Give new life to old ceilings! Here are 8 ceiling design ideas that will work for the average home. Why not give the ceiling a custom look and transform that fifth wall into something beautiful?!

Have you ever stumbled upon one of those home pictures that has amazing ceilings and you literally have to pause to take it all in?  After all, how often do you look up and admire a ceiling?

We would probably all love to have an architecturally interesting home. But for many of us, our homes come equipped with builder-grade square walls and 8ft tall ceilings.  And that’s fine!  The building itself isn’t what makes a house a home, nonetheless, it sure is fun when you can dress it up a bit.

Why Ceiling Design is Important

Ceilings are often overlooked in a room because they aren’t usually in our direct line of sight.  After all, most people don’t walk around looking straight up!  But we give so much thought and attention to the floor materials that we choose, the wall color, the furnishings, window coverings, etc., isn’t it odd then that we don’t often give any thought to the ceiling? 

Designers actually refer to the ceiling as the “fifth wall” on a room. They are an opportunity to add impact, design details, and a wow factor. Unique ceiling design ideas can also spotlight an architectural feature!

Many ceiling design ideas are permanent and costly, though. This leads many people to skip ceiling design and stick to a safer alternative, such as a nice coat of neutral paint. If you’re nervous as to how to approach ceiling design ideas, there are a few ways to test the water.

When in doubt, Start Small

If you’re unsure about which ceiling ideas are right for you or perhaps are budget-conscious, the best approach is to start small.

Kid’s rooms and nurseries often have a theme decor and these whimsical styles lend themselves to a fun ceiling treatment. Other standalone rooms like powder rooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms, entryway, or even guest bedrooms can be a fun and safe place to experiment with ceiling design ideas.

Ceiling Design Ideas for the Average Home

If you’re building your home from the ground up or doing a complete remodel, then you have the ability to incorporate ceiling design into your plans.  But even those of us that aren’t can still update our ceilings to give them a custom look.

Even though the ceiling is rarely a room’s focal point, it is still an important feature of the home and can benefit from a bit of detail and/or color.  A few updates can easily breathe new life into your old ceilings and give them a custom look!

So, I’ve gathered 8 ceiling decor ideas and inspiration that will work in the average home. No, I’m not about to tell you to mirror the entire ceiling or create a plant display. These are practical and affordable ideas to elevate your home’s look.

1. Paint

Painting the ceiling a different color is an easy and inexpensive way to instantly update the look of a ceiling. One easy idea is to take 50% of your wall color mixed with 50% white. Just be sure that the resulting color doesn’t look dingy on the ceiling (it really depends on your starting wall color).

In general, if you want your ceilings to feel taller, choose a lighter color.  If you want them to feel lower {ideal for vaulted spaces that need a more intimate feel}, choose a darker color.

When using color on your ceiling, try using a paint color that is a few shades lighter {or darker, depending on your desired look} than what is on your walls to create a cohesive feel.  Even if you prefer plain white ceilings, there are so many shades of white available and sometimes, just changing the shade can give the room an entirely new look!

2. Wallpaper

You can bring pattern, color, and texture to the ceiling with the addition of wallpaper.  Wallpaper on the ceiling tends to work best in spaces where the walls are neutral or lighter so as not to be too overpowering. But if you want a bold statement, try papering all of the walls AND the ceiling!

As a general rule, larger-scaled patterns work better in large spaces and smaller patterns in small spaces.  Also, if you want to draw attention to a particular feature on the ceiling (such as a skylight or beam), consider a bold pattern.  If you want the ceiling to feel brighter, airier, and higher, look for a lighter pattern {both color and print}. 

If your ceiling is at all sagging or irregular, though, avoid geometrics like stripes that will accentuate irregularities and instead, look for solid colors or organic patterns.

{The pattern used on the ceiliing adds visual interest while maintining the room's open and airy feel. Source}
{The pattern used on the ceiling adds visual interest while maintaining the room’s open and airy feel. Source}

3. Tin Ceiling Tiles

Older homes or homes with an old-world feel can benefit greatly from the look of tin tiles.  Actually, they are not tiles at all, but rather metal panels that are about 2ftx4ft and can be left natural or painted. 

If you opt for a tin ceiling, though, be sure that your space has lots of sound-absorbent materials like carpet, window treatments, and upholstered furniture, so as to avoid creating a hollow-sounding space that echoes.

4. Beadboard

While beadboard might seem like a choice for a cottage or farmhouse home, it is actually quite versatile and fits well in many different styles of homes.  It has a very clean and timeless look so it can transition with your home as your style and/or color palette changes. 

Beadboard is also a great option if you have popcorn ceilings as it will instantly update the look without hours and hours of painful scraping required!  Run beadboard in the same direction as the flooring to create continuity.  The exception is if your ceiling has a beam, in which case try running the beadboard perpendicular to the beam.

bathroom makeover with dresser vanity trellis wallpaper beadboard ceiling and carrara marble

5. Coffered Ceiling {sometimes called Box Beam Ceiling}

Coffered ceilings are a great way to add dimension to a room.  If you have ceilings taller than 8ft., you can use more architecturally detailed grids that create deeper boxes.  For standard 8ft. ceilings, consider using 2×4’s so that you capture the desired look without sacrificing head room. 

Color options are limitless, but traditionally, the entire ceiling is either painted white or stained a wood tone, or the recessed boxes are painted in color while the beams remain white.

Did you know that this design element can even be purchased as ready-to-install ceiling panels?

{A tall ceiling allows for extra architectural detail and dimension. Source}
{A tall ceiling allows for extra architectural detail and dimension. Source}
{via Veranda}
{via Veranda}

6. Wood Beams

Just because your house wasn’t built with exposed beams doesn’t mean that you can’t have them.   Many homes with a vaulted ceiling have one central beam running down the center, but adding a few additional beams to the ceiling can make a dramatic difference.  You can also add beams to a flat ceiling for a cozy look. 

You can install read wood beams, but that can be pricey. Or you can also DIY beams or you can purchase faux wood beams.  Faux  “beams” are made from polyurethane, making them lightweight and easy to work with.  They can be painted or stained and come in a variety of wood grains and styles.

7. Add molding ceiling

The ideas for adding molding to a ceiling are limited only by your imagination. You could add a simple frame around the border to create a tray ceiling for a timeless look.

Appliques and onlays are also popular molding choices for a ceiling to create beautiful patterns and designs.

8. Planked or Shiplap Ceiling

Planking a ceiling with stained wood or white panels really changes the room feel. While both options are classic, wood ceilings add a bit more warmth while white planked ceilings have a clean, timeless look.

Additional Tips & Tidbits for Ceiling Design Ideas

  • For spaces with odd angles low ceilings, consider painting the ceiling the same color as the wall to make it “disappear”
  • Pay attention to your home’s architecture to ensure your ceiling design doesn’t compete or interfere
  • If paint seems too overwhelming, you could start even smaller by adding a ceiling medallion to a light fixture! These are particularly beautiful for chandeliers in a master bedroom or dining room.

More Decorating Ideas

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  1. I love the color choice for the powder room (first picture above under paint) Would it be possible to know the name of paint for the ceiling as well as the wallpaper name?


    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Amanda – I agree! It’s beautiful! You’ll need to click the source link under the picture and ask the builder directly, though, as I don’t know what materials they used. :) Kim

  2. Do you have any idea where I could find that mirror in the picture under 1. Paint? I’m obsessed!!!!

  3. Kim,
    This post gave me some great ideas. That last kitchen is in my files as an all time favorite! I like the nursery with the wallpapered ceiling. That made that room pop and yet didn’t make the room feel too busy.
    Great post.

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Karen – Isn’t that nursery amazing?! Plus, I was thinking it would give the little ones something to look up at while in their crib. :)

  4. Believe it or not, I painted our kitchen ceiling a pale, pale pink. I love it! Hubby wasn’t too thrilled at first but he doesn’t even notice it anymore. My favorite thing is when we have company over and they look up. :)

  5. Hi, I love this post. So often that “5th Wall” is ignored! Just wanted to add, for those who are looking to make a change on a budget – you can now buy beadboard wallpaper! Imagine! So much cheaper than the real thing. Tin ceiling tiles now come in plastic 24′ x 24″ squares that you glue to the existing ceiling. Easier and cheaper than the real thing. In addition, the beams, now come in foam, lighter, cheaper and easier to install.
    DIYing is becoming so much better!

    1. Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Pat – I love beadboard wallpaper! I just installed it in the back of my cabinet and you’re right, it’s a great alternative to the real deal. Good to know about the plastic squares, too. Thanks so much for sharing and have a great weekend!

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