Tackling the Fifth Wall: How To Choose Ceiling Paint Color

Tackling the Fifth Wall: How To Choose Ceiling Paint Color

Dabney Frake
Sep 4, 2014

The ceiling is a huge swath of real estate in a room, yet its color is often overlooked as a conscious design choice. Although it's tempting to avoid, committing to color (and then choosing the right one!) totally transforms a room. Here are four strategies to consider when headed to the store to look at paint chips:


Let’s start with the most obvious and common of colors. A basic decorators white is a classic and safe choice that won't have you repainting every couple of years.

(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

White paint makes ceilings appear higher and brighter than they actually are. When the walls are white too, the room is airy and open. Above, the living room in Sarah & David's Modern and Sophisticated Brooklyn Home.

(Image credit: Theresa Gonzalez)

In Stacy & Christoph's Classic San Francisco Hilltop Home, the white ceiling "frames" the grey walls and the eye is immediately drawn to the ceiling line. This is great when you’ve got any architectural features you want people to focus on, like the crown molding in their living room.


Painting the ceiling the same color as the rest of the room creates a rich and full atmosphere that feels complete.

(Image credit: Rebecca Bond)

Above, the bathroom in Abigail Ahern's East London Home is both dark and dramatic, with color that envelopes you. (On another note, that olive color is a beautiful backdrop for her huge white chandelier.)

This paint strategy also creates an endless plane of color that's very soothing to the eye, without the jolt that comes with a color change. Above, a living room from Elle Decor España, painted in a light shade of pink.


As a twist on the second strategy, alter the ceiling color to be several shades darker or lighter that the walls. You still get the soothing nature from a unified space, with a touch more depth and dimension.

(Image credit: Theresa Gonzalez)

Since ceilings tend to look darker than walls, try a couple of shades lighter to make the room feel airier. Above, the living room in Alysia's Stunning Vintage Sanctuary is painted a lighter shade of pink.

If you want a cozier feel, a slightly darker shade than the walls will make the ceiling feel lower and more intimate. It's perfect for a bedroom or bathroom where you want to relax and linger. Consider going this route is your ceilings are over nine feet tall, so it doesn't feel like the room is closing in on you.


Painting the ceiling a totally different, or contrasting, color adds character and interest.

A brightly colored ceiling, atop stark white walls, is a strong and graphic statement, as shown by Justina Blakeney.

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

And, Miranda Lake's living room ceiling was faux finished, with a custom glaze in various shades of turquoise. The room feels like a little jewel box.

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