As a result of starting this blog and the increased focus on interior design that’s come with it, I’ve been thinking recently that my design confidence is growing; that I’m becoming more decisive and bolder in my decor choices. But hang on, I may be getting ahead of myself. I’ve hit a stumbling block. It’s a dilemma that I’m willing to bet plagues every fan of dark interiors sooner or later: whether to paint the ceiling dark. Except if you’re Abigail Ahern of course, in which case (a) you have not a moment’s hesitation in answering in the affirmative, and (b) you are highly unlikely to be reading this post.
I’ve been an admirer of dark interiors for as long as I can remember and have never decorated a room in pale or neutral shades. Despite this, I have yet to put so much as lick of colour on a single ceiling. What’s stopping me?
The reasons to go dark on your ceiling are persuasive.
Dark ceilings look cool
Painting the ceiling to match dark walls is a very contemporary, cool look. It makes a bold statement, adding character and personality in a sophisticated way. It brings cohesion to a space and is a way to give a contemporary twist to even the most classic of schemes, preventing them appearing stuffy or dated. Dark walls plus a dark ceiling are somehow greater than the sum of their parts, adding an air of grandeur and drama, even to an otherwise quite ordinary room.
It’s hardly possibly to imagine a more dramatically stylish home than that of Kate _ (Instagram: @cowboykate_). This room (below) in her 400 year old home in the Yorkshire dales is a triumph of eclectic styling and delivers cool in ice buckets. This particular image also dispels any fear that dark interiors are inevitably gloomy or oppressive. But Kate’s whole home is a triumph of dark interior decor, and if you’re looking for inspo, Kate’s insta account is a go-to. And if you’re coveting one of those gorgeous sheepie’s on Kate’s sofa – who wouldn’t? – Kate also sells ethically sourced, hand-selected British rare breed sheepskin rugs at affordable prices.)
Dark ceilings keep the focus where you want it
As anyone who’s taken the plunge to paint a room in moodier hues will attest, dark paint works some kind of alchemy, turning even the most mundane home accessories into object d’art. Dark walls present a dramatic backdrop to showcase furniture and art in a uniquely eye-catching way. But if you leave the ceiling white you will lose some of the magic. Inevitably your eye will be drawn upwards, distracted from the loveliness lower down.
Catherine Ashton (Instagram: @bo_decor) has a darkly fabulous and eclectic home. In her living room Catherine uses a dark ceiling to stunning effect, ensuring that the emphasis stays firmly on her beautifully curated art collection.
Dark ceilings make rooms look bigger
A common perception about painting a ceiling dark is that it will make a ceiling appear lower and a room feel enclosed. In fact, expert advice is that when the ceiling is painted to match the wall, the effect is the reserve.
“When you can’t see the boundaries of a room it can appear bigger”, describes Fred Albert, writing about black ceilings for Houzz. In other words, the top edges of wall “disappear”, creating the illusion of additional height.
Dark ceilings enhance the feeling of intimacy
If you enjoy the sensation of drawing closed the shutters against a stormy night, of curling your legs under the softest fleece blanket, of pulling the chair up to the glowing embers of a winter stove, then you understand the appeal of a dark ceiling. Uniformly dark decor evokes a feeling of being enveloped, secure, and cozy against the elements. Dabney Frake, writing about ceiling colour for Apartment Therapy describes it this way:
Painting the ceiling the same colour as the rest of the room creates a rich and full atmosphere that feels complete.
Jaz (Instagram: @jazzierere), a self-confessed art-obsessed maximalist, has a home jam-packed with enticingly inviting corners. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with Jaz on this most lush of sofas, partaking of a refreshment from the conveniently placed bar cart?
Dark ceilings make painting easier
Although painting a ceiling is undoubtedly a home DIY chore of the worst order, the effort is at least partially offset by the fact that you will not have to worry about creating straight lines at the top of your walls. You can ditch the Frog tape and cut right back on that most tedious but annoyingly essential preparation stage, proceeding directly instead to the fun slapping on bit. (Paint speckled hair is an interesting look, no?)
Current design dilemma
I am currently planning a revamp of my hallway. It hasn’t been decorated since we moved into the house over two years ago and is all kinds of bland. I think I’ve settled on Farrow and Ball’s Inchyra blue for the walls. Having vacillated between green and blue for ages, Inchyra, a moody middle ground somewhere between the two hues, is the perfect choice. As one of Farrow and Ball’s darker shades, I’m faced with the decision: should I go dark on the ceiling. The beautiful photo inspiration I found for this post, and the reasons I’ve described here are pretty compelling. However despite this, I am hesitating. Why?
Well for a start there’s the issue of painting over the original cornicing. That proved to be a showstopper in my living room when I painted the room all dark. Partly because painting over its ornately moulded cornicing and rose would tend to disguise rather than highlight those gorgeous features of the room. But also because painting a couple of coats of dark paint over the cornicing would undoubtedly create a problem in years to come. Inevitably some future redesign would involve a return to a light ceiling, necessitating a further two or three coats of light paint to cover the dark. So many layers of paint on intricate mouldings, would mean the loss of some of the beautiful finer detailing (at least without some very painstaking paint removal work). I feel a responsibility to maintain the heritage of the house for the benefit of future owners, which justified leaving that ceiling be. However while the hall does retain its original cornicing, it’s much plainer than in the living room and so multiple coats of paint doesn’t carry the same concern.
A further practical concern for the hallway though is that the ceiling, being at points over the stairwell, needs a special ladder set-up for the paint job. Consequently the ceiling is not a DIY project I’d be prepared to tackle myself, making it trickier and requiring more cash to change in future.
But, if I’m honest, there’s a much more fundamental reason that I’m still unsure about going all dark. It’s simply this: I’m scared.
It’s not what I’ve done before. It’s not what I’ve seen in other people’s houses, (except on Instagram and Pinterest, and those homes are so stylish it’s difficult to see them as “real”). Friends have tried (tactfully) to dissuade me.
But despite this my gut instinct is to try it. It might be wonderful. It might look amazing. I might love it. But I won’t know unless I try.
If I leave my hall ceiling white I will have allowed fear to win over creativity. That is an unpalatable thought. Yoda once observed: “Fear is the path to the dark side”. Admittedly, I think it unlikely that he had home decor in mind at the time, but nevertheless his wisdom seems apt. Should I pin my courage to the sticking place and get on with it? The decorator is hired but I’m waiting for him to confirm a start date. So there’s time for further pondering yet. Have my recent blog developments emboldened me to go with my gut? I’ll keep you posted.
Have you painted your ceiling (or would you consider it)?