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.
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.
More: For more on applying texture, see this article I did for The Home Depot’s Pro Referral Network – How to Texture a Ceiling.
exposed floor joists
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!
by Affordable Remodeling ||
… 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.
via Donna Frasca, Color Expert
* When to Consider Painting your Ceiling something other than White
Per Donna, 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
* Kitchen Ceiling Medallion Detail
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!
* On Style – Flicking Your Collar Up
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.
For much more on Painting, even How to Select Exterior Paint Colors, please stick around and click. ~jb
12 thoughts on “The 5th Wall :: aka Looking Up & Looking Back – What to Paint the Ceiling?”
FYI: We are all in on the accent ceiling paint too! It’s not for everyone, but makes a great statement in the right place!
Thanks for taking us on about the white ceilings – We love the challenge!
I know, we all love accents. A super vid I thought, super presentation. And if anything I am thankful it stirred my juices – but painting the ceiling white has been such a no thought decision for so long, the idea of doing anything else had me, well, a little worked up. It had me thinking that perhaps white on a ceiling MIGHT be just another trend heading out the door, when in fact new options should be viewed as such, new options, and liberating – despite any gut reaction. It should always be about what works best, room by room and case by case. Again guys my sincere thanks for allowing me to include and thanks for swinging by. ~jb :~)
Love these color convo’s! Ceilings are a big deal. People just don’t know what to do with that 5th wall but thanks for sharing this information. Hope it helps your clients.
I think I meander in this post a bit. my point was (I think) yes I have often gone with white, and for some reason I feel like I need to defend that. But white in this case is not just the absence of choice. It really is just what is right for many rooms. More thought as you suggest needs to go in if there are other ceiling details present. I do truly love the coffered room you styled. thanks for sharing it and thanks for being a go to source on this.
I think you made a good point JB. If you have a plain, flat ceiling sometimes white is best. Most of my clients have coffered ceilings as seen in that blue living room, so it’s good to feature it with a color.
it’s fun to note the trim on the ceiling is still painted in white, and my guess is the room overall wouldn’t have the same impact without it. It’s also probably pretty important to note that you probably wouldn’t want to put all that trim on the ceiling unless it is at least above 9 foot tall. in shorter rooms, a coffered ceiling might feel a bit oppressive.
Oh you hit my hot button on this one. Ceilings are so often the “forgotten” wall in the room because in a room full of color they paint it white! Eeek. I won’t cross promote but I’ve posted on this before.
Historically white was used…when we only had candles and gas lamps so it needed to be reflective. White is great if and this is a big IF it coordinates with the rest of what is going on in a room. Can not have all navy walls, a colored floor and a white ceiling – it makes the room physically unsettling because one’s eyes bounce to and from the ceiling. The reverse doesn’t work either.
Color anywhere has to make sense, never a just because I like that color. :)
Donna is so right when she says to hold the paint chip as you are going to see it. This makes a huge difference.
If you hadn’t guessed L I’m a proponent of the white as it works in *most* cases. But I certainly don’t agree with just mindlessly slapping paint up. Excellent little tidbits here. thanks for popping over and thanks so much for sharing your expertise too. This reminds me … I need to dig a pic from my dad’s home office out. He did a Deep Green Wall (drawing a blank on the name right now) with the Ultra Bright White on the ceiling. It really worked out fantastically.
We have all-white ceilings but I love the idea of something different in certain rooms … a media room begs for a dark ceiling, right?
hi Randi. Media Rooms are of course a unique example, and you make an outstanding point. I know I have done at least one where the ceiling was a midnight blue. Wonder what someone like Donna would say about going say full black. cheers and thanks. ~jb
I guess it would mostly depend on the tastes of the client. For traditional folks, white or a shade of white is probably the safest bet. If a client is looking for a bold statement, a color on the ceiling could do the trick.
Good point. thanks for chiming in. cheers.