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Trend Alert: Colorful Ceilings

Canadian House & Home, January 2010

There's a lot of talk in the design world about the dangers inherent in ignoring the "fifth wall", but honestly, I'd say 90% of the time a white ceiling is perfectly acceptable, even preferable. But if you're looking for some extra credit, then upping the ante by decorating your ceiling can really take your room to the next level.

This month's issue of Canadian House & Home focuses on design trends for 2010. Generally speaking, 2010 (at least as far as H&H is concerned) looks much the same as 2009, which is unsurprising since design trends tend to evolve at a slower pace than fashion. One of H&H's big trends though for this upcoming year is wallpapered ceilings and I think I really like the idea, especially if your house has high ceilings or you're looking to create architectural interest where there is none. Not only is wallpapering just the ceiling more cost-effective than doing the walls, but I find it more appealing than the single accent wall (which often just looks unfinished, in my opinion). To avoid visually shrinking your room, I'd stick with lighter colors or metallics. And, to keep the edges crisp and to visually frame the pattern, I'd recommend doing this in a room with crown molding.

domino, November 2008

But of course for every "rule" in design, there's inevitably a great exception. I'm not sure if the yellow and white stripes are done using paint or wallpaper, but I love the effect they create in Jenna Lyons' nursery (crown molding or no). I'm also struck how this room, despite being several years old now, feels incredibly current, but then again I'd argue that Jenna's home was incredibly trendsetting, from its black walls, judicious use of yellow (2009's "it" color) and cool grays, to its decorative ceiling.

Meg Braff

While I'm not a big fan of paneled walls, I love the look of natural wood on a ceiling. In this Palm Beach sun room designed by Meg Braff the look is mimicked with faux painting and I love the laid back, island effect. It brings some age to what is probably a brand new home.

Stephen Shubel

I've noticed an increasing movement towards painting the ceiling the same color as the walls. Generally, I'm not a huge fan of this as I find the effect a bit claustrophobic, but I do think this works well in bedrooms or media rooms as these are two rooms where the cocoon-effect can be a positive rather than a negative.

Brown Design

In this den, Ryan Brown paints the ceiling in the same soft sage green as carpet, and I think it's a great way to bring in more color while still keeping your four walls neutral (here, Ryan lined the walls in grass cloth). And I just have to mention again how much I adore those built-ins. Pure perfection.

Jeffers Design

While not for the faint of heart, designers will sometimes extend the pattern on the walls up to the ceilings. While this has a similar effect to painting the ceiling the same color as the walls as the boundaries between wall and ceiling visually disappear, it's obviously going to pack a much bigger (and bolder) punch. I especially like this technique when the ceilings are slanted as the effect can be quite striking and even a little bit Alice in Wonderland-esque (in the best possible way). Sure, not something you may want in your bedroom, but it could be loads of fun in a powder room. To wit, a few great examples of "tented" bathrooms from domino:

I particularly love Stephen Shubel's crisp black and white striped bath. I'd throw in a few kelly green accents though in homage to Miles Redd's fantastic green, black and white kitchen.

Sara Story

This is a room that's been in my inspiration files for a long time. I love how the purple ceiling highlights the high ceilings, drawing the eye upwards and keeping the focus away from the narrowness of the room. Subtle hits of purple accessories brings the color down, tying the ceiling into the rest of the otherwise neutral room.

Amanda Nisbet

If you're new to the world of decorative ceilings, you really can't go wrong with a very light blue (especially if your walls are white). The effect is subtle, but stunning. This is also a classic ceiling color for a porch as the light blue mimics the sky.

Kelley Interior Design

As one of the many devotees of Turquoise in the design world, I love how Kelley Proxmire has pulled the color out of the upholstery and used it on the ceiling (albeit in a less intense tone). The soft turquoise ceiling highlights the high ceilings and only serves to intensify the hue on the accessories and soft furnishings.

Kishani Perera

I'm so glad purple is "in" again in design -- it's such a rich hue and a great alternative to red. In this bedroom, Kishani brilliantly uses three versions of the same purple on the walls, starting with a deep, intense aubergine below the chair rail and finishing with a light and subtle lavender for the ceiling. Keeping the darkest shade on bottom is a great way to ground your room and make your ceilings look higher. To get the tones right, I'd simply select two or three shades from the same color strip at your local paint store; that way, you're sure to get a perfect match. I'm thinking of stealing this idea myself and have my ceiling in my study painted in a pale lavender, to highlight the moldings and coordinate with the aubergine walls.

So what do you think? Are ceilings the new frontier in design?

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