Instant Wow—Decorating Ceilings to Deliver a Design Punch

Design by and photography courtesy of Leslie May Designs

Text by: Leslie May @lesliemaydesigns

Ceilings are often referred to as the fifth wall and truly have the power to elevate a good room to a showstopper. As a mother, wife, and designer, I am always looking for ways to deliver a big design punch without breaking the bank.

Suzanne Kasler
Design by Suzanne Kasler

I find that adding a single element of “wow” to a room can transform a space. The ceiling is the most overlooked wall in the home and can deliver that designer impact with the added benefit of being immune to the jostles of life below. In my own very active home, I am always looking for ways to spend my design dollars in bold ways that are safe from messy hands and soccer cleats.

Design by and photography courtesy of Leslie May Designs

A few ceiling treatments to consider:

  • Paint is the quickest and most cost-effective way to transform your ceiling. Pull out a color from your rug, drapes, or upholstery to deliver a punch. A common concern is that painting a ceiling a dark color will make the room seem small; however, it also brings a coziness to the space.
  • High-gloss paint is definitely a designer favorite and requires an absolutely perfect surface to achieve the flawless sheen that is magazine-worthy. A spokesperson for Fine Paints of Europe says, “The Hollandlac brilliant finish is a best seller because the sheen is amazing.” A high-gloss finish amplifies light and gives the room a shimmery effect.
  • Faux painting generally requires a skilled artisan to deliver superb results, but again, the impact is amazing.
  • Wallpaper comes in a myriad of designs, colors, and textures. If you want a subtle treatment, grass cloth is a neutral option. For those of you who are afraid of the commitment, peel-and-stick paper has come a long way and now offers very sophisticated options.
  • Latticework is another option that delivers a very casual, Palm Beach vibe to a room.

If you change only one thing in your current nest, add some love to your ceiling!

Design by and photography courtesy of Leslie May Designs

Trade Tips for Ceiling Dazzle:

  • Bold colors make a cavernous room feel more intimate. They can also make a small space feel cozy.
  • Garden lattice painted the same color as the trim adds classic architectural detail.
  • A wallpaper pattern that feels too bold for all four walls is perfect for the ceiling. The pattern will stand out but not overpower.
  • Choose a color that echoes a color within the room in the drapes, pillows, or rug.
  • Faux painting is a great camouflage for a ceiling with structural imperfections.

Ceiling Favorites:


Schumacher—Tortoise Natural

Phillip Jeffries—Manila Hemp

Fine Paints of Europe—Hollandlac Brilliant in any color

Design: Claire Ratliff of Cullman & Kravis; Photography: Stephen Karlisch.


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