The ceiling is the fifth wall and many decorators and designers feel that keeping the ceiling white is like “throwing a sheet over the room” (Christopher Lowell said that years ago). But there are a few conditions to consider before painting the ceiling anything other than white:
1)Is your ceiling heavily textured? In many old houses, the ceiling is patterned (and God forbid, “popcorned”) and therefore very difficult to paint well. Also, painting it anything other than white will call attention to it and maybe that’s not what you want. One solution is to have your ceilings replastered to match your walls and painted, but if that’s out of the question, I would stick with white.
2)Is your ceiling a smooth plaster? If so, you should definitely paint it. How lucky you are! See below for what color.
2A)Is your ceiling really high? If so, you can paint it virtually any color that goes with the rest of the room. If you’d like to bring the ceiling down visually, consider a color darker than your wall color or a warm color (both will advance and appear to bring the ceiling down to a level that’s more in scale with your room). Also consider adding crown moulding if it’s not already there. The moulding will also bring the ceiling down by calling your eye’s attention to it. And it really finishes the room.
2B)Is your ceiling low or average height? Consider painting it a tint of the wall color. If your walls are a medium blue, then your ceiling would be the very lightest blue on the color swatch or even lighter (white with a dash of blue). This will help to round out the room and make the ceiling part of the overall decor — not just that white sheet over the top.
3)Does your room have enough light? Bright white ceilings do help bounce light back into the room so if your room is already dark, pay special attention to the ceiling color. White can be used effectively, but light tints on the ceiling will also reflect light. Just avoid a ceiling color that is going to absorb all the light and leave the room dark.
4)Are you painting a guest bath? I like to paint the wall color right up over the ceiling in a guest bathroom. Doing that makes the room feel larger by blending the walls and ceiling together and avoiding sharp lines and corners. Or do something kind of exotic on the ceiling, like the Moroccan tent (see photo above).
5)Are you painting a bedroom? In what other room do we lie around and stare at the ceiling? Why not paint it something interesting. In a bedroom, the sky’s the limit (literally) — from puffy blue clouds on a backdrop of sky blue to a quilt of squares in different colors (Candice Olson did a fabulous multi-colored geometric ceiling in a master bedroom). And in kids’ rooms, the ceiling is just one more space to use your creativity.
Hope this helps the “Do I paint the ceiling?” dilemma.