How chang­ing the ceil­ing can trans­form rooms in your home

Montreal Gazette - - New Homes + Con­dos - UR­SULA LEONOW­ICZ

Most peo­ple, when trans­form­ing a space in their homes, tend to over­look the ceil­ing, but de­sign­ers re­fer to it as the fifth wall and view a white ceil­ing as a missed op­por­tu­nity to add char­ac­ter to a room.

“I rarely leave a ceil­ing white,” said the woman for whom Mélyssa Robert De­signer is named. “At the very least I’ll paint it the same colour as the walls, to make it look and feel higher, but I also like to use wood and wall­pa­per be­cause it’s a great way to add am­bi­ence to a room and give it a unique fin­ish­ing touch.”

In­te­rior de­signer Laura Garner, a teacher at Herz­ing Col­lege and a DIY en­thu­si­ast, agreed that ceil­ings tend to get short shrift. “It’s some­thing that’s so of­ten over­looked when it comes to in­te­rior de­sign,” Garner said. “It’s the fifth wall, but 95 per cent of the time you look up and see a plain white ceil­ing.”

As for the op­tions, “the eas­i­est and least ex­pen­sive thing to do is paint,” Robert said.

“The stronger the colour, the stronger the im­pact — so de­pend­ing on your taste and the rest of the decor, any­thing is pos­si­ble.”

Garner said she’s seen a lot of kids’ rooms with ceil­ings striped in al­ter­nat­ing colours; she sug­gests al­ter­nat­ing matte and glossy paints in the same colour for an­other in­ter­est­ing ef­fect.

“If you don’t want to go so ex­treme, a re­ally soft colour on the ceil­ing — like soft pink — looks great paired with white walls. It’s sub­tle but makes the whole room glow,” she said.

If you aren’t ready for colour but want to add a lit­tle lux­ury to your space, Garner sug­gests paint­ing the ceil­ing with a white high-gloss lac­quer.

Faux fin­ishes are pop­u­lar in ceil­ings right now, Robert said, es­pe­cially ones that re­sem­ble con­crete. Al­ter­na­tively, for own­ers of new con­dos with con­crete floors, she sug­gests us­ing wood on the ceil­ing, to add warmth and char­ac­ter.

Wood pan­elling and/or beams can be in­stalled in a va­ri­ety of pat­terns to achieve a cof­fered or box beam ef­fect. A cof­fered ceil­ing is a grid of squares, rec­tan­gles or oc­tagons that are ap­plied to look like beams. Box beam ceil­ings have hol­low beams that are use­ful for light­ing, wiring and pipes.

“The rus­tic farm­house look, which is not easy to achieve in a condo in Mon­treal, can be done re­ally eas­ily by dis­tress­ing wooden beams, stain­ing them and box­ing them out on the ceil­ing, to give it di­men­sion,” Garner said.

“It’s an easy and quick way to make some­thing new look more ar­chi­tec­turally in­ter­est­ing.”

(The ceil­ing is) some­thing that’s so of­ten over­looked when it comes to in­te­rior de­sign. It’s the fifth wall, but 95 per cent of the time you look up and see a plain white ceil­ing. LAURA GARNER

Mélyssa Robert said that, his­tor­i­cally, ceil­ings were al­ways dec­o­ra­tive, with ei­ther wood­work or box beams, “but now that any­thing is pos­si­ble, it’s funny that most peo­ple just stick with plain white Gyproc, which is re­ally bor­ing.”

To cre­ate a his­toric feel in a new home or condo, Laura Garner sug­gests get­ting a ceil­ing medal­lion which is light­weight, and avail­able for un­der $50, and in­stalling it with ei­ther sil­i­cone or glue.

“Add some crown mould­ings to the mix and you’ve got some­thing re­ally in­ter­est­ing,” she said.

If you want to get re­ally cre­ative, said Robert, try us­ing things like mirrors, an artist’s can­vas, an en­larged image (like that of a sky) or even a patch­work of ob­jects like li­cence plates and posters to achieve a one-of-a-kind ef­fect. To bring the out­doors in, Garner recommends hang­ing glass-bulb lights on strings across the ceil­ing — the same way you would an out­door ter­race — to give the room a sum­mery, boho vibe.

Wall­pa­per on the ceil­ing is great for what you can’t achieve with a sten­cil, Garner said, if you want more de­tail or di­men­sion.

“The only thing I would say is get some­one else to in­stall it for you, be­cause it isn’t easy,” she noted. “It’s a lit­tle pricier than other op­tions but it cre­ates a great ef­fect, es­pe­cially in smaller spa­ces like pow­der rooms.”

In ad­di­tion to flat ceil­ings, there are also vaulted (or cathe­dral) ceil­ings which can be used to make a

room look big­ger, as well as tray ceil­ings that are re­cessed.

And Robert pointed to Ex­tenzo stretch ceil­ings, fake ceil­ings made from a syn­thetic ma­te­rial, as yet an­other op­tion for the fifth wall — a place where, as she put it, “lit­er­ally any­thing is pos­si­ble.”


A bed­room with neu­tral walls and fur­nish­ings ben­e­fits from the con­trast of crisp white crown mould­ing and trim, as well as a dec­o­ra­tive pat­tern that frames the ceil­ing light fix­ture and adds vis­ual in­ter­est to the so-called fifth wall.


A white ceil­ing need not be bor­ing, as this photo il­lus­trates. Wood pan­elling, painted a high-gloss white, echoes the painted rus­tic hard­wood floor­ing and pro­vides not just a vis­ual in­ter­est but also a sense of con­ti­nu­ity.


Adding wood to the ceil­ing, as in the case of the knotty pine in this photo, will in­crease the warmth and char­ac­ter of a space — es­pe­cially in an open-con­cept condo with con­crete or mar­ble floors.


The eas­i­est, least ex­pen­sive way to high­light the ceil­ing is with paint, and “the stronger the colour, the stronger the im­pact,” said de­signer Mélyssa Robert.


A pan­elled ceil­ing adds ar­chi­tec­tural in­ter­est to this gal­ley kitchen.


A light pink ceil­ing in a room with white walls makes “the whole room glow,” said in­te­rior de­signer Laura Garner

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