Are boring ceilings a given? No way! Read on to discover 17 unique ceiling ideas for interior design so the fifth wall never has to be mundane again.
Ah, the ceiling. So modest. So functional. It provides a much-needed barrier against the elements above, aids in acoustics, and keeps necessary elements like lighting held securely in place. Gone are the days of the ceiling being a neglected part of the design space.
To help push that boring, flat white surface out (or at least far into last place), we’ve found 17 unique ceiling design ideas and inspirations for décor — these examples are sure to breathe new life into what Stephen Fanuka, New York City’s “Contractor to the Stars” and Million Dollar Contractor, called the fifth wall in a 2014 interview with Architectural Digest.
While ceilings in churches, castles, and homes of the rich and famous have traditionally been treated with all due respect over the years, interior designers can now give new life to the humble ceiling no matter the venue. When working on interior designs, Fanuka suggests, “Look up at your ceiling…. Add a pop of color or hang wallpaper.” From plants to patterns to fabric and fibers, here are dozens of beautiful and unique fifth walls.
- High Gloss
- Photos & Art
- Three-Dimensional Installations
- A Layered Look
- Sculptural / Architectural
- Non-Traditional Color
- Brick & Stone
- Fabric & Fibers
- Glass & Light
1. High Gloss
One of the recent trends for ceilings is an ultra-glossy, reflective finish that shines. A glossy surface tricks the eye so the room feels larger, especially with lighter colors and furniture in place. However, the surface needs to be polished smooth so no bumps show if using paint.
If a smooth surface isn’t possible, a stretch ceiling might be the perfect option. Stretch ceilings cover up the existing ceiling and are available in hundreds of colors and several finishes, including high gloss. The smooth and shiny fifth wall can also add a glamorous feel to a space. High-gloss paint can also be applied to materials like wood for a neat combination of planking and glam.
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Adding a few live plants for decoration in a room can immediately make a space feel bright and fresh. Now imagine that times 10, 100, 1000! Suspending plants from the ceiling is one way to scatter in a few more botanicals.
Building and hanging complete frames with overflowing fronds can take the greenery to a whole new level — literally. Cover the entire ceiling, make a pattern with hanging boxes, or just suspend plants from open beams. [back to guide]
Of course, wood is as traditional as it gets when it comes to building materials. Wood adds a certain warmth to a room all by itself, often regardless of whether it is stained or painted.
Now mixing different stains, plank lengths, finishes, and even painting wood for use on a ceiling is desirable. Try patterns and even board-on-board layers with recycled pieces for more appeal. [back to guide]
The lackluster stencil designs of yesteryear have been replaced with high-tech creations that make stenciling easier and better looking.
These new stencils make doing tones, bold colors, and even metallic finishes accessible. Try a full pattern over the entire ceiling, small focus areas around light fixtures, and more complex designs for a cool new look.[back to guide]
5. Photos & Art
Covering up popcorn ceilings and banishing the boring white is also easier than ever. Large prints can be installed, stretch ceilings can be printed with graphics and illustrations, and gorgeous wallpapers with enormous designs can span the entire space.
Depending on the photo or art, the ceiling can become the focus of a room or continue the design from floor to ceiling for a fully immersive experience. Consider whether art prints with abstract shapes or patterns can work for a modern vibe, or if a vintage map print trimmed with stained wood is in order. [back to guide]
While no one wants the wallpaper borders and the tired mix of floral patterns of the past to reappear just yet, fresh new designs are on the market that work for both residential and commercial spaces. Where actual wood may not be an option, check out a faux wood look courtesy of printed wallpaper.
Wallpaper patterns can range from geometric and simple to angular and bold, as well as monochromatic floral patterns and tone-on-tone designs that pack an understated, elegant punch. Wallpaper on ceilings span from sophisticated traditional patterns to fun and funky fruit in neon colors, so don’t hold back when choosing something to cover up the fifth wall.[back to guide]
7. Three-Dimensional Installations
Take the traditional light fixture and expand that concept across the ceiling. Now, one light becomes a dozen with reimagined elements that create something akin to an art piece, suspended directly from the ceiling.
Fantastic, complex lighting fixtures bring in texture and varying levels for the eye to consider while taking in the space. Add contrast with a rudimentary diamond pattern in black directly on that boring white ceiling — BAM — instant interest. Or take a classic arabesque pattern and extrude it into a three-dimensional layer with a monochromatic finish. A coffered ceiling in a dark, single-color finish will also demand attention, leaving anyone gazing up filled with intrigue. [back to guide]
8. A Layered Look
Go a step beyond three-dimensional objects with a completely layered approach to the décor. After installing a series of patterned wood panels, add in beams, and then add a third layer with creative lighting fixtures in bold colors that complement the ceiling color.
Take long planks of wood and create steps with spacing to allow the play of light and shadow on each piece. Incorporating stenciling, art, and even ceiling baffles for better acoustics can add to the layered look. [back to guide]
9. Sculptural / Architectural
For a look that is more integrated than just layered levels or three-dimensional elements suspended from or attached to the ceiling, form the ceiling itself into something new. That may mean ocean-like waves, undulating baffling contained to organic cut-outs in the ceiling space, or large sculptural designs that are not removable. Like with a layered design, sculptural and architectural ceiling designs allow the play of light and shadow. These can also make a large room feel less or more intimidating, depending on the execution and color choice. [back to guide]
10. Non-Traditional Color
White may be the safest neutral on the block, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to stick with it in every room. Bold, bright choices can easily become the focus to draw the eye up in a space with meager dimensions. Bring the non-traditional color choice down on to the walls part way to visually expand the size of the room.
A dark ceiling can pull together elements in a way that bold walls would otherwise steal the focus from instead of working in harmony. A lighter or darker color pulled from the room’s décor can instantly brighten up the space with little effort, while a color complementary to the floor can add life.
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This look can get a little weary — it’s been around for quite a while. Instead of simply allowing the building structure to dictate how an open ceiling plan looks, make it purposeful and intentional.
Gray, white, or black ductwork might do the trick in some spaces, but changing it up with a bright paint color can pull the focus and unify the space at the same time. Change the ductwork to match one wall exactly or coat everything in the open ceiling space a complementary but non-standard color that marries industrial and elegant.
Keep the ceiling itself a different color with standard black structural finishes on pipes, beams, and ductwork for a nice contrast.
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12. Brick & Stone
Natural, earthy elements can take a modern, minimal space and instantly add warmth. Bricks are the perfect choices for arches and curved ceilings in a space that has plenty of natural light.
Choose brick colors that complement the furnishings for a cohesive design, and consider using wood throughout to add another degree of warmth to the stone.
Herringbone patterns work well with brick and stone for a unique ceiling design, and aspects like stone or brick size and the amount of visible mortar also come into play to create an interesting texture. [back to guide]
13. Fabric & Fibers
Rugs, ropes, and rags can change the vibe with little effort, and billowy satins soften up the otherwise hard lines of walls. Wedding venues are often the place to see drapes of fabric adorning a ceiling, but materials can be used in both homes and retail settings.
Get creative with texture and add felted wool balls and roughly torn ribbons suspended from metal rings for a unique ceiling design, or hang long swaths of linen amidst origami birds and soft lighting. Incorporating layers and greenery is also a great one to create a unique space with the ceiling.
Metal ceiling treatments aren’t anything new, but using non-traditional ceiling materials can take a metal ceiling from ho-hum to how cool. Items typically used for outdoor and exterior construction are a bit shocking when seen inside and above.
Cutting the metal into interesting shapes for layering, stacking, or creating patterns gives the material a unique feel. Though metal ceiling can easily create a rustic feel, choosing patterned tin tiles or polished metal perks up the glam factor for more upscale scenes.
How does creating a unique ceiling design AND helping the environment sound?? Yeah, it sounds pretty awesome. Hanging wooden crates or pallets from the ceiling adds texture, dimension, and warmth.
Having patrons donate used or broken umbrellas to hang upside down from the ceiling? That’s a great way to add interest to a space and keep one more thing out of a landfill. Even old newspapers, paper bags, and books can be upcycled to create an undeniably unique set of lighting fixtures for that fifth wall, all while saving money and the planet. That combo might be the best one yet.
16. Glass & Light
A ceiling can be more than a flat surface that protects for the outside elements. Bringing in energy-efficient windows that soften the sunlight can help reduce energy costs and make the space a lighter, brighter one.
Glass can also be incorporated into the ceiling design by way of hand-blown fixtures that serve as textural, colorful art pieces. With those and other light fixtures, look for ways to throw shadows on the ceiling. Casting shadows from a light fixture can give the illusion of art, stencils, or other patterns for a truly unique ceiling design without the commitment or paint or installations.
One final way to make a ceiling unique and interesting is to add stripes. Though stripes that run parallel to the flooring may be the best choice for smaller spaces, any direction is fair game.
Stripes that join at different angles, run perpendicularly to the flooring or furnishings, or even conjoin on an angled ceiling are great choices depending on the room size and shape. Since a variety of widths may look like a bit clownish, sticking with similar widths will keep the ceiling design unified AND unique.
Bold colors that contrast, as well as the same color in different finishes, can work. The end result will be a unique ceiling design that no one will be able to miss.