Stunning Ceilings: The Latest Eye Candy for the 5th Wall


Ceilings are too often the plain Jane element of a home, but they can really assume a starring role and transform a space with minimal effort and expense. See how different options, from millwork to lighting, different shapes, paint, and even wallpaper, can make the 5th wall of a room really pop, which is especially important when you’re selling your home!

Erin Powell, design director and principal at RoOomy, an online staging firm out of San Jose, California, says that a well-planned ceiling treatment can help a listing stand out. “It usually won’t make or break a purchase, but it opens up the chance to make a buyer more interested,” she says.

Here are five ways to showcase a ceiling. Use them sparingly—certainly not in every room—to avoid visual confusion. “Otherwise, the concept may lose its specialness,” Pickell says.

dark blue ceiling

© Sherwin-Williams


This is the least expensive way to make a ceiling stand out and alter its look without major architectural change. New homes often feature the same white color on walls and ceilings, but painting the ceiling slightly lighter than what’s used on the walls to add depth. Steering clear of bold colors, though, except maybe in children’s rooms or media rooms.

Darker colors on a ceiling can create a cozy, almost a cocoonish, feeling, which can be paired with white trim to keep the overall feeling from seeming too heavy.  Sometimes, a wildly unexpected hue can be the easiest way to update a room. Go with flat or matte finishes to hide imperfections and produce a polished, clean look for any color choice. Otherwise, painting the ceiling is no different from painting walls.

Wallpapered ceiling

© Emily Gilbert

Wallpaper – Yes Really!

While many see this option as something of a throwback, wallpaper has found favor among more design professionals of late and for multiple reasons. “A graphic paper can define an activity area in an open-plan space; colorfully patterned papers can pull together a palette in a room, and gold, silver, or pewter leaf paper, which we use often, add stature, drama, and radiance when coupled with the right kind of lighting,” says Chicago-based designer Jessica LaGrange. “Wallpaper can hide cosmetic blemishes or introduce pattern in rooms where all the walls are taken such as a kitchen or family area with copious cabinetry.”

vaulted ceiling

© Lexington Homes


Ceilings don’t have to be a flat plane, though it’s certainly easier and less costly to make this decision before construction or during a major remodeling and in a one-story space. Coffered ceiling treatments are attracting a lot of attention these days among consumers. That could mean a pitched, vaulted, or arched shape that rises upward and provides a greater sense of airiness, drama, and light.

ceiling with millwork

© Emily Gilbert

Use of woodwork is another way to vary the “shape” of a ceiling.  Use of such an architectural trim, especially when wider and thicker, can make a house look more luxurious. It can also be used in more elaborate ways, for instance in recessed grids for a coffered effect or in one large central portion that’s recessed and higher, in what’s called a tray design. Merritt, in Mentor, Ohio, often designs these complex arrangements of wood in clients’ homes. The company recently fashioned an elaborate grid pattern from American white oak for a large Hamptons, N.Y., home. Haver and Skolnik Architects, in Roxbury, Conn., known for building and renovating traditional homes, frequently uses beams and other millwork to add coziness and an aged character.

But simpler uses of crown molding or ceiling trim can achieve effects such as unifying adjoining rooms for less than $1,000, says Julie Whitley, director of architecture design at homebuilder Red Seal Development Corp. in Northbrook, Ill. One DIY technique that’s attracted wide attention and adds an updated farmhouse feel is to use shiplap, basically manufactured boards with grooves that fit together snugly. The look picked up steam after celebrity TV couple Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” show began using them in countless projects, including on ceilings. For a more modern vibe, Zuber of Morgante Wilson Architects recommends trim with an angled or slanted profile rather than straight rectangular boards.

ceiling lights

© RoOomy Virtual Staging


Ceiling lights have changed A LOT in recent years. In general, oversized fixtures are more on trend, along with ceiling fans with lights built in, and almost all bulbs are LEDs for better performance, greater efficiency, and new smart-home applications, says Joe Rey-Barreau, an architect, lighting designer, and education consultant for the American Lighting Association. Among some of the new LED uses are in linear strips that can be installed easily inside or on top of cabinets, in bookshelves, along toe kicks in kitchens and baths, and in ceiling coves and cornices. For sellers who want (or need!) to update fixtures before listing to improve how rooms show, Rey-Barreau says the number of attractive, affordable options has increased – which is great because simply changing lights from the outdated brassy look to more modern, clean lights can make a world of differnce. Affordability is especially helpful though, if sellers leave such upgrades behind, which typically is part of the sales contract.

Have a question about enhancing your “5th walls”? I’m always ready with opinions and advice on the latest trends and on what buyers are looking for if you’re considering selling! So don’t hesitate to get in touch. 🙂

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