Ah the fifth wall, an often ‘best to leave it white’ scenario that isn’t given a second thought or glance. Sure, we can all appreciate the focal point dazzle of a statement pendant light or chandelier, but what about the actual ceiling itself? How can we transform the night sky of our homes into a feature wall in it’s own right? With the perfect ceiling decor ideas, ‘things are looking up.’
Ceiling decor ideas to dazzle from above
Elevate your home by updating this key element in every space, from modern living room ideas to hallways and even bathrooms. From gloriously rustic beams that add character and natural texture in country-loving abodes, to wallpaper takeovers in sociable, maximalist apartments, there’s a plethora of unexpected decor ideas to make you look-up (and think) twice.
Swati Goorha of NJ-based Swati Goorha Designs (opens in new tab), comments: ‘I consider the ceiling the fifth wall in a room. Since the ceiling is almost the same size as the floor, leaving such a significant and large part of a space undesigned is a pity. Ceilings, when designed well, can create the illusion of height or to create bit of unexpected drama to a room.’
1. Continue wallpaper into infinity and beyond to play with perspective
Tap into wallpaper trends 2022 and transform every wall into a narrative of pattern and color.
Paula Taylor, head stylist and trend specialist at Graham & Brown, comments: ‘The ceiling is a surface that is often overlooked, when highlighted with wallpaper or paint the eye is drawn upward, unlocking the full potential of the room.’
‘A single plane of uninterrupted color is extremely soothing to the eye, dark tones create the illusion of infinite space and add a touch of drama. Warm hues on the walls and ceiling work well in south-facing rooms, absorbing and reflecting golden evening light for a rich cloak of enveloping warmth.’
2. Adopt a sunny-side up approach
Whoever declared that walls should be painted in color and ceilings be left to neutral nothingness? Utter nonsense! Fling your home into spring with honey-sweet, yellow room updates.
Here, the designers switched things up and took a celebratory plunge with an uplifting sunny-side-up shade on the ceiling, keeping the walls white for a fresh and breezy feel.
Anastasia Casey of The Identitè Collective (opens in new tab), comments: ‘The client and I were torn over what to paint the walls. She wanted yellow, but loved the modern ease of white on white walls, both magnifying and camouflaging the incredibly intricate original plaster millwork. After many late hours spent scouring over Pinterest, the idea of painting the ceiling yellow but keeping the walls white arose.’
‘The butterscotch hue transformed everything. It was the perfect balance of orange and what my sister calls ‘socially acceptable yellow.’ It was the jumping off point for the rest of her home.’
Edward Bulmer, interior designer and founder of edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk (opens in new tab), comments: 'What better way to start the day than with a sunshine yellow ceiling. Using yellows on ceilings is a clever way to inject light and energy into a space especially for those who may be afraid to embrace wall to all sunshine, it is also so versatile working with greys, blues and pinks to great effect.'
3. Color drench your space to envelop it in drama or bright delight
Forget the been-there-done it accent walls of early 2000s glory. There are so many options when it comes to experimenting with color. Try taking contrasting colors around corners and onto the ceiling, or create ‘task zones’ in open plan layouts with color blocking ideas and shapes. Paint walls, skirting, doors, cupboards, radiators, and even window frames in the same color for a thoughtful and sophisticated look.
Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown (opens in new tab), comments: ‘Color drenching, especially when using darker brave colors, works best in small spaces like hallway, a corridor or small bathroom. By enveloping a small space in a color, the focus shifts from noticing the size of that space to just appreciation of the shades that surround us.’
‘Try something a little different by using a really bright color on the ceiling so the color visually spills onto plain white walls below. Alternatively, play with tones to suit your palette. A dark turquoise, for example, on the ceiling would partner suitably with mid and paler tones for the walls.’
4. Go graphic with a contrasting shade
Dare to be different with a two-tone living room update. Contrast light with dark in color block style to switch-up the dynamic in sociable spaces such as living areas and multifunctional kitchens.
‘Contrasting paint can also be used to bring balance and harmony into your home. Try taking the paint up the walls and across the ceiling to create symmetry and the illusion of taller walls. We recommend using a deep and daring shade like Terrazzo to truly make a statement,’ says James Greenwood, brand and interiors expert, Graham & Brown.
5. Paint exposed beams for a modern refresh
Give ceilings an added dimension with painted beams in a bright and breezy shade.
For subtle tonal contrast, paint the walls and ceiling in a light gray or nature-inspired neutral, and off-set by finishing beams, recesses and open-shelving in a fresh white. The unison between shades creates a cohesive and balanced aesthetic with interest.
6. Create a ceiling garden with a floral wallpaper design
Let beautiful floral wallpaper designs bloom and grow across your ceiling to mesmerizing effect. Think less ditsy (small prints will get lost up there) and embrace mid-large scale designs featuring rambling motifs in cheerful brights.
7. Add decorative interest with molding
Add an air of regency grandeur and soften the transition from wall to ceiling with intricate ceiling molding patterns. These period-loving elements create a visually stunning effect, especially apt in spaces with high ceilings.
Swati Goorha, Swati Goorha Designs (opens in new tab), comments: ‘Tall moldings that span into the ceiling area can make the room appear taller than it is. Using molding to create patterns on the ceiling to highlight the ceiling and keep the eye moving throughout the space is also a very effective way to enhance a room.’
8. Paint your small bathroom ceiling for a fun, modern twist
Embrace the wacky and wonderful with colors for small bathrooms that will make a splash!
This scrumptiously playful scheme features a sloped teal ceiling and tonal minty door, contrasted with mono floor and wall tiling for an energized morning wake-up! The angle of the ceiling is defined by the bold shade, giving the space a graphic edge. It just goes to show(er) that only good things come from transforming your ceiling with a color hit.
9. Channel chalet-style chic with rustic wood
Mirror a wood floor with a wood ceiling and beautiful, character-giving beams for a crafted aesthetic ‘rooted’ in authenticity. Rich in natural, grainy goodness and warming texture, a wooden ceiling evokes a comforting, cabin style nostalgia in country kitchens - cozy or palatial!
This popular, hunker-down ceiling decoration provides temperature regulating properties, as well as being a durable and environmentally sound choice.
10. Experiment with pattern clashing for an eclectic look
In entertaining hotspots where you want to create an energized atmosphere, experiment with pattern clashing across floors, walls and ceilings to inject your space with unique style and personality. To keep this decor idea harmonized as opposed to haphazard, stick to a tonal color palette, referenced through each design element, as shown here with mono floor tiles, teal and gold floral wallpaper, and a painterly mono blind.
*Top tip: ‘In smaller rooms, extending the wallpaper from the wall into the ceiling, blurs the line between the wall and the ceiling, makes the room appear larger,’ says Swati Goorha, Swati Goorha Designs (opens in new tab).
11. Add a ceiling dimension to spotlight a space
In open-plan living areas, create a zoned element from above (thus retaining flow below) with a raised profile that draws the eye and defines an area. Elevations add dramatic impact above dining tables or kitchen islands, especially when paired with a statement pendant design.
Principle designer, Cortney McClure (opens in new tab), comments: ‘Add visual interest to a space with a ceiling with dimension and a composition that goes beyond the traditional design.’
12. Add textural interest with paneling
Spruce-up a lackluster ceiling with character-fuelled beadboard panels. This budget-friendly diy decor idea, will transform any space, adding instant sophistication and cabin-style charm. Make Wall paneling ideas work in every space.
For a coastal style or nautical nudge, combine painted ceiling paneling with natural textures like wood, stone and sisal, and a chalky pastel palette across the remainder scheme. Or for a materials mix-up with an industrial edge, contrast ceiling panels with exposed brick walls and stone flooring to explore different textures on all levels.
14. Make a statement in the closet with a vivid shade
Jen & Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox (opens in new tab), advise: ‘To add some fun in a WC, begin experimenting with color on the ceiling. An often overlooked area of a room, the ceiling gives an opportunity to be bold and make a real statement. Don’t be afraid to mix colors to get your desired hue.'
'To complete the look, finish with touches of fresh foliage, a small print with complementary colors and a playful oversized print. These final touches elevated a space and created a wow factor in the smallest room in the house.'
15. Create a contemporary ceiling rose
As an alternative to the traditional ceiling rose, why not get creative with geometric tiles, origami, or 3D butterflies?! Set your imagination free - the possibilities really are endless… Use a lighting fixture as a foundation, and simply grow your design out in a kaleidoscope of free-spirited pattern.
16. Create a maximalist look with a bold wallpaper design
Elizabeth Rees, founder of Chasing Paper (opens in new tab), advises: ‘As the fifth wall, ceilings are one of my favorite places to play with wallpaper. You can choose a subtle, barely-there print in a neutral hue to add an unexpected design element, or go bold with a bright colored, stand-out print to create a maximalist feel in a space.’
17. Replicate the sky with shades of blue
It might sound like the obvious color choice for a ceiling, but let sky-inspired shades bring positive calm and serenity into sociable spaces. A key color trend for 2022, choose a soft pastel shade for a calming and uplifting look, or opt for a bolder teal or dramatic indigo in hallways and dining areas to add high impact.
Jennifer Markowitz, JNR Designs (opens in new tab),comments: 'Painting a ceiling adds cohesive visual clarity to a room. Either bringing the color on the walls all the way up to the ceiling, or anchoring an otherwise all white dining room with an accent wall that can play on the other colors in the room is a great way to add a design punch to a room.'
'It is an easy way to add some color in an unexpected, surprising way. If you have architectural details in the dining room, like crown moldings, painting the ceilings can create a great sense of contrast against these elements. I often use a shade of blue when painting a ceiling to replicate the sky. Cliche maybe, but it's always such a nice element to a room.'
What is the latest trend in ceiling finishes?
Amanda Reynal Interiors (opens in new tab) advises: 'Many of us have now heard the term 'the fifth wall' used when referring to the ceiling in a room. Treating the ceiling when considering interior design and room decoration is crucial to a creating a complete envelope. Based on the architecture and design of the space we might design paneling, add coffers for depth, wallpaper or a contrast color of paint.'
What is the best room for ceiling decor?
Nina Grauer, Dekay & Tate (opens in new tab), comments: 'The ceiling is the fifth wall in a room and should not be ignored. You can add so much excitement and design impact by painting your ceiling. A dining room is actually the perfect place to be a little more risky with your design choices, since it is not as high use in most homes the way a kitchen or living room may be. It can instantly change the mood of the room.'
'Even if you wanted to keep the overall feel of the room quite neutral, painting it a warmer white or even a beige or taupe can lend a lot of coziness to the room. It is a great way to bring other colors in the room to life, either by contrasting or complementing them. It is truly the icing on the cake.'