Designers know that a well-decorated ceiling – one of the largest surfaces in a room – greatly enhances a space. Maybe we ignore it because we don't know what to do. Well, things are looking up!
From the late 1800s to the early 20th century, pressed-tin ceilings emerged as a top form of decorating. Pattern-adoring Victorians loved this practical alternative to exorbitantly priced plasterwork. Today, tin panels are popular again and available in alternate materials like copper or brass, or come ready to be painted in your choice of colour. Combine them with mouldings, medallions, decorative filler strips and cornices for an authentic finished look. Also available on the market are tin-look tiles and embossed wallpaper.
Wallpaper can be used to charming effect, especially in rooms with sloped ceilings. A lattice pattern, toile or stripes give a traditional feel, while a plethora of patterns makes it easy to hit whatever style note you're striving for. Working overhead can make matching patterns and seams tricky – not to mention being hard on the neck and arms – so consider hiring a professional paperhanger. Although wallpaper can hide minor imperfections in a ceiling's surface, ensure that cracks or stains aren't a sign of leaks or underlying structural problems.
Wood planks or beadboard panels can evoke a seaside-cottage feel, a century-farmhouse vibe or a sleek architectural look, depending on the application, style and finish. While it can be labour intensive to install (which can make it pricey), properly maintained wood can last the life of the house. Another option is woodlook- alike products (laminates and composites), which can be installed onto drywall or plaster.
True frescoes are painted on damp fresh plaster using special pigments, so unless you're channelling Michelangelo, don't try them at home. In fact, any painted effect on a ceiling is challenging, both physically and artistically. Because your “canvas” is visible from many vantage points, “the perspective becomes awkward,” says Toronto-based artist and designer Rebecca Last, who specializes in site-specific painting. Her advice: Pick one vantage point (like the entrance to the room) and work out the perspective from there. More subtle effects, like a mural of clouds in a child's room, can be effective and less expensive.
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