The Designer Rules for Choosing What Color to Paint the Ceiling

Our San Antonio Interior Designers and Architects Reveal the Best Ceiling Color Options—White is Not One of Them!   

When designing home interiors, we often get caught up in selecting flooring, furnishing, and wallcovering options. Don’t forget to look up because there is one more finish to consider that will significantly impact the final design—the ceiling color. Painting ceilings is not just a job for Michelangelo. It is something every homeowner should consider when renovating or building. Our San Antonio interior designers and architects reveal what color to paint the ceiling in your space. Here’s a hint; it’s not white!  

Selecting Home Color Schemes Ain’t for the Faint of Heart 

We have said it before, and we will say it again. Selecting a home color palette ain’t for the faint of heart! We’ve covered our designer tips for choosing exterior paint colors and choosing interior paint colors, and now it is time to push through and make the final color selections for the ceilings. You’ve come too far in the design process to settle for builder-grade white! Don’t overlook the ceiling color because it can transform the entire look and feel of the home interior. To choose a ceiling color, you will first have to determine if your room has crown molding or not. 

What Color to Paint the Ceiling When You Don’t Have Crown Molding 

Crown molding is a type of millwork that creates a border where the ceiling and wall meet. When painting the home interior, designers have a strict rule: there cannot be a change in paint color without a break. Millwork pieces like crown molding and trim create these breaks. If there is no crown molding in a room, the walls and ceiling should be painted the same color. A lack of crown molding dramatically limits the ceiling color options available. However, homeowners can always install crown molding if they wish to add another layer of color to a room. 

What Color to Paint the Ceiling When You Do Have Crown Molding

When a room does have crown molding, the ceiling can be painted a different color than the walls, opening up a range of beautiful ceiling color options. While the ceiling and walls can still be painted the same color, homeowners can take the opportunity to create an accent or establish a mood. Here are six beautiful ceiling color options to consider for your space and the effect each will have in the room. 

Crown Modling Transition Between Two Colors Photo from Amity Worrel
Crown Molding Transition Between Two Colors
Photo from Amity Worrel

6 Ceiling Color Options for Beautiful Interiors 

1. Same Color as the Walls

For rooms without crown molding, ceiling color options begin and end at painting the ceiling the same color as the walls. Even if the room does have trim, however, this is still a great option. Washing the entire room in one paint color allows other features, like artwork, furnishings, and decor, to be the main focal points. In addition, painting the ceiling and walls the same color can make the room feel larger, depending on the color selected.

Ceilings Same Color As Walls Photo from Amity-Kett
Washing the entire room in one paint color allows other features, like artwork, furnishings, and decor, to be the main focal points.
Photo from Amity Kett

2. Lighter Color Than the Walls 

One of the most popular ceiling color options for rooms with crown molding is to paint the ceiling a lighter shade than the wall color. One easy way to select a lighter shade is to move up a few selections on the paint color fan deck, choosing within the same hue. However, the ceiling color does not have to be the same hue or a specific percentage lighter. Instead, you can select a complementing lighter shade. The benefits of lighter colors on the ceiling are that they hide imperfections, make a space feel larger, and create an airy feel.       

Light Tone Ceiling Photo from Amity Kett
The benefits of lighter colors on the ceiling are that they hide imperfections, make a space feel larger, and create an airy feel.
Photo from Amity Kett

3. Darker Color Than the Walls

This year’s new interior design trends are all about creating cozy spaces filled with dramatic color. Painting the ceiling a darker color than the walls sets a mood and forms a unique atmosphere that has an element of the unexpected. However, be careful when choosing dark ceiling colors, as they can make dark rooms feel darker and reveal any imperfections. Dark colors work best in rooms with high ceilings and plenty of natural light where high contrast impact is desired. 

Darker Ceiling Photo from Amity Worrel
Dark colors work best in rooms with high ceilings and plenty of natural light where high contrast impact is desired. 
Photo from Amity Worrel

4. Accent Color to Create a Feature 

In addition to going light or dark, rooms with crown molding can also go bold! Choosing an accent color for the ceiling, like bright yellow, will draw the eye upwards and make a statement. Additionally, ceiling accent colors can help bounce light around the room, create an unexpected focal point, and highlight light fixtures. By drawing the eye upwards, ceilings painted in an accent color will help to elongate the space and make the ceiling height feel taller than it really is. 

5. Wallpaper to Add Pattern 

Options for the ceiling don’t end at paint colors. In wallpapered spaces, consider continuing the paper onto the ceiling. This option is a great way to add interest to a room that doesn’t have crown molding or to create an accent in spaces that do. There are many types of wallpaper to choose from, including patterned, textured, and reflective papers.  

6. Wood to Add Texture 

Painted or stained wood is a fantastic way to finish a ceiling and add warmth, texture, and interest to a room. Options like beadboard and tongue and groove can completely transform a space. When installed properly, wood ceilings can be applied to rooms with or without crown molding. Choose a painted finish for a cleaner look or a stain for a more natural feel. 

Why You Shouldn’t Paint the Ceiling Stark White

With so many beautiful paint colors, wallpapers, and wood tones to embrace, why would anyone want to leave their ceiling stark white? A harsh shade of white without an eased transition can turn the ceiling into an unwanted feature, dominate the room, and make it appear like it is coming down on you. Don’t let a dull unfinished ceiling be the first thing people notice in a beautifully finished room. Instead of going stark white, choose a shade of white with the slightest hue of color, whether gray, blue, or earthy. Small details like this can make a significant impact.  

Some Painting Rules are Meant to Be Broken 

As always, some rules are meant to be broken. When in doubt, always seek out quality advice from professional interior designers or trusted paint experts. Remember, the ceiling is a great place to embrace color and personality, but choosing a color can be a challenging process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way! 

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