Monday, November 23, 2009

Paint the ceilings white?


My friend Mara is doing a major remodel and it’s time to start painting. She and her designer want to paint the ceilings colors similar to the wall color of each room. Maybe just a lighter shade. Her husband thinks the ceilings should be white.

Who’s right? Discuss. Let’s settle this dispute before it leads to divorce.

79 comments:

Susan said...

I have enjoyed having our ceiling several shades lighter than the walls (sometimes twice as light), but not white. Sometimes the ceiling can "read" white even if it is actually a lighter shade of another color.

aimeewrites said...

I guess I don't think either of them is "right," but I'm definitely in the Paint the Ceiling (!!!) camp, myself. The whole room looks so much more finished to me, and less like a temporary living space.

kate salenfriend said...

I've seen ceilings in a mere whisper of a color like the sky as well as ceilings that are done in a dark, saturated color. Both can be fabulous. What I don't think works is some pastel-y crap. White is fine, but if you're already up to your knees in fabulous, god man, just do it! (plus you can put it back to white if one really doesn't like it)

Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

I like white ceilings myself, but maybe they could compromise by using colored ceilings in the larger living areas to make it feel cozier, and using white ceilings in the smaller rooms.

Sharon said...

Paint the ceilings! Paint the ceilings! I believe that unless a white ceiling is an intentional part of a room design a white ceiling can make a room seem not quite complete. A ceiling painted a color to complement the room can help the room feel much more finished.

Anonymous said...

The turquoise ceiling in that picture is so decorator-y.

(Not a compliment.)

Stevie said...

I used to have high, coved ceilings and arched entryways a strip of moulding about a foot below the coved ceilings in my wonderful old Capitol Hill apartment. I painted a neutral taupe color below the moulding and painted the ceiling a color similar to the one in your picture. I absolutely LOVED it and got tons and tons of compliments on it. It's not the conventional way to go, but it is a really nice accent.

Abigail said...

I would be delighted if my ceilings were either of those two options. Flip a coin.

Elizabeth said...

I actually tend to like white ceilings, but I'm also a fan of doing them in the same color as the wall but at 25% strength (any decent paint store can mix this for you easily, it's just 75% less pigment.) It tends to read as white with lighter/more neutral colors, but can make things feel more cohesive. It also sets off crown molding really nicely if you have it.

Dramatic ceilings can obviously be super hot, but it's definitely a look so you have to be comfortable with that.

Anonymous said...

Two words: Gray Lake BM21380-70
Yummy!

susan said...

Paint the lids with care and consideration. White should be a choice not a necessity.

bagelbrookefarm said...

ceilings and walls the same color! always a more finished look, unless you are going to paint clouds and putti on that blue dome, which also can be special, if your name is sixtus.

The Blasphemous Fiendess said...

The ceilings look undone if they are white unless they are textured or finished in tin or very architectural.

Evita said...

My mother painted the ceilings in the living/tv rooms on their old house a shade darker than the wall paint. I loved it and hope to incorporate it when we're permanently settled.

I would be more than happy to supply photos!

Byron B. said...

I paint many of my ceilings "White-ish", but never grab a can of "Ceiling White" from the shelf--it looks too contractor-ry.
A white with a bit of pink in it warms the room, especially if the walls are in the khaki range. A white with a bit of blue in it will up your cool factor if you;re going for a more chic look.

Anonymous said...

I prefer a white ceiling as I like the contrast between the walls and the ceiling.

Chelsea said...

We currently have our bedroom ceilings painted the same color as the walls and it's miserable. It was this way when we moved in and we still haven't changed it. Everything has an eerie green glow to it (the color of the walls) that doesn't flatter.

We painted the ceiling in one of the bedrooms white in preparation for repainting the room and the difference it's made is night and day.

WHITE ALL THE WAY.

SheriB said...

Painting the ceilings is a bitch but I do like it when they're a lighter shade of the wall color.

my favorite and my best said...

i think they both work. however i would push in the direction of shiny either way.

Kevin said...

Give the poor man his balls back. If he wants white ceilings so bad, build the damn decoration scheme around that.

Julie K said...

Your photo example shows why a painted ceiling is a great way to shake things up. Go for it!

bagelbrookefarm said...

i had ceilings darker than walls in an east facing apartment years ago, and it was very chic, but a bit oppressive after dark.

ceilings do reflect down into the room, and most greens are bad for that. there's the perfect argument for white over the green.

Quatorze said...

Take the wall color and cut it with white about 50/50 or even until it is a whisper of the wall color, as Kate Salenfriend noted. She will get a finished look and color continuity, he will have a light ceiling that will read as "white", assuming the walls are not a saturated color like red or cobalt. For me, I would go with a Gracie tea paper in antiqued silver; elegance, drama, subtlety, color and light all in one treatment.

Abbie said...

I had to laugh because when we bought our townhouse, all of the ceilings were painted. It took 3 years before we finally covered the bright blue ceiling in the guest room with white-- to our credit, the room was originally painted in 5(!) different shades of blue, so we had had enough. We did leave the kitchen ceiling as is... a very, very pale green that mimics the green walls. You almost can't tell it's painted.

Penelope Bianchi said...

Hey Kevin! "give the man his balls back"???
Is the husband a decorator?? YIKES!! Let the husband decide to paint the ceiling white....is giving his balls back? Who took them? and where did they go? That is ridiculous!!!! He is wrong! His balls get to stay if he is overruled!!

I am a decorator.....over 40 years now....never one white ceiling....against my religion.
The color depends totally on the room; the light.....etc....no rule fits all rooms.

Generally.....a pale blue is good....sky....(God or whoever knew what he/she was doing); or the wall color cut by a half of white.

It is all wrong the way it is.....the husband is right about that part. I don't like the color on the walls.....either. Paint everything over. Paint is magic. and there is a book titled that. Nothing changes things more than paint. (for better; and for worse)!

Just my opinion......people have been paying me way too much for way too long....so I assume some people are interested in hearing it!!

Penelope

Anonymous said...

"i would push in the direction of shiny"

Disagree, unless you have a master wall repairer/painter who can get the surface super smooth, and erase all possible irregularities, like the outlines of wallboard tape, etc. Otherwise shiny paint is just going to call attention to every single defect.

Anonymous said...

"Hey Kevin! 'give the man his balls back'??? Is the husband a decorator??"

Hey Penelope! some people don't want their house to look like some decorator went through it.

Rosie said...

White. Its a conversation/argument that doesn;t even need to be had. White.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Until I know precisely why her husband is dead-set on white, I'm with Mara. I find white ceilings too abrupt.

Anonymous said...

Penny,

Doesn't this statement:

"never one white ceiling....against my religion"

Contradict this one:

"no rule fits all rooms"
?

Tara Dillard said...

Just hired an interior decorator. She went for painted ceilings matching the walls.

22 years of white ceilings.

Can't wait to begin.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Wendy said...

Do any of these opinions change if one is working with a room without cove ceilings or crown molding?

Anonymous said...

White, white...no. A warm white to compliment the walls and the trim...yes. But the answer really depends on the house: are the rooms closed off from each other or open concept? How is the light? What "feeling" are they going for? What else is going to be on the ceiling...lights, molding, etc.? I like warm white ceilings for my house because it is mostly open concept and unifies the wall color from space to space. But, I would not have been adverse to doing a color on the ceiling of my living room because that room is off by itself and decorated in a "cozy", library style.

Kate F. said...

I believe in white ceilings for most normal-height rooms. But if you have fabulously high ceilings (like the Domino photo on the post) or you want lots of drama or a cozier feel, paint away. We have 9-foot ceilings and I went with white to keep from feeling closed in.

reclamationdesign@yahoo.com said...

Well that's the question isn't it. I think ceilings in a color are great, but without the direction of an interior designer, I just wouldn't know what to do and I wouldn't be able to handle it. It's hard enough to pick a wall color, but at least there you know you can easily repaint if you hate it. But I find painting/repainting ceilings very unpleasant, so the prospect of a redo doesn't work for me. BUT I always paint the bathroom and kitchen ceilings cause I live in NY and they are like 2 ft by 2 ft., so what can you hurt. I even paint patterns on the ceiling and I love it.

B said...

We have both in our house, and I prefer the one room that we painted a color. Our bedroom has pale blue walls with a light, creamy trim color. We painted the ceiling the same color of the trim with a flat finish, and it looks great.

A pretty nice little Saturday said...

I agree with a few here that there isn't necessarily a "right" way, but my personal preference is for some color. This is particularly because I love white crown molding, and I love how having a ceiling and walls with color make the molding stand out even more. I prefer to keep the ceiling color light though.

severedgrrl said...

I am a big believer of painting celings different colors, particularly if there is crown moulding involved. I've done everything from a very very pale grey with muted green walls, to gold with deep blue walls. But I do like crown moulding to be white....

The Sale Rack said...

i love that robin's egg blue in the picture

Anonymous said...

My painter always uses "Decorator White" (stupid name) on the ceiling and it looks great. Not abrupt, just right.

There are tons of soft whites out there.

MoreSkinnyDays said...

I think it's interesting that this is a ceiling question and not a room-by-room question. When I think about ceilings I picture three types: orange-peel on drywall 80s construction with sharp corners and completely lacking in character, lovely coved ceilings sometimes set off by crown molding, or something entirely different and custom. Each one of these would warrant a different answer. In any case, wouldn't the color be factored into each of these scenarios

Silvita said...

THE CEILING MUST TO BE WHITE!
THIS GIVES LUMINOSITY AND A SENSE OF UNITY TO THE ENTIRE HOUSE.
PAINT THE ROOMS IN GORGEOUS COLORS, BUT LET THE HOUSE BE AN ARMONIC PLACE TO LIVE, INSTEAD OF A POTPOURRI.
AND YOU CAN FIND A NICE TONE OF WHITE TO FEEL THAT THE WORK IS FINISHED.

Anonymous said...

my husband felt the same way, but i feel the ceiling white is ugly and cold. I used SW antique white and he loves it. to the eye it reads white but it doesn't have that blue tint that I hate. It is warm and gives the room that finished look.

Jane said...

I like to use a lighter shade than the wall paint or mix the wall paint with white to tone it down. If you have coloured walls and a white ceiling then the eye is drawn to the line of contrast and therefore the height and boundary of the room. Blurring this line by using a lighter colour can make the room appear larger.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sick of white ceilings.

Kristin said...

I had this exact same arguement last year with my husband....and with that exact same photograph from domino magazine. I lost and the ceiling is painted white...but now that I see that picture again I wonder if I would be sick of it already...plus that wall color is a little bland...we settled on pigeon grey walls and white ceilings...very scandinavian and less trendy...unless you can get the painters back in two years I would go with white...more classic and does make the room feel cleaner. hope this helps...I do not miss these arguements but I guess everyone goes through them.

Anonymous said...

"Until I know precisely why her husband is dead-set on white, I'm with Mara."

The husband's "precise" reason is probably: "I like it."

The Snapdragon Inn said...

We chose to go white with our ceilings to go with all our white crown. I wasn't sure about it but it looks dynamite up against the colors of the walls--nice clean lines and contrast. Really like the way it has turned out. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We have 8 colors in our 4,000 sq ft home. The ceilings and crown moldings are all painted French White by Benjamin Moore. Love the way it looks--dreamy.

Christina said...

I love it when we all get so impassioned about...paint.

I remember that pic from Domino...I loved it then and I love it now. I think doing something unconventional, like the blue ceiling and the walls and moulding all painted the same color, is interesting and beautiful and yet totally up to the person who lives in that space day after day.

Try a few combinations and see what appeals to your eye...then go for it!

Anonymous said...

Painting the ceiling a color isn't a new idea, it's been done for centuries. White is the standard because:
* it reflects the light
* doesn't make the room feel like a cave
AND
* like a previous poster mentioned...color on the ceiling can cast a strange color on everything that walls alone won't.

That said, even though most of my ceilings are white, I have one with a faint color. "Borrowed Light" by Farrow and Ball. It's in the recessed panels of my dining room's coved ceiling and framed with white beams. It's a big room with a lot of light, so it works.

Anonymous said...

White, or a shade close to it. Shiny is a bad idea. It shows every crack and bump, ceilings should be flat.

Iheartfashion said...

Lots of designers advocate painting the ceilings white with just a bit of the wall color mixed in.

Kristin said...

I am curious as to how people feel about trim and the ceiling. A few people mentioned that they like the contrast between white trim and a colored ceiling. My thought is that the molding would look like it's slapped on between the wall and the ceiling instead of being part of them. Ugh. I'm typing with one finger and it's hard to construct a useful image. What I'm trying to ask is shouldn't the ceiling match the crown molding? Or the crown molding match the wall? I'm trying to figure out what to do with my walls, molding, and ceiling and am afraid that if each is a different color, everything will look off.

Anonymous said...

"Blurring this line by using a lighter colour can make the room appear larger."

I get tired of all these "Let's make the room look larger" tricks (another: Hanging curtains way above the actual window frame). It feels like status anxiety, this need to try to make rooms look larger. What about being honest, and decorating in such a way that says: "This is the room, this is the size it is, I'm not going to pretend I have 12 foot ceilings--I have 8 foot ceilings and they're fine."

Condo Blues said...

Paint the ceilings! I have 8 ft walls and painted the ceilings in my bathrooms the same color as the wall color. It really opened up the rooms and made them appear larger.

The only rooms I've left the ceilings white are on my first floor. They are textured ceilings and a PITA to paint. I want to kick my builder in the shins - hard for giving me textured ceilings. They should be outlawed.

gayhooker said...

Personally, the only colors I prefer on top of me are black or white.

Anonymous said...

Open floor plan? One color for walls and ceiling and please keep it light and matte.

Clearly segmented rooms? Do what you please as often as you can. You can close doors to hide mistakes.

Painting your own ceilings is good for your triceps and shoulder muscles. If you take up the habit, you'll prevent that 'looking-for-spare-change' posture as you age and people won't rub your hump for luck.

I once used antique white for all surfaces. Then I tried it on an old farmhouse I was trying to sell. The living room and dining room looked freezing cold (expensive heating bills). I repainted the walls with a champagne white and it warmed the house, but antique white ceilings made the walls look pink and matronly. I repainted the ceilings to match the walls and the pink faded to a richer champagne that read as cream.

Tara.Fields said...

Bachelor's bedroom in his new-top-him 1928 condo in funky SE Portland (Hawthorne District), 2 south-facing windows, 9' ceilings, has trouble sleeping and only does bed-related activities in there (no home office, no sitting area). Mid-to-dark tone blue ceiling and picture rail-at-crown-height with mid-to-light tone blue walls both colors inspired by bedding. SOO soothing and relaxing in there, as well as masculine. He'll have light-blocking curtains and hopefully many more good nights' sleep. So yeah, it all depends on your taste and how you use your room, right?

LB said...

I'd say it depends on the color of the walls, trims, and doors.

I have a friend who painted the walls one shade of nice dark blue and the ceilings a slightly lighter shade. It looked great.

Anonymous said...

I gladly employ any tricks that work for creating the illusion of higher ceilings, more space -- not because I have status anxiety, but for my own enjoyment & relaxation. I tend to be claustrophobic, yet happily live in a tiny little house knowing I'm living within my means, managing a smaller carbon footprint, etc. Our rooms are small with 8' ceilings max - I've hung airy white, woven curtains high as possible on walls painted mostly light colors with a few bright accent walls for interest. I like to think of such "tricks" not as vanity, but as using good design sense for solutions to the parameters of our modern world.

home before dark said...

At first I thought I wanted an all white house. Room by room I am giving way to color. My favorites so far: my small folly of a library with metallic gold and my office painted a deep green/teal to match the upholstered walls. I think white ceilings in rooms painted another color has been the status quo for a long time. People who are not creative think white ceilings look just fine. People who have a strong color sense, or imagination can see other possibilities. While ceilings are a PITA to paint (even with 6'5" husband who can paint without an extension pole) in the end, it's only paint. Try something new. Live with it for a while and then make up your mind. My next project is to paint the ceiling (and walls of my my second floor landing black!

Quatorze said...

In answer to the question, the "correct" manner is to paint ceiling moldings the color of the wall, since it was meant to "read" architecturally as a column, supporting the ceiling. Many people, especially the English, paint all the "trim" to match and do the walls and ceilings differently. I the 18th century, black baseboards ruled, to take the abuse of mops and such. That all being said, do what you love.

Kwana said...

I love how people are always so absolute on this blog. Feels so American Red/Blue state. My opinion is go for the white. A nice soft white that's easy on the eye. Thanks for this post. Gave me a chance to walk though my house and look at all my white ceilings, which I hardly notice, and decide I really need to spruce them up. Happy Thanksgiving.

Anonymous said...

"What I'm trying to ask is shouldn't the ceiling match the crown molding? Or the crown molding match the wall?"

Kristin 7:30 PM,

You can make the ceiling match the molding in color, and still have a subtle difference between the two. Paint the ceiling with latex paint in a matte or low-gloss finish, and paint the molding in the same color but with an oil-based paint in a semi- or high-glossy finish.

Anonymous said...

I think crown molding should match the ceiling.
Ours does. But the ceiling is in eggshell french white and the crown is in high gloss french white. Great look. The walls in the house are mostly taupe, mushroom, mauve & creamy & soft warm colors.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of white ceilings, but then again I'm a fan of bright white walls. I know it doesn't work in every house, but there are so many awful wall colors thanks to HGTV etc., it makes me long for the days when everyone had white walls and crisp white ceilings.

Jesse Lu said...

i'd normally say white, but that icy ceiling you posted looks lovely.

maison21 said...

the problem here is not the paint color, but why anyone would ever even consider paying attention to a straight man's paint color opinions?

wifey, decorator, do as you wish. hubby, butt out and be happy with a leather sofa and a wide screen tv in the den.

Jane said...

Status anxiety?? We're talking about how paint colours can enhance a room are we not? I call it 'decorating'.

Anonymous said...

"People who are not creative think white ceilings look just fine."

Another generalization that is full of shit.

Anonymous said...

I have 10 foot ceilings in my farmhouse victorian. I have bright gloss white trim throughout the house. I did my ceilings in gloss white and painted out the wall color or wallpaper in a large rectangle on the ceilings. I love the look. The white brightens the ceiling but having the wall color or paper makes the room pop. I also love how it showcases all my chandeliers.

Anonymous said...

I have 10 foot ceilings in my farmhouse victorian. I have bright gloss white trim throughout the house. I did my ceilings in gloss white and painted out the wall color or wallpaper in a large rectangle on the ceilings. I love the look. The white brightens the ceiling but having the wall color or paper makes the room pop. I also love how it showcases all my chandeliers.

Anonymous said...

"We're talking about how paint colours can enhance a room are we not? I call it 'decorating'."

It's naive to think that decorating "enhancements" take place in a vacuum, and are never colored by social considerations.

Penelope Bianchi said...

I am responding to "anonymous" to this post in order.

#1
I agree...it is so decoratorey......and you are so so right. frightful. I am a decorator....I found it hateful and beastly.
#2 often used quote by painters...."contrast" (who said anything about the walls?)
#3. wow. will look up that paint color!
#4 there are people who call themselves......."The Blasphemous Fiendess"!! and you guys remain anonymous? Please reconsider.
#5 living room cozy! which one are YOU?
#6 Good question. However....it does not contradict. The first sentence is "white ceilings are against my religion.". Absolutely true. Next sentence: color depends on the architecture. "No white ceilings" is in the first sentence.
That is a Given. What color the ceilings are is dependent on the architecture and light in the room. White is never an option.

"no white ceilings" is an absolute rule in my world. (by the way.....bravo Sharon!!)

ps Kevin.....he won't survive. You have very good intentions....it won't work. (A guy is going to the carpet about the ceilings?......I just hope there aren't any children involved.)

No one has to join my world. It is by referral only.

AAL intervened......wonderfully......good job! trying to make peace...

anonymous # 7
Believe me, anonymous #7; I never leave a house I have worked on look like a "decorator just ran through it!" Not even once in 40 years!

anonymous #8 I think I skipped you!

You with the "borrowed light" idea! BRAVO!! 80% of my ceilings ....that is the color! BRAVO!!!! Why are you anonymous?

Anonymous # 9
(and they are not in order)
Your husband thought it was white...you are a genius. good for you. There are many people who have "rules in their heads" that really are just that.

You did a ceiling....that was NOT white....that made your husband happy..
You didn 't "fool him"! You just gave him what you both wanted.!
Anon # 10 why oh why not some "handle" nickname.....something?

Your "warm white suggestion" is great! Not what I would do;
but it is sure a far cry from plain "white"! Good job!


You get the idea....(it is astonishing how many comments were about ceilings!) I just beg the anonymous to come out of their closets....and have some nickname.

we won't come to your house or call you on the phone....

it is just plain too confusing!

Penelope....aka Penny Bianchi

decorator....for 40 years.....don't even know the littlest scratch of all there is to know!

But love every single day I wake up and get to do this!

ps if you are curious about me....google "Penny Bianchi" in quotes.....you can see my house; my chickens...dogs....cats......in 2002! We still live in the same house....now we have a couple of peacocks.....in addition to the chickens!

the chickens have feathers on their feet!

Anonymous said...

http://s3.amazonaws.com/atimg/939130/isabella-inwood-04_rect540.jpg

It's from AT and I wouldn't do it, but it looks great.

Mara said...

So we painted them just a shade lighter than the Danville Tan and Whitall Brown of the walls and it is FABULOUS! Even my husband said so (rest easy Kevin, balls are back.)
Thanks all - the verdict is in and it is Paint it All. (Next time I'd love to go a shade darker than the other 4 - crazy!)

Anonymous said...

Luvses me some non-white ceiling. Matter of fact, the gorgeous coveted gray in the Nov 20 post would be a great color for this exercise (necessarily w/white moldings, tho).

Patrick said...

Ceilings should be white. I feel the same way about color on ceilings as I do about accent walls - 99% of the time it doesn't work.