Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The 5th Wall: Ceilings

Ok - reposting this one because it filed by the wrong date!

The ceilings of a home can be one of the most neglected parts of the house. While we will refresh our walls, most people ignore the ceilings, or just leave it at "Ceiling White." I'm not even sure that is a true color name. Do you know that there are over 100 whites in the Benjamin Moore Color Library? Why does everyone use ceiling white? With modern construction, newer homes typically have 10' - 12' ceilings on the first floor and somewhere in the 9'-10' range on the second floor. When you have ceiling height, you have so many more choices as to what you can do - but you are more limited when you have an 8' ceiling. So of the easiest techniques can be through application of paint and trim.

There are a couple of concepts that create illusion of a higher ceiling, one is through the use of less contrast;and the other is through the use of a paint technique called "atmospheric perspective". Atmospheric perspective is a technique developed by Leonardo da Vinci to add depth to his masterpieces. It involves using progressively lighter values of a color from foreground to background, ultimately fading to a blue-grey color.

With that in mind, if you feel the need to raise your ceilings, try one of the following:
1. Paint the ceiling a percentage of the wall color - usually no more than 25%, but it will depend on the color of the walls. Because most people do not have direct or indirect light evenly illuminating their ceilings, any color placed on the ceiling is going to appear darker. By stepping it back considerably, you are countering this effect and creating distance at the same time. Painting the same color also lessens the contrast of the walls and ceilings, drawing less attention to them.

Every notice the contrast of dark walls to a ceiling white ceiling? Not that there are not times for it, but it can be stark. This photo shows the use of this concept, except with wall paper. We used a reed wallpaper on the walls and a coordinating rice paper on the ceiling. Having the 'luxury' of being under a staircase, this poor powder bath has 7' ceilings. The end affect raises the ceiling.

2. Paint the ceiling a grey or blue-grey based white. This creates a "haze" affect and is similar to the atmospheric perspective I mentioned earlier.

3. Paint out the trim to the wall color. This is not one of my favorite techniques, it seems to me to cancel out the architectural benefit of crown, but it is effective.

4. Utilize crown moulding creatively. One of my favorite techniques is to use Cove (upper portion) & Cradle (lower portion) moulding. The cove virtually lifts the ceiling. The cove portion can come in different heights, so make sure to choose the correct one for your room.

5. Create a "frieze" area on the ceiling. This has the effect of a tray ceiling, especially if you apply some of the techniques we mentioned above to paint the main section of ceiling. The trim piece applied to the ceiling does not need to be very large and should have a flat back, similar to that of the cradle. There are other things that can be done from a furnishings perspective to create height, but we will save those for another day.

Next time, fun with higher ceilings.

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