3 Ways Designers Say You Shouldn't Decorate Your Ceiling in 2024 — Number 3 Definitely Surprised Us!

The wrong design choices will turn your ceiling from amazing to eyesore, say these experts. These are the outdated ceiling designs to avoid now

a blue dining room with rust color chairs
(Image credit: Emily Redfield. Design: Truss Interiors)

It's the year of the statement ceiling, and we're seeing beautiful, bold approach to decorating them in plenty of designer projects right now. The so-called 'fifth wall' contributes tremendously to an entire room's look and feel, and so choosing the right ideas is important. But with so many ideas floating around right now, it can be hard to know which ones are really a good idea, and which ones aren't.

To help you out, we asked top designers for the ceiling decorating ideas they think are outdated or overdone, and what they'd do instead. Take a look before you start renovating or designing your home.

1. Bulky, wooden coffered ceilings

A living room with coffered ceiling

Try instead: This simple coffer adds detail without overwhelming the space.

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Paneled ceilings are incredibly popular right now, even when they're not original. They add texture and drama to a ceiling where paint and even wallpaper can fall flat. However, when it comes to adding a sense of depth overhead, there's limits to how ornate you should go.

'Overdone and multi-layered coffered ceilings are passe,' says Sarah Brady, founder & principal designer of Salt Design Company. 'This design approach often involves adding excessive architectural elements, such as multiple tiers and intricate detailing, to create a sense of grandeur. However, this can result in a cluttered and overly ornate look that feels out of place in most homes.'

But if you do like the paneled look, a good alternative, as suggested by experts is a more simplistic, clean design 'that enhances the space without overwhelming it, focusing on clean lines and subtle embellishments for a timeless and elegant aesthetic,' says Sarah. Finer criss-cross moldings (as pictured above), thin wooden slats across the ceiling, and more could look crisp in double-height spaces. You could also paint the slats to match the palette of the room, for a more eclectic feel.

2. Popcorn ceilings

white living room white white sofa and curved white stools

Try instead: If you're looking for variety, a different paint finish can be a less distracting texture for a ceiling.

(Image credit: Erin Kelly)

'The heavy, textured "popcorn" ceiling has seen its days,' says Seattle-based interior designer Nishtha Vashist. 'Initially favored in the mid-20th century, these ceilings were popular for their ability to conceal imperfections and for their sound-dampening qualities. However, their disadvantages have rendered them obsolete in contemporary design. Popcorn ceilings are prone to accumulating dust and cobwebs and present challenges in repairs and repainting. Additionally, they'd historically often contained asbestos, which poses significant health risks during the removal process.'

If you don't have the time or budget to completely transform your ceiling, you could paint a popcorn ceiling to give it a smoother, even look. 'At the moment, modern design preferences lean towards smoother ceilings, which offer a sleek appearance and are easier to maintain, aligning with today’s aesthetic and practical demands,' says Nishtha.

And if you do want a complete makeover, consider painted ceiling ideas in subtle sheens. A semi-gloss or satin finish looks great on the fifth wall, adding a touch of elegance to the room.

3. Ceilings and walls in equal saturation

a stylish sage green bedroom with a painted ceiling

(Image credit: Ryan Mcdonald. Design: Jen Talbot Design)

Wait a minute, isn't color drenching a room on trend right now? While yes, a lot of designers are looking to paint ceilings and walls the same color, some believe there's a right and there's a wrong way to do it.

'In most cases, I would avoid painting the walls and ceiling in tones of equal value or saturation,' says Heather Peterson, founder of Heather Peterson Design. 'A strong wall color can wonderfully complement a ceiling color in a softer tone.'

Choosing different saturation or color temperatures for the ceiling and wall paints adds depth to the overall room, and stops the space from feeling too flat.


Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule, and you might find your perfect home design with any of these ceiling ideas, no matter how much designers tell you to avoid them.

'What we're seeing as important in design right now is that the ceiling isn't an afterthought, painted Brilliant White and left at that,' says Hugh Metcalf, editor of Livingetc.com. 'It's got its own weight to pull in how we're decorating now, so whatever you do do with it, make sure its purposeful.'

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.