Designer Prudence Bailey of Prudence Home and Design believes that the “fifth” wall, which she calls the ceiling, is having a moment. In fact, she has always enjoyed creating interiors that have those “aha” moments that really make a space pop. Taking the ceiling into consideration is a great way to take risks and embrace a little more creativity. Below, Bailey outlines some things to consider when embarking on this addition to your home projects.

Photography above and below by Julia Dags

Why should you paint a ceiling?

Painting the ceiling gives it depth and so much visual interest. Use a high gloss to create drama with dark colors or an ethereal feeling with lighter palettes. Dark colors actually recede, so painting ceilings will make them feel higher. It’s a great trick if you have low ceilings!

What should you consider before decorating a ceiling?

Before you paint or wallpaper, you have to make sure the ceiling is in proper shape for it. High gloss paint shows every imperfection. I often tell my clients it’s like the fitting room mirror! Just like that can really ruin your day, a ceiling with lots of imperfections will ruin a high gloss  or wallpapered one.

Prep work is key to make sure it is smooth as silk for the best result. In addition to the prep work, make sure the ceiling is something you want to highlight first and foremost. Not every space has a ceiling that works with paper or a different color paint. When in doubt, ask someone for their opinion before you commit.

How do you know when it should be high gloss?

For me, it depends on the mood of the design I am creating that dictates a finish or what I am ultimately trying to achieve. I only do flat ceiling finishes or high gloss. Very rarely, if ever, will I deviate from that unless it’s for wallpaper!

Should the walls be lighter when you do a ceiling? 

Dark colors make walls and ceilings recede so if you have a small room, go dark or bold and see what happens. It will not only feel bigger, but it will be like a gorgeous jewel box of a space. If I do a dark ceiling, I often do lighter walls since I like the balance between light and dark and the impact visually that it creates in a space. I don’t really follow any rules per se, it’s more what am I trying to say about the space that matters and how I use light and dark paints.

Photography above by Stephane Kossmann

How does it look in an entry or small space?

I love working in small spaces because they are like jewel boxes. Mixing high gloss paint and wallpaper in little rooms is so fun. Think about bold powder rooms and how they can be so visually interesting. They are the perfect spaces to make a big impression with color and pattern.

If you are pattern and color adverse, this is a great space to test the waters and take risks! Entries are also a fun place to create some drama as they are the first impression of your home. And besides the powder room, entries are an area every guest sees. But, unlike a powder room, if you are afraid of taking a risk, I wouldn’t start in your entry. Instead, go big or go home in your powder room. 

Do you ever do walls and ceiling the same either in paint or wallpaper?

I would love to have a client who wants to do a room all in the same dramatic color in high gloss or wallpaper. It’s so chic! However, most get afraid, and we break it up! I know one day that client will come!

Photography above and below by Julia Dags

Do lighter ceiling colors make the walls feel higher?

For sure, they can in high gloss, which reflects light beautifully. But darker colors can make the ceilings feel higher! However, if you are nervous to go dark, paint the walls, trim, and ceiling in the same white or color but different finishes. I often use matte for walls, satin or high gloss for trim, and flat or high gloss for ceilings. Using the same color in a room will make it look bigger and taller!

Photography above and below by Julia Dags

How important is overhead lighting?

I find ceiling lighting paramount in a room. Depending on the light, it can bring down a ceiling if needed or make it look higher. But most importantly, it grounds the space. I am not a huge fan of recessed lighting, but know it’s often a necessity especially in larger homes. One rule of thumb I always follow and recommend is everything on dimmers! Bright lights can really kill a space and a mood!

What do you suggest in a more modern house when there are no moldings in place?

If there aren’t any moldings on a ceiling, we will often add molding that is in keeping with the home. For instance, we added step molding to a ceiling for wallpaper. Make sure the molding you add is right for the space or it won’t feel in keeping with the rest of the home.

If you do not want to add molding, I suggest painting the ceiling over wallpapering it. Paint is more forgiving and can easily not have molding to isolate the paint. However, I feel for wallpaper to truly shine, it needs a molding border. Additionally, it helps keep the edges looking clean.

All design in photos by Prudence Home and Design.