Inside Out: July 2018

June 26 2018

The Fifth Wall

Leaving the ceiling white is absolutely the status quo when it comes to decorating. Occasionally my advice to paint ceilings even a pale off-white, is met with shock and surprise, but to a designer’s mind leaving the ceiling white is just that: leaving it. 

Increasingly known as ‘the fifth wall’, ceilings are all too often forgotten about despite being just as large a surface as the floor. The convention is to use the lightest paint on the upper reaches of rooms which makes sense when you think of the sky being above us. A white ceiling presiding over a scheme that does not include a significant amount of pure white however can make for a very stark contrast, so my usual advice would be to opt instead for a pale neutral or off-white with undertones that match the rest of the scheme. Little Greene even categorise their paints as warm whites and cool whites, none of which look very ‘white’. This is where we enter the territory of wedding-dress-white paint names like Oyster, Ivory, Platinum, Alabaster, Pearl, even Dover Cliffs and Bone White. Viewed against white paper or card even the palest of these will look strong, but in the context of a decorative scheme and placed up high on a ceiling, these paints will read as white, and with careful choosing The Right White. 

There’s nothing so much fun as ripping up the rule book of course. Painting a ceiling the same colour as the walls, particularly when they are dark, is a great way to erase the ‘horizon’ line between the two planes, tricking the eye into perceiving the space as larger or taller than it really is. Rich colours, patterns, wallpapers, textures and high gloss finishes are all valid choices for ceilings, and if you don’t believe me take a look at my Pinterest board called Fifth Wall Fun to see if you change your mind, and possibly your ceiling!