The 5th Wall :: aka Looking Up & Looking Back … What to Paint the Ceiling
Some Call the Ceiling the 5th Wall and, Sorry, It Should be Painted White.
Well . . .
When I check my files for some of the ceilings I’ve done, I realize most don’t usually have a ton of detail. Maybe some crown, a light fixture or two, the basics and in white … and so what?
I’ve never done anything coffered and I’ve certainly never installed a tray ceiling. Sure I admire these details … when I see them, and actually, I have been around as a few were going in.
I will say – I have done a few ceilings in paneling: some in cedar, and some in pine. Actually, I did the entire second floor of our first home (technically our second) in a beaded pine. It was a nice detail, at the time.
I’ve also left exposed floor joists, with the corresponding underside of second-floor flooring … in a few houses. But I have also ripped out faux beams. I have dabbled in texture, and I am even proud of the classic stipple that came with this current house. Wouldn’t dream of touching that. I can say the same exact thing about the tin ceiling we found in our first kitchen too.
… I did this detail at the ceiling fan in our current kitchen.1
Is it great? No … it’s okay, probably a little out of scale, I could have probably selected a better ceiling fan, maybe, or flipped the fan blades over. Plus I still have to do the skim work around it, as well as in other places.
Maybe it gets some paint one day too. But notice the ceiling is, and will remain, white.
But Am I on Trend?
I mean – What are the prevailing trends with ceiling paint?
This vid from friends AK Renovations cites the continuing trend of painting ceilings not white, but rather a shade just lighter than that used on the walls.
While a fantastic vid (worth a watch in its own right), and focused mainly on kitchen trends (most I am in tune with), the idea of “continuing” the walls up onto the (unadorned) ceiling just doesn’t sit too right with me.
I mean – If you are going to talk me into adding color to a ceiling, then Okay – let’s do it. But we are gonna DO IT!
… Unless you are going balls out, flicking your collar up2 and making a statement, then forget it. Dial it (the primary surface) in with white.
Agree or No?
…. And I do know not all whites are created equal.
So I asked a Color Expert: What Color Should You Paint *Your* Ceiling?
Donna Frasca, in the post > What Color Should I Paint My Ceiling II, says, “You shouldn’t use an extra or ultra white ceiling paint color because some whites are just so white they look blue, you know, like snow does on a winter day.”
Historically I have used Duron‘s Ceiling Bright White. With Duron having since been purchased by Sherwin Williams, and strictly out of convenience, I moved to Behr or Valspar for the last few rooms I’ve done. Donna herself recently used, yep – Sherwin Williams Ceiling Bright White. I also caught the Other Man using a Ben Moore. All good options I think.
Per Donna, when to consider painting your ceiling something other than white.
When you have:
- A warm color palette and white would be just too stark. Ivory or a soft white would be perfect for a warm color palette.
- A high ceiling. Using color on a high ceiling gives the illusion and feel of a lower ceiling. (Using her point here, it makes sense that white will make a low-ish ceiling look taller.)
- On coffered or tray ceilings. “Decorative ceilings are perfect for color,” she says.
- VERY large open concept homes … you can use these colors to define space.
- As a coordinating, decorating element … such as might be required for matching drapery.
She still recommends keeping colors on a ceiling soft and light. And in this case, AK Renovation‘s vid is pretty on point.
Donna notes on selecting color for the ceiling: “You must hold your paint chip the way it’s going to be viewed on the wall. Painting your walls? Hold the paint chip vertically. Painting your ceiling? Hold your paint chip upside down just like it will be seen on your ceiling. Don’t ever hold your paint color chip flat unless you plan on painting your floor.”
That’s my rant. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks to Donna & Thanks for reading. ~jb
1 My ceiling detail in the kitchen was … “one of those things” that just kinda worked out. This room that is now our kitchen, before was a kinda parlor-type thing, and it had no built-in light. The ceiling was wallpapered and the plaster on the ceiling at the center of the room was crumbling.
So … as the story goes: when I resized the window in this room, the one that would go behind the sink, I … claimed the original wainscot that was under the original window and behind the pine paneling that was on that wall. It just worked out that the size and location of the ceiling issue was just about perfect for a fixture, or a ceiling fan, and about exactly equal in size, and amount, to the paneling I was removing from the wall. Viola!
2 Way back when I was in high school … an all-boys prep school in the eighties (I know), there was a certain style. A lot of us … dudes, with our polo shirts (or in my case, the horseless knock-off) would flick the collars of our shirts straight up.
I am not really sure where this style … originated. I mean – who started that trend? … I am pretty sure, though, I was not “an early adapter.” Still I admit – I did it … for a few years. I *ahem* cool-guyed my collar, at least until I moved on to the next, newer trend.
Now, funny thing here (and for the sake of this story) – my dad – John B. Esq, he still rocks this look (from time to time). Funny, right? And you can picture it. For him, it turns out, it wasn’t so much a trend, and that trend too wasn’t limited to preppy teenage boys either.
It was … idk … for him, something that he discovered, a way he just began doing it, and something that just fit. Maybe in a way, he assimilated it – the collar-up polo look, and it worked. A trend for many, but maybe for him – a permanent impression that forever became part of his personal style. Something that, in other words, just stuck.
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About jb bartkowiak (305 posts)
A one-time construction manager, and always handyman, turned blogger and editor - Your Home Project Assistant. My wife, Jen, and I are on our 6th property (. . . yes, together). She is a real estate agent. We have two beautiful daughters Evyn and Eva. We currently live and are restoring an 1889 farmhouse in Baltimore's Lauraville area.