Design Tip by Dan: Everyone Look Up!


Our talented JAI designer, Dan Garner, offers a few tips to make an ordinary room extraordinary with ceiling treatments.

Michelangelo and Da Vinci were onto something when they poured their artistic efforts into the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. For centuries, famous artists applied their skills and confidence adding sophistication to a room through ceilings. Architects and Interior Designers know that adding character to the ceiling—otherwise known as the fifth wall—breathes life and inspiration into a space.

Somewhere along the course of time, the value of a carefully thought out ceiling has been underestimated. The ceiling has been relegated to a stark, blank canvas begging for attention.  

Your Ceiling Wants to Be Noticed 

Usually, the ceiling is the largest surface of uninterrupted space in a room, so its color or texture greatly impacts a room's ambience. Don’t be shy. Your ceiling can handle its own identity. Here are a few design tips to give it the attention it deserves.

Transition with Molding

Transitions are important. Contrary to current design pop-culture belief, HGTV did not invent crown molding. Architectural moldings relate to the human scale and form. Just like a classic architectural column, people have a base, middle and top. Baseboard, chair rail and crown molding bring proper scale and proportion to a room. Crown molding is an attractive transition to your attention-grabbing ceiling.

Soaring High

Large rooms often have the luxury of high ceilings and yet sometimes these spaces are very uninspiring. Nothing is more unsettling than an empty two-story “box.” Soaring volumes require proper attention to scale and proportion. Exposed trusses, beams, dormers, skylights, and architectural details provide the proper base for adding your interior finishes. All of this serves to break down spaces visually and either direct our gaze or give the human eye a place to rest. In large spaces, walls and ceilings must work together or they will fight one another.

Wood is Good

Reclaimed wood panels and beams create a cozy, rustic appearance and are a popular choice because they connect us to nature. Custom-milled woodwork provides the ultimate detail, but you don’t have to break the budget for your wood-look. Tongue and groove boards or pre-made panels offer the look of beadboard for a budget-friendly option.

Diverse Metal 

Although the punched tin ceiling tiles of the Victorian and Art Deco eras are still a popular choice, there is now a broad range of metal ceiling tiles in panels and planks. With today's printing technologies, many manufacturers offer a metal look on a more affordable base material, including plastic. There is certainly something that will work with your design aesthetic and budget.

Inside the Box

A coffered, or box-beam, ceiling is created of molding that breaks the ceiling down into a grid and provides three-dimensional relief. A traditional coffered ceiling features squares, but molding can be shaped into rectangles, hexagons, circles or virtually any surprising combination. The horizontal ceiling surface can then be left white or given a punch of interest with color, metal, or wood. Your imagination is the limit.

5th Wall-Covering

Can’t afford an expensive architectural treatment? Wallcovering isn’t just for walls. A large-scale print on your 5th wall could do the trick. Many coverings have geometric patterns that will give the illusion of an architectural features.

Color It Right

When selecting a ceiling color, what is your overall goal of your design?

Dark Colors: Cozy and enveloping – think master bedrooms.

Light Colors: Open and airy – especially rooms with natural light.

Metallic Colors: Luxurious and reflective – consider this for a powder room.

Matching Walls & Ceiling: Infinite and endless –works best when you want to minimize the ceiling.

Contrasting Walls & Ceilings: Trendy and bold – make your entertaining spaces perform.

Plain Flat White: Sometimes white is right. – particularly if you want your fabulous molding or stunning light fixture to steal the show.

Don’t be afraid to make the ceiling an active participant in your room. Go for it! Make everyone look up!


Dan Garner is an NCIDQ certified interior designer who is a valued part of the JAI team. With a Masters degree in Architecture from SCAD and over 20 years experience in the architecture, interior design and the construction industry, Dan's work history is extensive and diverse. He has designed and managed projects of all sizes and complexities.


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