Painted ceiling adds another dimension to room’s décor

DEAR GAIL: One of our projects for the new year is to paint our house. We don’t know where the time has gone but we’ve been here seven years and don’t plan on moving. We are done with the builder white walls. We’re comfortable in selecting paint for the walls but have no idea what to do with the ceilings. Do we have to leave them white? We’re also going to be adding crown molding in a couple of rooms and would like your advice on what to paint them. - Carrie and Andrew

DEAR CARRIE AND ANDREW: Although most people are not comfortable in painting their ceilings, you don’t have to leave them white. Most people feel that since the builder painted them white that’s just what they should be. Builders paint them white just because it’s easier. They can spray the walls and ceiling at the same time.

Actually, contrary to what most people think, painting ceilings can make a room look larger. If you’re painting your walls a lighter color and you paint your ceiling the same color, it will lift the ceiling and visually expand the space. When you eliminate the line between your wall color and ceiling, your eyes don’t stop at the top of your wall but continue onto the ceiling and around the room. I have no problem painting a 7- or 8-foot ceiling the same color as the walls.

When using a dark color on the walls, you might want to consider painting the ceiling a coordinating lighter shade of the wall. No matter if you’re painting walls or ceilings, lighter colors recede an area and darker colors advance them. Paint a low ceiling a paler shade and watch it appear higher. Whereas, high ceilings painted shades darker than the walls will warm a room and make it cozier as it brings the ceiling down into the room.

A good rule of thumb is that if a ceiling is 9 feet or lower, paint it the same color as your walls, if they are light, or a lighter shade. If using a midtone or darker color, paint the ceiling two shades lighter than your wall color. In rooms where your ceilings are higher, don’t be afraid to paint them two shades darker than the walls to bring the room together. I say two shades because one shade lighter or darker than the color of your walls will appear the same. If you are going to paint your ceilings, make sure you can see a difference.

Don’t be afraid to paint it a completely different color. An easy way to do that is to use the same tone on another paint strip. So if using the third color down, select a color from another color strip, the third color down.

One trick to see how the color will look on your ceiling is to paint a couple of pieces of poster board and tack them up. I always suggest the same thing for your walls. You’ll be amazed how lighter the colors will look when up on your ceiling. I’d also suggest you use flat paint versus a satin or gloss to eliminate any reflective quality.

If a color is not your preference, try painting a neutral instead of white. Keep the neutral the same temperature as your wall color. If your walls are in the warm family, select a yellow-based neutral. If your walls are a cool color, look for a gray-based neutral.

By painting your ceilings, you are decorating each dimension of your room: floors, walls, windows, furnishings and the ceiling.

Now for your crown molding. If you’re going to invest in crown molding, which I love, do paint the ceiling a different color than the crown. If your ceiling is white and you paint the crown white, you’ll see it where it meets the wall but then it will just disappear into the ceiling. If you’re not comfortable with a different ceiling color, paint the ceiling your wall color.

Now if you’re brave, go ahead and paint the crown a different color. I’ve used tones of beige and brown and even a dark green. It really just depends on your décor. A wood stain molding is fabulous in a library, retreat or office - although it is a bit more expensive.

Nothing says that all of the ceilings in your house have to be the same, but I don’t suggest that each room be different. Give it a try in your powder bath and see how you like it. That’s one room I do like to be more adventurous with. Be bold, be different and impress your guests.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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