Topping off a room with a decorative ceiling

DESIGN LINE

November 13, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Sometimes it seems as though contemporary rooms have only walls and floors. For all the attention it gets from the architects of these spaces, the ceiling might as well not exist. And because the standard eight-foot ceiling is so visually uninteresting, the gaze of a person entering such a room seldom rises above eye level.

A decorative treatment at ceiling height can thus make a big difference in spatial perception. The addition of something as simple as a two-inch crown molding helps bring the entire room -- not just the walls and floor -- into one's field of vision.

Moldings installed just below the ceiling look best when they're painted or stained in the same color as the walls. And to maximize the decorative effect, the ceiling itself should not be the usual flat white. Instead, tint it with whatever color is used on the walls. That technique helps make a boxy space look taller. Conversely, any strong color contrast between the walls and ceiling tends to diminish a room's apparent height.

Up-lights, or torchieres, as they're known in the trade, also act as excellent space expanders. Reflecting light off the ceiling makes an entire room look brighter and thus bigger.

Embellishments applied to the ceiling itself will likewise pull the eye upward. Spatter-style printed designs, vibrant mini-patterns and cloud-like images will all work effectively, as long as they're coordinated with the wall coverings.

An embossed wallpaper, known as anaglypta, is a sure-fire attention-grabber for any ceiling. Though white in its original form, anaglypta can be painted and finished in a variety of ways.

The setting in the above photo was given a casual look by combining a vinyl anaglypta in a Byzantine pattern with painted paneled walls and crown moldings. The shelf running around the walls adds to the room's rustic flavor. Note that the shelf has DTC been installed close to the ceiling but far enough below it to allow for the display of turn-of-the-century bisque plates.

Enticed by so much decorative delight, how can the eye resist being lifted?

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