling darker colors is closing off a room, the truth is that a deeply saturated ceiling can actually make a space feel bigger. “It helps blur the lines and edges of space,” Cesa explains. “It can make small rooms feel bigger.”
Galbreath agrees. “It can kind of make the ceiling disappear,” she says. When you use different colors of paint, she says, you accentuate the difference between the wall and the ceiling.
Give it a try. Painting your ceiling with color is not without its pitfalls, especially if you choose a very stylish look. Hunnefeld says a ceiling that’s both pigmented and rich in luster hides nothing, and slight imperfections in the drywall are also more likely to come to the surface. And if your ceiling has a textured finish, it is better to paste with white paint. “The flatter the surface, the less visible the imperfections,” says Hunnefeld, noting that one workaround is to reduce the shine to flat or matte. He adds that the color is harder to touch up if the ceiling needs a bit of work in the years to come.
If you decide color is the way to go, Galbreath says testing is important to determine how color will play out in your space and its lighting. She suggests painting large swatches next to each other, clearly marked.
“I don’t think you can talk about paint color without talking about light,” she says. “Paint a lot of samples. Make them large enough to have the impact of what the room would look like if painted in that color. Do this on every wall, if you can, just so you can see how the color lives throughout the day.
Hannah Selinger is a freelance writer in New York.