The Simplest Way to Add Charm and Character to Your Home Requires Looking Up at the Ceiling

published Jan 12, 2023
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Tara Carney Northern Florida House Tour - Bedroom
Credit: Tara Carney

New construction (whether rented or owned) can be a breath of fresh air — appliances that work, windows and hinges that aren’t painted shut, and floors that have yet to see a pet accident or scratchy furniture feet. On the other hand, newer homes can also be bland, white boxes. If minimalism isn’t your thing and you’ve found yourself in a spot like this, maybe you’re already on a journey of dressing your space up and making it feel a little more special. A house or apartment without architectural interest is never a lost cause, as so many ways to inject character and charm into a space exist.

Tara Carney, for example, added molding to every room in her Florida ranch house to create the look of a traditional Parisian, English, or pre-war New York home. The spaces now feature crown molding, the walls sport picture frame trim, and classic board-and-batten paneling abounds. Perhaps the easiest way to feign original character, though? Showing the fifth wall a little love with a ceiling medallion or two, and that’s just what Carney has done.

Credit: Tara Carney

Usually round in shape, a ceiling medallion is a decorative detail added around the base of a light fixture for visual interest. Once custom-made for Victorian homes, they’re widely available now at home improvement stores and online and can be made from a variety of materials like plaster, plastic, wood, and steel — which means they also range in price. They vary greatly in detail, too, from small, simple concentric circle designs to show-stopping pieces with intricate renderings of flowers and leaves or classic Italian and Greek motifs. “Ceiling medallions are such a fun, easy, and unique way to add character and charm,” Carney says. “I used them with some pendant lights in our bedroom over our nightstands, which I’ve never seen done before, and I just love that little unique spin.”

Another reason Carney’s home is worth calling out for its collection of ceiling medallions: They aren’t only in the living room or dining room; they’re just about everywhere — adding a touch of charm and polish to lights big and small — and they’re not all the same either. She’s matched her main, fancier overhead chandeliers (and even a modern ceiling fan!) with more detailed designs, while the smaller pendants in her place are paired with plainer pieces.

Credit: Tara Carney

While ceiling medallions are certainly a fitting addition to an ornate, traditional home, they can also add character to a home decorated in a more transitional style. The good news is they’re usually easy to install and can be made totally renter-friendly with the exclusion of pin nails or adhesive. For some installations, you’ll need to remove the light fixture, position the medallion, and tighten the fixture back onto the ceiling, holding the medallion in place (and using an adhesive if you choose to). Others come in two or more parts, so they fit snugly around the base of a fixture without the need for rewiring.