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Home Front: Don't forget to factor the ceiling into your scheme

Cate Burren of Angel and Blume Interior Design recommends looking upward - and thinking about your ceilings

Little Greene Forest Shoot 2022
Little Greene Forest Shoot 2022

You’d have thought that deciding what to do with a ceiling wouldn’t really be that complicated; after all, it’s just a ceiling. The trouble is that it’s usually an afterthought once decisions on wall colours and flooring have been made, all too often painted by default in brilliant white, but I recommend that ceilings are given much more consideration. I think they have a lot to offer an interior scheme and, in my experience, brilliant white is rarely the best colour.

The first thing to do is to consider your ceiling in the context of your room. Would you like to make your room feel bigger and airier or more cosy and intimate, do you need more light, are you trying to create more interest in the room, or simplify things? Trust me, your ceiling can play a part in all this.

It is then worth having a really good look overhead and seeing what you have already got. Is your ceiling a regular height (you will know by looking, but standard is around the 2.4 metre mark), does it have any features such as cornicing or a ceiling rose, is there any lighting in it, is it flat plaster or does it have texture, does it have beams, does it slope? Once you are aware of what you have got, it will be easier to consider what the options are.

As a general rule of thumb, your eye tends to be drawn to where colour changes, and this is particularly true if there is a significant difference between the colour on your walls and the colour on your ceiling. This gives you opportunity to alter the effect your ceiling has on the room.

If your ceiling is low and you want to divert attention away from this, I would generally use colours on the walls and ceiling that blend, rather than being in sharp contrast, and if you are using a reasonably light colour on the walls, I would use the same colour on the ceiling. If you opt for a dark colour on the walls, or a wallpaper, you might want a lighter colour on the ceiling but use a colour, rather than white, and one that has a similar tone to the walls.

This trick also works really well if your ceiling is sloping – for example in the eaves of an attic conversion. If the ceiling slopes down to a low wall and you paint it a lighter colour than the walls, the ceiling is not only very noticeable, but also seems bigger against the smaller walls. If you paint everything the same colour, that won’t happen. Also, if you are using a wallpaper in this type of room, I would strongly recommend using it on the ceiling too. This can create a lovely effect and will almost certainly make the room feel bigger.

Little Greene Colourcard 37
Little Greene Colourcard 37

If you have a very high ceiling, you might want to retain the impact of it, but if the room is small relative to the height of the ceiling, it might make the floor space feel smaller than it actually is. In this case, painting the ceiling a darker colour and then taking that darker colour onto a cornice or down to a picture rail (if you have either) will help to create the perception of a lower ceiling and therefore balance the proportion of the room. If you don’t have a cornice or a picture rail, you can simply paint a band of ceiling colour at the top of the wall.

If you are lucky enough to have a nice decorative cornice, it is worth considering picking this out in a different colour to draw attention to it. Not if it is a very plain coving (which you might even want to get rid of or upgrade), but a lovely plaster moulding, for example, can be brought to life by being painted in a different colour to both the ceiling and the walls, so that it is made more prominent. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic colour change - sometimes just a slightly darker tone will do the trick - but painting it the same colour as the ceiling will minimise its impact.

There are times when being really bold with your ceiling can create a fantastic effect in a room. A strong colour on a ceiling against light walls or floor will keep the room airy, but give it some contrast and personality. Similarly a different colour on the ceiling - but one with similar depth to that on the walls, say a dark blue against a dark green - may seem a daring move, but it will remove the sharp contrast between your strong wall colour and a white ceiling and that will help to bring some calm to a space.

If you want some glamour, think about wallpapering the ceiling only and use a colour from the wallpaper on the walls. And dare I mention the fantastic gold paints that are available (robersonliquidmetal.co.uk is the place to start) that can look wonderful when applied to the ceiling?

It is always worth thinking about whether you can get (or want) any natural light through your ceiling if the room in question is directly under a roof. This is likely to be a costly job, but light from above is nearly always lovely in a room and adding glazing of some description in a ceiling will certainly change the entire feeling of a room. Burgh Island in Devon was recently listed for sale and, if you Google it, you will see an image of the ceiling in its Palm Court Lounge which has an amazing glass dome. I am not really sure that you would need much else in that room to make it a joy to be in – although in fairness to that room, the views aren’t bad either.

Finally, there are lots of good reasons to use white paint on a ceiling, but remember that brilliant white can be very sharp against most wall colours. I would suggest using a softer, very slightly coloured white which has a nod to the colour scheme in the room. It will make more difference than you think and, if you are going to the effort and expense of going up the step ladder, you might as well put a good colour on your ceiling.

* Find out more about Angel and Blume Interior Design at angelandblume.com

Top: The sloping ceiling of this kitchen is painted in the same colour as the walls so you look at the kitchen rather than the ceiling - Windmill Green 296 at littlegreene.com
Bottom: The glorious vaulted bold blue ceiling of this bathroom adds character and interest to the space - Deep Space Blue 207 at littlegreene.com

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