When I was a little girl, I loved visiting my great-aunt's home— a former NSO decorator's show house — where one bathroom's soaring ceiling had been painted Sistine chapel-style with clouds and angels hovering overhead. That was the early nineties, and so while today I'm no longer considering cherubs in my powder room, I still love the idea of adding something special and unexpected to the often neglected 5th wall. There is something magical about it when done right, especially in small spaces like hallways, powder rooms, and closets.
The key is picking the right pattern and the right room. A large room with low ceilings can look as if the ceiling is closing in when saturated with too much color or pattern. However, in a smaller room with equally low ceilings the look can be pulled off more easily. This holds especially true if the ceiling's pattern and color are lighter than the walls, because the ceiling is better balanced by the other elements of the room. The best results, though, come in rooms with lofty ceilings. Pattern naturally attracts the eye, and will visually lower the ceiling.
As you can see from the pictures, there are as many looks for your ceilings as there are patterns and colors.
• picture 1. A more traditional pattern on the ceiling gives the industrial modern kitchen a pleasing and unexpected warmth.
• picture 2.-4. Special attention was given to nearly all the ceilings at the 2010 DC Design House. The first is Nestor Santa-Cruz's sitting room, in which he covered up a celestial ceiling mural with an earthy hue but kept the raised molding for elegant impact. The second is Sarah Wessel's solarium. She brought the classic front porch ceiling look inside to give the Solarium a strong connection to the outdoors. The third is Basha White's elegant dining room in which she painted the ceiling a subtle but elegant metallic hue to give the dining room, which is a pass-through to the living room, its own distinction.
• picture 5., 6. Stripes! Jenna Lyon's son's room (5) may be one of the most popular examples of a painted ceiling, but I couldn't help including it here yet again. The vibrant yellow and peppy stripes relieve the dark walls from being too sophisticated or oppressive. Wider stripes that taper can play up an angled ceiling for a whimsical effect (6).
• picture 7., 8., 9. While wallpapering the ceiling is no small task, it is a sure way to add impact, even in the sweetest of rooms. Pick a contrasting pattern from the walls (7, 8) or continue the wallpaper from walls right up like Celerie Kemble did in a Palm Beach bedroom (9).
• picture 10. As we discussed earlier, small rooms can handle a lot of pattern. Take this bite size bathroom from Om home which the talented owners personalized with their own bold pattern and color extending from wall to ceiling.