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Wake Up the Fifth Wall: Thinking Beyond White for Ceiling Color

[Updated: Jul 27, 2020 ] May 17, 2020 by Marc Rapport
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Interior designers and others in the know may refer to the ceiling as the fifth wall, but it's often a space that's overlooked by many when it's time to decorate.

White ceilings have been so standard for so long that some might think it's the only option.

But the ceiling typically accounts for one-sixth of a room's surface area, and its color should be considered as carefully as any other surface in the room.

When considering, you should think about the type of atmosphere you want to create in your space.

The classic choice

So, let's talk about the obvious choice first: the white ceiling. It's a good choice for many reasons. White ceilings tend to disappear in a room, and you tend to forget about them. This may make decorating your space easier, too.

White ceilings are particularly effective for small rooms, since they can make spaces seem bigger. They can also hide cracks and imperfections well, so they don't have to be repainted often.

White ceilings can also offer a sharp contrast between the wall and ceiling, which means that attention is drawn to where the wall and ceiling meet. If you have features that you want to draw attention to, like crown molding, this can be a great way to do it.

A bold choice

Feeling bold? Think about painting your walls and ceilings the same color. Carrying the wall color up to the ceiling can create a cozy, all-encompassing experience in your space.

Traditional decorating thought may suggest that this can make a small room feel smaller. However, having the same paint color on your ceiling and walls can be particularly inviting in small spaces, like bathrooms and studies, if you want to create a cozy and inviting space.

To visually break up your space, you can incorporate contrasting colors in your decorating. For instance, if you have a warm gray room, you can add bright white furniture.

And, if you have a room that's oddly shaped, such as a ceiling with multiple angles, painting the walls and ceilings the same color can make the room feel more cohesive.

Lighter ceilings: a balancing act

If you aren't ready to commit to one color for all your walls and your ceiling, you can also consider painting your ceiling the same color as your walls, but several shades lighter.

Ceilings tend to catch shadows and look darker than the walls that frame them. Painting your ceiling a few shades lighter than your walls can negate this effect while still creating a cohesive look in your space.

Accent ceilings: the new accent walls

To really spice things up, you might paint your ceiling a bright, bold color. In that case, think of your ceiling as an accent wall. This strategy works particularly well when walls are a neutral color, like a light gray. To really bring the whole look together, incorporate your new bold ceiling color into your decorating.

So, have you been ignoring your room's fifth wall? Maybe it's time to elevate your space and your room design by upgrading your ceiling. This can have a huge impact on your space and your home's attractiveness to others, too, if the plan is to sell or rent.

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