Use a bit of ingenuity to decorate oft-overlooked ceilings, says Jane Drew, and the sky’s the limit
1. Stick to white
Ceilings are traditionally painted white. Light colours open up a space, making it appear larger, which means that white paintwork overhead seems to raise the roof and give the room a more expansive feel. Whitewashed ceilings are lifesavers in rooms where natural light is scarce, as they enhance all kinds of light, whether it comes through a window or from a man-made source.
2. Consider your options
No scheme is complete without the right ceiling. Decide first whether you want to subdue it or turn it into a feature. Almost any wall covering can be applied to a ceiling, and since it’s such a large area, an increasing number of home decorators are choosing to turn it into a focal point.
3. Create definition
Overhead beams or architectural mouldings make for a finished look when you paint or stain them in deliberate contrast to ceilings and walls. Simply applying white gloss to ceiling roses, medallions and picture rails can be enough to create definition and interest.
4. Think state of the art
For an up-to-the-minute architectural finish, invest in ceiling canopies that seem to soar across the space. Connecting open-plan rooms and providing high-octane visual drama, they are the only way forward – and up.
5. Apply pattern
Wallpaper ceilings need to match or be carefully coordinated with the surrounding walls. Strips of wallpaper are hung across the shortest distance for ease of handling, and patterns are then repeated and matched up along the walls. It’s important to cover the entire area – wallpaper borders are as dead as the dodo.
6. Soundproof a room
Dropped ceilings are good for altering a room’s proportions and also provide a particularly useful sound barrier in music and kids’ rooms. Ceiling tiles combined with a layer of cork help deaden sounds reverberating around a room or coming in from the flat above.
7. Fool the eye
A ceiling painted in a deep shade seems to come down into your line of vision, making the room look and feel warmer and more intimate. This trick is particularly effective in colonial homes with unusually high ceilings. You can even exaggerate the effect by bringing the dark colour down from the ceiling onto the walls as far as a picture moulding.
8. Boost the look
Ceiling tiles are useful for covering ugly or damaged surfaces to which they can be glued with mastic. Always make a layout before applying tile. This guarantees that the border tiles, where the ceiling and wall meet, will be the same size.
9. Paint a fresco
Decorative paintwork, connecting walls and ceilings in an elaborate or colourful pattern can look great but you really have to know what you’re doing. Children’s rooms are an ideal place to experiment with bolder decorative effects. A sky-blue ceiling dotted with clouds looks a treat.
10. Tent it up
Draped fabric will effectively hide a sagging or discoloured ceiling. For an exotically tented effect, use it to cover walls as well as floors. In small rooms, staples along the wall edges may be enough to secure the fabric; alternatively, use wall-covering adhesive or anchor rods across the ceiling to hold the fabric taut. A simple white moulding capping the walls ensures a professional finish.
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