The No. 1 Paint Rule Leanne Ford Almost Always Breaks (You Should, Too!)

published Jun 13, 2024
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Leanne Ford leaning against kitchen cabinets with whitewash oak shaker doors.
Credit: Photography: Erin Kelly, Styling: Hilary Robertson

Some designers take design rules very seriously, and that’s all well and good. They can be a great starting point for digging into a decorating project. But for celeb designer Leanne Ford, they’re guidelines, sure, but all the better to be broken. Because that’s where decorating magic sometimes gets made — where you can tap into the potential of what could be if you weren’t afraid to turn things upside down. One rule that Ford consistently breaks? When opting for colored walls versus her usual white, she almost always paints a room’s ceiling in the same shade as the walls but in a slightly higher sheen. This throws out the notion that a ceiling paint has to be flat white, which has been the conventional design wisdom for at least as long as I can remember. 

Thing is, though, Ford isn’t just doing this for sport. It’s her own version of color drenching, and it works wonders in making a given room feel softer, more complete, and just a tiny bit bigger even. Where a white ceiling can seem stark against darker or bolder walls, matching the ceiling shade to the walls erases that contrast, creating a soothing visual that’s relaxing to the eye and you can almost feel when you walk through the door. It doesn’t read like you forgot the fifth wall, either, but instead chose to carefully consider it by varying the sheen ever so slightly. And therein lies the illusion. The little bit of shine added to the ceiling shade, Ford says, creates a subtle deviation from the walls that draws the eye upward. This trick has a bit of an opening up effect as well, making a smaller room appear a little airier, thanks to the sheen’s reflectiveness.

Credit: Design by Leanne Ford Interiors, Photography by Erin Kelly

You can see these effects at work in this recently designed nursery by Ford that’s outfitted with products from her baby and kids line with Crate & Barrel. Here, breaking the white ceiling rule meant carrying Behr’s Vintage Charm, a neutral mauve chosen by her sister-in-law, up from the walls. The resulting look has a calming, cocoon-like effect that’s perfect for any bedroom, for a newborn or otherwise. 

So the next time you aren’t sure what to do with your ceiling, consider being a rule breaker like Ford with this easy paint trick. As it turns out, sometimes the rules are meant to be broken!