SHOULD YOU ALWAYS PAINT A CEILING WHITE?
Whether or not to paint a ceiling white ultimately comes down to one question: what kind of feeling do you want to create in your space? Most of the experts we spoke to were unanimous in their view that ceilings don't always need to be white, but it seems there's still room for keeping yours in this shade, if it works for your scheme. ‘There is absolutely no reason why a ceiling should always be painted white,’ says Lisa Marconi, owner of interior design studio DesignLed. ‘I like to consciously think of the ceiling as the fifth wall: that way it encourages clients to think what shall we do with it, in the same way you would a wall. Sometimes that will mean leaving it white, but it’s important you actually choose that as a design decision, rather than just defaulting to it. For instance, if it’s a busy room with a lot of pattern and color elsewhere, it’s probably best to leave the ceiling white.’
Not all of the designers we spoke to were in agreement, however. ‘When it comes to painting the ceiling, it's very, very rare that we do a colored paint in our projects,’ says Emma Deterding, founder and creative director of Kelling Designs. ‘The reason for this is that although a colored ceiling may look gorgeous now, time will show that they really date a room. After all, would you really want a pink ceiling in five years’ time?' Instead, Emma tends to choose an off-white color in her schemes – thanks to its ability to give a greater feeling of height, light and space to a room. 'We tend to use warmer tones of off-whites as opposed to white, as they bring a warmth and cosiness with them that helps create a calm and relaxed feeling,' she adds. 'White ceilings still have a place within the home – they offer a classic and fresh look and complement numerous design schemes, and they can make a room feel taller,' says Emma Bestley, co-founder and creative director of YesColours. 'Remember to ensure that the white ceiling echoes somewhere else in the room – for example, the paintwork on the windows and doors.'
‘There is no right or wrong answer as to what color a ceiling should be painted; it all depends on the room and your preferences,' says Helen Shaw, director at Benjamin Moore. 'White can definitely give the illusion of a higher ceiling, but don't be afraid to deviate from the norm and step outside your comfort zone. Adding a deeper color, for instance, can create a cosy, cocooning atmosphere perfect for a snug whilst a pop of bright color on the ceiling of a bathroom or kids room will be eye-catching and vibrant without being overbearing.’
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT WHITE FOR YOUR CEILING
If you are choosing to paint your ceiling white, it's still crucial to pick the correct shade. 'White is great for reflecting light and creating a sense of spaciousness, and the right shade of white will do that while enhancing the whole space,' says Irene Gunter. 'You might think that finding this is a walk in the park, but in fact, the market is saturated. There’s everything from whites with cooling green or blue undertones to whites with a splash of red, pink or yellow mixed in to warm them up.' So, how to navigate this world of white paint? 'To be sure you have the winning white, I highly recommend you test samples – and lots of them!' says Irene. 'By comparing a range of whites with the color (or colors) you’ve chosen for your walls, you can truly appreciate how one white can differ from the next.'
1. TO MAKE YOUR SCHEME FEEL MORE PULLED-TOGETHER
In schemes where a white ceiling might feel jarring – against darker walls, for example – many of the experts recommended painting the ceiling in a lighter shade of that on the walls instead. And the best ceiling color in this case might be easier to find than you think.
2. TO CREATE A COCOON-LIKE SPACE
A white ceiling rarely lends itself to a truly cozy space – so instead, look to darker colors to create this effect. ‘I like to paint a ceiling in a contrasting color when we’re trying to make a room cozy or cocoon-like – especially when we’re using darker colors,’ says Lisa Marconi. ‘It just creates that wonderful feeling of being enveloped by a room.'
3. TO INCORPORATE TEXTURE INTO YOUR SPACE
If a white ceiling feels a little flat, incorporating color with a textural paint finish is a way to lift your scheme – and add a little pizzazz. ‘The ceiling can be a great place to add some glam,’ says Lisa Marconi. ‘Using a lacquered finish creates instant wow and is great if you feel having a finish like that on the walls would be too much.'
4. TO CREATE A PLAYFUL DESIGN FOR A KIDS’ ROOM
While Emma Deterding tends to steer away from colorful ceilings, the one place she will make a statement overhead is in a kid's room. ‘The ceiling is an area of a room that can often be overlooked, but with some clever design tricks, you can make a real statement from above,’ she says.
5. TO HIGHLIGHT ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS
Opting for color over white paint on your ceiling can help you make the most of period features in a room. ‘A painted ceiling can be great as a way to highlight beautiful mouldings,’ says Lisa Marconi. ‘If you’re lucky enough to have a house with gorgeous detail around the ceiling – picture rails, ceiling roses, ceiling detail – then painting above the picture rail and bringing it over the ceiling is a great way to draw the eye up to all that gorgeous detail. This works well to highlight panelling detail as well.’
6. TO PLAY WITH PAINTERLY EFFECTS
‘Another beautiful take on a creative ceiling is to play with painterly effects,' says Emma Deterding. 'Decorative paint finishes have really come along and are often the creme de la creme or the biggest cheat!' She uses the example of marble columns in stately homes – 'which you would expect to be stone but have actually been painted to look like stone.'