finishing touches

How to Create a Fantastic Ceiling

Ceilings are usually forgotten about during the decorating process and left to sit with a coat of boring white builder's paint. But adding colour, texture and pattern to this "fifth wall" using tile, moulding, paint or wallpaper brings visual depth and contrast to a space. Think of a colourful damask wallpapered ceiling in a powder room or an elegant tin-style tile ceiling overtop a dining room table.

Whatever décor treatment you choose, it's important to prep your ceiling well to ensure a clean and even surface. And remember: Ceiling projects are best tackled with more than one person since covering this surface is a trickier manoeuvre than covering regular walls.

Tile is a great way to finish a space using classical styling, particularly in larger rooms and entranceways. You can add instant architectural interest with coffered ceiling tiles, a recessed-panel look that has been carried on from buildings in ancient Rome. White square or rectangular coffers are a common choice for their understated elegance. For another take on a historical look, try faux tin, copper or bronze tile.

Patterned white ceiling tiles are another great choice for a subtle dash of art up above - think moulded fleur de lis, flower and diamond shapes. And for those seeking a higher-drama look, ceiling tiles in hues like deep burgundy are perfect for home offices and bedrooms.

Another trick for adding architectural interest - especially in newer houses or condos - is to install crown moulding. The most common way to use moulding is as a border to visually divide the walls and ceiling of a room, but it can also be used to create patterns (e.g. rectangles) that mimic the look of interiors from the past.

Moulding is also a great way to visually break up a room if you want to paint your ceiling the same colour as your walls (a popular choice, for example, is grey walls and ceiling with white trim). This type of décor treatment is an effective way to make moulding pop instead of blending in with the wall or ceiling.

Many people don't think of painting a ceiling any other colour than white - but that's changing. Depending on the size and height of a room, a painted ceiling can help visually open up a cramped space or bring a feeling of coziness to larger areas. Here are a few ideas:

Monochromatic - There are mixed opinions around painting a ceiling the same colour as the rest of a room, but it is an increasingly popular trend, especially when used with mouldings. If you're afraid of a boxed-in feeling, another option is to use a lighter tone of your wall colour on the ceiling for a softer, blended effect. This technique can be useful for smaller rooms with low ceilings because less attention will be drawn to the height of the room when the contrast between wall and ceiling colour is reduced.

High Contrast - Painting a ceiling a bold colour can add huge visual impact in your home - think of it like an accent wall to tie together an existing colour palette or make a statement in an otherwise neutral space. Big rooms with high ceilings often feel cozier and more elegant with bold shades like chocolate or eggplant. For even more intensity, a glossy paint can be used, but only go this route if your ceilings have no imperfections.

Pattern - Ceilings are a great place to experiment with paint patterns. Stripes can draw attention to a vaulted ceiling, while a checkerboard pattern in a kitchen or kids' room creates a custom look. The safest approach is to use tones of paint from the same colour family so the pattern doesn't become too loud and overwhelm the rest of the room.

TIP: If painting over stipple or stucco ceilings, don't use latex paint as it can soften the texture. A better choice is an oil-based paint that will solidify and harden to the stucco.

In a similar way that tile adds pop up above, wallpaper can brighten a ho-hum ceiling. Choosing a pattern you love - a bold damask, say, or a delicate floral - is important. Embossed varieties are popular because of the textural, tile-like effect they bring to a room.

While wallpaper can be tied into an existing colour scheme, this type of ceiling treatment often works best in a neutral space so it can take centre stage. Think of an all-white entranceway with intricately patterned wallpaper up above.

If the ceilings in your home have been left untouched, consider one of these quick and budget-friendly makeovers. A simple or dramatic touch could be just what you need to tie together or update a room.