The best ceiling color can often be an afterthought, while we spend months agonizing over wall color choices. But, with a little bit of design know-how and creativity, you can turn the ceiling into a statement feature that will really bring the whole room together.
As far as room renovations go, painting your ceiling in a brave paint color idea is one of the simpler ways to give the space a revamp. ‘A painted ceiling offers a unique, unexpected twist to a room and will be an instant talking point - and it costs no more than painting your ceiling white,’ says Karen Knox, interior designer and founder of Making Spaces. ‘It’s literally one of the most cost-effective ways of giving a room a real signature look.’
As well as looking good, painting your ceiling can also enhance the overall experience of your space too. ‘Using a different hue on the ceiling can draw the eye upwards, making the most of the entirety of your space,’ explains Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. ‘If your home has architectural details like ornate upper trim or tray ceilings, using a different color will make those finishes really stand out.’
With the help of top interior designers, we’ve rounded up the best colors to introduce up high, along with advice on how to select the perfect color for your space.
What is the best ceiling color?
Think of your ceiling as ‘the fifth wall’, and view it as an opportunity to add an extra layer of depth and interest to your color scheme. For a subtle look, you can go tonal and select a paint that’s just a shade or two either side of the wall color. Alternatively, the ceiling is a great place to introduce some contrast.
If you’re not sure where to start with choosing a color, there are some questions you can ask yourself, as creative consultant Michael Dansk explains. ‘To me, the architecture of a room gives many clues – is there something that would be beautiful to highlight? What sort of light does the space have? What do you want to use the room for? And how do you want to feel when you use it? Should it be a calm and relaxing area, or rather full of vitality and confidence?’
Is there any color more optimistic or feel-good than yellow? It brings an instant dose of sunshine to any room, and is particularly effective on the ceiling as it helps to replicate bright, sunny light in rooms that might lack it naturally.
Karen Knox, interior designer and founder of Making Spaces (opens in new tab), cleverly employs a painted ceiling for this yellow kitchen idea. ‘The idea was to bring some fun into the space,’ she says. ‘The room is east facing, which meant the light changed dramatically throughout the day as the sun moved up and over the top of the house – with the yellow ceiling, the room now always has a little bit of sunshine.’
When it comes to deciding on the best color for your ceiling, Karen has some great advice. ‘Always think about what the room will be used for, and how you want to feel when you’re using it,’ she says. ‘A room with high ceilings can take a bold color without it feeling oppressive, and try taking the color down slightly over the cornice, if you have one, to help soften the transition into your wall color.’
Warm, welcoming and cocooning, red is the perfect ceiling color for an entrance hall. Not only does it invite you in and offer an instant sense of comfort, but this color trend also adds drama to an often forgotten space.
‘I wanted to create some drama in this hallway, which was previously really bland,’ explains Laura Stephens, founder of Laura Stephens Interior Design (opens in new tab). ‘The introduction of red helps to create a wrap-around feel to the room, while also drawing your eye up to the ceiling which has beautifully detailed crown molding.’
To find the perfect shade for a ceiling, Laura will draw inspiration from other elements in the scheme. ‘If the room has a wallpaper, I like to pull a color from that and continue it over the ceiling,’ she says. ‘Alternatively, I also like to create a tonal look by taking a color a shade or two darker than the walls, and putting that on the ceiling.’
If you’re faced with low ceilings, Laura has a great tip; ‘Use a gloss paint - it’ll reflect the light and make low ceilings feel much higher!’
This living room is the perfect example of just how stylish a painted ceiling can be. Owned and designed by Copenhagen-based creative consultant Michael Dansk (opens in new tab), the teal ceiling not only sets the tone for relaxation and serenity, but is also the perfect backdrop to statement furniture and artwork.
‘Before moving into this apartment, I carefully curated a color scheme for every room with the intention of creating a different color experience in each space, while ensuring a cohesive ambience throughout,’ explains Michael. ‘The dusty green ceiling in the living room creates a calm energy that matches the function of the space perfectly - in my mind, function and form should go hand in hand.’
Michael’s design strikes the perfect harmony between confident color and restrained style, choosing dusky red as a color that goes with teal. ‘Having many colors in a room is all about balance,’ he explains. ‘I like to keep all eye-level colors light and simple, and then create drama with a bold ceiling or daring, colorful woodwork.’
It might not be the first color you think of for a ceiling, but the introduction of black into a room can offer an instant sense of sophistication. It’s one half of a smart monochrome scheme, and applying it to the ceiling brings with it an added fun element of surprise to this classic look.
Cortney Bishop, principal designer and owner of Cortney Bishop Design (opens in new tab), suggests how you might go about deciding on a ceiling color for your own room. ‘What is the overall color palette of your home? Have you accented the interior doors or cabinetry anywhere? Use this color in additional rooms in unconventional ways, like on the ceiling,’ she says. ‘And a little secret - if budget allows and you like the look and feel of it, a painted wooden ceiling decorating idea will offer a much softer and smoother finish than sheetrock.’
‘The ceiling is often painted white out of habit, but this has a big impact on the way that the room will feel,’ says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene. Instead of playing it safe, Ruth encourages a more creative approach called color drenching.
‘Color drenching is simply taking a single color, or closely related colors, from skirting to ceiling and everything in between; including walls, window frames, doors and radiators to really drench your interior in color,’ says Ruth. ‘The color drenching approach creates enveloping interiors, allowing the color to remain the focal point and delivering a strong design statement.’
In this pink living room, a palette of pretty blush tones combine across the ceiling, walls and woodwork to create a gentle scheme. Accents of black across the skirting and furniture help to ground the sweetness of pink for a sophisticated feel.
From deep emerald hues to light leafy tones, and everything in between, we could all use a little more green paint in our homes. And if you’re short of places to put it, the ceiling may just be the place! ‘Considering the ceiling as ’the fifth wall’ is now a much more contemporary way to approach the overall design of a room, and can add that extra dimension to a color scheme,’ says Emma Gurner, founder of interior design studio Folds Inside.
In this opulent living room, Emma took to the ceiling to create another layer of visual interest to boost the overall aesthetic. ‘I chose a light bronze green as a contrast to the soft pink walls, and to also add a cozier feeling to the room,’ she explains. ‘Darker colors are great for high ceilings if you want to create a more intimate setting. If you are opting for a contrasting color on the ceiling, just ensure it’s at least two tones apart from the wall color.’
Applying color to the ceiling can also work wonders in making awkward spaces with jarring angles feel more comfortable and serene - as was the case in this beautiful bedroom project by A New Day (opens in new tab).
‘This bedroom sits on the top floor of a townhouse, so it has an uneven roofline with some awkward angles and level changes,’ explains founder Andrew Griffiths. ‘Painting the ceiling a different color to the walls would have only accentuated that, so instead we went for wraparound color - the same on the walls and the ceiling - this blurs the lines between surfaces to give a more harmonious and cocooning feel.’
Andrew’s choice of a deliciously deep taupe bedroom color idea also serves to enhance the cozy, cosseting mood of the space - and these soft, biscuity tones are the perfect palette to start exploring when first thinking about adding color to a ceiling. They’re a step on from neutrals, but you won’t need to worry about them overwhelming or dominating a space.
'Generally, we paint the ceiling a different color from the walls in order to open up a space,' explains Sue Wadden, director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. ‘But the ceiling is also the fifth wall, and it’s a great opportunity to have fun with color and create different moods for a space. For example, painting a ceiling in a darker or warmer color will make the room feel cozier.’
Blue is a color that will always inspire relaxation, so it’s a brilliant choice for ceilings in rooms where you may be spending some time lying horizontal and chilling out. ‘Using soft blue paint colors can create a calming and soothing environment while remaining fairly neutral, making it a perfect option for a living room,’ says Sue.
What color should I paint the ceiling in a small room?
'A white ceiling will reflect the largest amount of light, which can be especially helpful in smaller rooms or those without much natural light,’ says Sue Wadden. Alternatively, in a room lacking natural light, colors such as yellow or teal can offer a sense of liveliness and energy, whilst also helping to make the space feel brighter.
On the other hand, you can create a more intimate and cozy atmosphere with deep hues such as red, green or navy.
Interiors stylist and journalist Amy Neason was the Deputy Style and Interiors editor at House Beautiful for years. She is now a freelance props and set stylist, creating work for a range of national publications and brands such as Imogen Heath. She has previously worked at Established & Sons, and her skills include styling still life and interiors shots for editorial features and sourcing unique products to create inspirational imagery.
She is particularly respected for interpreting seasonal trends into feature ideas and style stories.
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