Trend Report

Design by Penny Black Interiors; contracting by Look Construction; photo by Christopher Dibble

Ceilings as the Fifth Wall

Metallic swirls above that echo the whorls of a natural stone island below. Trompe l’oeil wood-paneled wallpaper crowning an intimate room. Puffy clouds floating across a sky-like ceiling. Just like a top hat goes perfectly with tails or a fascinator complements an elegant dress, an eye-catching ceiling can provide the flair that finishes off a room.


Design by Roundhouse; photo by Darren Chung

Raise Your Gaze

“We’ve been drowned in minimalism for such a long time; people are happier to play with pattern and print right now,” says designer Stewart Horner of Penny Black Interiors in Portland, Oregon. “The natural thing is to explore the ceiling, a typically untouched white void.” Chicago designer Summer Thornton believes that people are looking for spaces that transport them. 


Design by Summer Thornton

Top Materials and Techniques

“Wallpaper makes the space feel cozy and enveloping, while a level-five high-gloss [paint] finish feels liquid wet and dramatic,” Thornton says. Designer Ariana Fischer in Portland, Maine, adores a high sheen because it bounces light around. She also likes an old-school shellack over hand-combed paint, with pale blue over cream. Horner prefers wallpaper, using geometrics along with cloud patterns, “because it’s what you’re supposed to see when you look up,” he says. For his own midcentury home, he’s creating an abstract ceiling mural in coppers and golds on a beige background.

Shine On

Horner recommends dropping crown molding a couple of inches down from the ceiling and then installing lights in the gap for a nice glow. Add a chandelier that sends light up as well as down, and use reflective surfaces around the room. “Add glass surfaces anywhere you can to make a connection between the ceiling and the rest of the space,” he says. “Try an angled mirror leaning against a wall, mirrored coffee tables or a domed floor lamp finished in chrome.”


Design by Ariana Fischer; photo by Erin Little Photography

Height Matters

Keep ceiling height in mind, Fischer says. “I don’t like to do drama on a low ceiling; it makes the ceiling come down. I only add beams and coffers and other interesting treatments when it’s at least 9 feet high.”

Design Dreams

Fischer wants to try woodsy wallpaper. “It’d be like sitting under a canopy of trees when the sun filters through,” she says. “I’d use it in a dark space where you need something special.” She’s also yearning to do a powder room with a pink grasscloth ceiling and romance-novel-theme wallpaper. Horner would love to clad a ceiling in etched mirror tile. “A mirror is the cheesiest thing you can think of overhead, but I want to do it in a way that’s undeniably gorgeous,” he says.


Design by TKD Architects; photo by Brett Boardman

Parting Words

Some practical advice: “Keep in mind that a ceiling fixture will subtly cast the ceiling color across the room,” Thornton says. “Get a young wallpaper hanger that’s up for doing a ceiling,” Horner advises. “And expect to pay more, especially if scaffolding is involved.” Fischer says, “Design can be like a painting, and it’s all based on balance. You don’t want the most important thing in the room to be a ceiling unless you’re in a cathedral.”

This article was originally published by the houzz Trade Program.