'It's enveloping and dramatic!' This design trend flips classic decorating rules on their head - and we're loving it for 2024

Decorating your ceiling like this might seem counter-intuitive, but it's the secret to cozy, cool rooms right now, say designers

the dark ceiling: white living room with dark ceiling by Living with Lolo
(Image credit: Living with Lolo/Life Created)

The dark ceiling is a growing trend in modern interior design, and works to bring a sense of drama to any space.

It can balance out a tall room, highlight architectural features, create a cocooning, inviting space and gets kudos from top interior designers, who are increasingly opting to use the dark ceiling in their own projects.

'Ceilings are a much-neglected aspect of the home, often an afterthought, however they play an important part in the feel of a room,' says Helen Shaw, a color expert for Benjamin Moore.  'From adding character to a period property to incorporating a pop of color for additional interest or a cozier feel, paying attention to the ceiling can lift the space.'

There are three main paint ideas that use the dark ceiling in a space: to apply a deep hue that contrasts the color on the walls, to use the same hue that's on the walls (a process  known as color-drenching), or to show off ceiling details like beams.

We asked experts to explain how to approach each aesthetic below, and when to use each one to enhance the space.

1. Paint a dark ceiling to contrast lighter walls

living room with white walls and dark ceiling by Benjamin Moore

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

A dark painted ceiling that contrasts with lighter walls can bring an intimate, cozy vibe to a tall room or work to highlight architectural features.

'Dark ceilings are bold and unexpected, relating back to the expanse of the evening sky or the depth of space of the open sea,' says Emilie Munroe, of Studio Munroe. 'A dark ceiling paired with light walls highlights the architecture of the home, bringing bold geometry to the forefront and balancing larger scale furnishing pieces.'  

And Benjamin Moore's Helen Shaw says choosing a dark ceiling is ideal if you're looking for a statement aesthetic. 'The high level of contrast offers a dramatic feel and works exceptionally well in a room with high ceilings,' she explains. 

So what colors should you opt for? White on the walls will always offer the optimum contrast if you want to make a statement but, if you're looking for a more monochromatic, curated feel, you can opt for two different hues of the same color, like a light green on the walls with a darker green on the ceiling, as seen below.

2. Paint a dark ceiling the same color as the walls

dark blue living room, small living room by Studio Monroe

(Image credit: Studio Munroe/Thomas Kuoh)

Another option is to extend a dark ceiling paint down through the walls to create an enveloping vibe that's tranquil as well as design-forward. In the room above, by Studio Monroe, a rich, deep blue brings an inviting yet dramatic feel to a small living room.

'Painting an entire room in a deep saturated hue makes the space intimate and specific,' says Emilie Munroe. 'It's also a great way to define a room as a destination when several rooms intersect a central space, or the home is primarily an open plan layout.'

Benjamin Moore's Helen Shaw says color drenching in a dark hue will bring a sense of 'grandeur' to a space. 'For a feeling of grandeur, opt for a color drenching paint scheme in one shade,' she comments.'Painting the ceiling, in addition to the walls, will create an enveloping sensation and a feeling of being deeply immersed from the moment you step into the room. 

'Opting for organic dark shades such as Regent Green 2136-20 works particularly well in the kitchen when paired with organic woods and metallic accents to help lift the space.'

3. Use dark paint to show off detail

home office with dark ceiling by Living with Lolo

(Image credit: Living with Lolo/Life Created)

If your ceiling consists of wood cladding or exposed beams, painting it dark will really highlight those features.

This can work to add depth and dimension to a space, but it will also show off the design feature and your creativity to full effect.

A dark wood ceiling can bring a sense of warmth as well as texture, character and charm to any room.

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.