Can you imagine what the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would be like today if Michelangelo had answered that call in the summer of 1508 with “Thanks for the call, Pope, but just go ahead and use ceiling white … it’ll be fine”? Michelangelo was a sculptor by trade with little experience in fresco painting, so the world is a better place for the grand vision and insistence held by Pope Julius II.
The most awe inspiring places on earth have ceilings of color, texture, light and, as with the Sistine Chapel, fine art. Inspiration does not have to include a European vacation: the Macy’s store in Chicago has worn a ceiling of tiny Tiffany glass for more than 100 years and is still breathtaking today.
That being said, there is something disappointing about the gallons upon gallons of paint being sold every day that are simply called “Ceiling White.” It is like we all gave up, called a truce and decided that “Ceiling White” would be the fate of most ceilings.
The fifth wall holds extraordinary potential overhead, and resignation to the pressure of the white ceiling can leave a room feeling unfinished. Adding just a touch of color to a ceiling can bring a certain intimacy while giving the space a much more finished and refined look.
Unexpected drama happens when the ceiling is painted a contrasting color. Crown molding that is painted the same color but with a glossier finish is stunning with this application. I think my favorite application using this technique was when I painted a ceiling with wood beams a deep celadon green and the walls a warm, buttery yellow. The beauty of the wood was enhanced by the contrast to the green, and the room took on warmth that would have been unachievable with white ceilings.
Even if your walls are white, your ceiling does not have to follow suit! Color on the ceiling will give a room dimension and flair. Using soft hues will make the room open up, because they evoke feelings of the outdoors. If you want to bring the ceiling down, consider painting it a dark color, such as chocolate or charcoal.
The fifth wall can move from a vast white surface, devoid of any interest or character, to a stunning visual feast, simply by considering it as a part of the design plan. Just look up at the possibilities!