Does Dark Paint Make Your Ceiling Appear Lower?

Sometimes in Paint Color Consultations, I suggest a dark paint color for a ceiling in certain rooms.  Most people think that paint colors for ceilings should always be light, right?   Dark paint colors for ceilings used to be a hard sell, but luckily I’ve built up enough street cred that most believe me now when I say a dark painted ceiling won’t come down on your head.



Because that’s what most people are concerned with – that a dark paint color will make the ceiling appear lower.  In a relatively small room, when the walls are painted light or neutral, a dark painted ceiling actually recedes.  Think of it like a night sky that goes on and on.  Here’s a recent before-and-after, if you still don’t believe me: 


“Before” with Light Ceiling and Dark Walls


The walls were a bright, coral-pink and the ceiling was faux-painted with a light blue color.  If you look closely, the trim was faux-painted as well.  Anyway, watch what happens to the room when the new paint colors are in place:

dark painted ceiling

Paint Colors by The Decorologist


Do you think the ceiling looks lower with the dark paint color up above?  No, it actually appears to recede as it brings your eye up.  Here’s another shot around the window – first, the “before”:




In the “after” below, the ceiling looks a bit lighter over near the window, but it’s actually a pretty dark paint color.  Notice that the draperies, rug, and wood furnishings did not change.  I chose paint colors for the walls and ceiling that would work with what my client already have and actually bringing it up to date without having to replace everything.

dark blue ceiling

Dark Ceiling After


So don’t be afraid of the dark!  Have you ever painted your ceiling dark?


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82 thoughts on “Does Dark Paint Make Your Ceiling Appear Lower?

  1. Suzy says:

    I love it, too. Great job. On another note, I’m also happy to see the end of another Red Dining Room. I’ve been house-hunting in the New York area for several months, and it seems like, inevitably, the dining room is red. Probably 80 percent of the time. “Show me The Red Dining Room”, is what I ask the agents. And they always do. :0)

  2. Mel says:

    This room now looks amazing! Two questions: is the ceiling textured (stippled or popcorn)—If not, do you have reservations about painting textured ceilings? And did you change the size of the trim at ceiling level. Again, what an awesome do over. Love your work.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      No, I did NOT change the size of the trim, but the darker ceiling draws more attention to the moulding. And YES, I do have reservations when the ceiling has texture. Color draws attention. And if I have a popcorn ceiling, I don’t want any attention drawn to it. NEVER would I paint a popcorn ceiling a color. If there is only slight texture, possibly. Definitely a flat finish.

  3. Mel says:

    Oh! One more question! I know you don’t give out paint colors as a rule, but is the paint on the walls in the green range or cream? Hard to tell on my monitor. Thanks!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Sure! The wall color is a creamy beige with a slight yellow undertone. There’s probably a drop of green in it, as well, but it definitely reads more yellowy than greenish in real life (not photos).

  4. Vicky Riddle says:

    I love the Greyhound color you suggested for my dining room ceiling! I would have never thought of that, but it looks great! Thanks again Kristie!

  5. Jil McDonald says:

    Love it! I’ve always wondered why, when ” they” said that dark colors move towards you. I’ve learned in kindergarten that if you want something to recede, you paint it darker. But we get swayed by false information, then our ‘beliefs’ change and before we know it, we’re running with the pack saying ‘darker paint closes in the room’.
    Good for you, for setting the record straight!

  6. Terry Murphy says:

    I love the look of a dark ceiling, and the paint colors that Kristie chose for this room.

    On a separate topic related to the “after” photos — I also love the chair rail placement in these photographs. Here is a link to a very interesting article on chair rail proportions from a master carpenter:

    One other comment — I once read an article online by a designer who counselled AGAINST painting the area below the chair rail a contrasting color. However, it looks very nice in the picture, and I wonder what Kristie’s thoughts are on that philosophy?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thanks, Terry. The area below the chair rail is painted out the same color as the trim – I think that looks more fresh and current than painting the area below a contrasting color. The way it was before – with the same color above and below the chair rail – looked like a big white stripe was applied across the room.

  7. Karhy says:

    I like colored ceilings also. When done right I like wallpapered ceilings too, in a bedroom. I tend to say go for it and not lock into trends. I’m wondering the same thing as Mel. My friend painted her ceiling a couple shades darker than the walls and for some reason I really didn’t like it al all. It felt very closed in. I was wondering of it was due to having a textured ceiling?

  8. Connie Nikiforoff Designs says:

    I might consider this if the room was pretty good sized. For small rooms (like we had in our former home) I always painted the ceilings the same color as the walls….I used light colors overall. That way there was no visible distinction of the line between the ceiling and walls. We didn’t have any crown moulding though. I think the ceiling color has a lot to do with lighting in the room, both natural and artificial, as well as the usage of the room.

    The new colors in this client’s room are wonderful! So much lighter, brighter and to me more liveable than the former colors. Two thumbs up!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Connie! I do like the same color on the ceiling and walls when there is no crown moulding. When there is crown moulding, I prefer the ceiling be the same as the trim color or as an accent, like this dining room.

      • Kim says:

        So how would this work? I recently painted my small 15’x15′), low-ceiling (7’9″) room BM Palladium Blue. Would I paint the same color and finish (satin) on the ceiling? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the dark gray ceiling and would even be willing to repaint the walls and install crown moulding to achieve the look, but I’m not sure which would work better – a dark contrasting ceiling or the monotone look.

        • Kristie Barnett says:

          If you don’t have crown moulding, I’d suggest you put the Palladian Blue on the ceiling as well as the walls. This will make your whole room feel larger and more expansive. You may want to switch to a flat finish for the ceiling, though.

          • Kim says:

            Kristie, it worked! We carried the Palladian Blue onto the ceiling (switching to flat, of course) and it looks like a million bucks! As predicted, the low ceiling almost disappears and the color looks much, much lighter up there. Thank you so much!!

          • Coley says:

            Kim, do you have a photo you could email me of how your room turned out? That is the exact color I will be painting my bathroom and was thinking of doing the same thing to expand the space!

  9. Sara Backstrom says:

    I love the way you transformed this room with paint! It is very inspirational. I would like to know your opinion on what kind of paint finish to use for ceilings. Does it work to use an eggshell finish on both the walls and the ceiling in a room? Or is it usually best to go with a flat finish on the ceiling?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      most people prefer flat on ceilings. i have eggshell on mine, because i like the bit of sheen especially when the chandelier is on. however, any sheen highlights imperfections and can show roller marks if you don’t use an excellent painter.

  10. Michelle Walker says:

    Kristie recommended I paint my dining room ceiling BM’s Charlotte Slate AC-24 and I LOVE it. My walls are a creamy yellow faux from the previous owner so I’m not sure of the exact colors.

    I also “wrapped” several of my rooms in one color and I have an eggshell finish on the walls & ceiling. No need to buy separate paint.

  11. Tami says:

    Kristie! This room is amazing!! I can’t even believe how great her existing furniture items look from JUST paint! This is really amazing!
    I still need to have my bookcases painted 🙂

  12. Shaina says:

    Love the dark ceiling! Kristie I love all your work. I was wondering … I have the opposite problem. I have a very large open space . its a very large connecting living room and dining room with 12 foot ceilings. I want to make the space cozier and smaller. Would I paint my walls darker and keep the ceiling light?

  13. Chez says:

    Love the room you did, and I could totally see how it opened up the room in the pics! Wow – that ceiling really looks taller! I was just at a paint store the other day, and the paint colorist there told me that painting a ceiling anything but white will absolutely make the ceiling feel lower. I couldn’t convince her otherwise. I remain a bit nervous about my plans to paint our LR ceiling BM Blue Bonnet. I trust you though – so fingers crossed! 🙂

  14. Joan says:

    Above, Mel asked your thoughts about painting a textured ceiling. Can you give us your opinion on that?

  15. Bethany says:

    Beautiful ceiling but have a question: light colored ceilings reflect light, dark colored ceilings do not. Won’t dark ceilings make a room dark?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      keep the walls light if that is your concern. the cool thing about a dark dining room ceiling is that it looks so beautiful when the chandelier is on – it’s a very romantic, sophisticated look!

      • Bethany says:

        Light walls, that’s a good idea!
        I’ve been studying lighting via books, and lighting experts advise keeping ceilings very light to reflect light but I’m sure their sole goal is bouncing light. Seems whatever area is a professional’s specialty is the area that trumps all else. Thank you for your info.

  16. Peggy says:

    Does the dark ceiling phenomenon still work with a textured ceiling? Not popcorn, but a random stucco like pattern. Use flat rather than eggshell? This is for a 13 x 15 foot boys bedroom with a 4 inch molding.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      If you have minimal texture, but definitely a flat finish. Just keep in mind that it does draw attention to the ceiling – and you may not want to draw attention to that texture. It’d probably be fine for a boys’ room, though.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      If the texture is slight, it would be ok especially for a boy’s room. I usually steer clear of drawing attention to any textured ceiling with a “color” in public spaces, though.

  17. Sid says:

    This works totally – but it’s not a dark colour. It’s a neutral shade. And it’s inoffensive – that’s why it works along with the moulding being white opens it up. A dark shade with a definite assigned colour wouldn’t work – very generally speaking.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      It’s darker than you think, Sid. If you looked at it on a paint chip, you’d probably think it was waaayyy too dark. It lightens up on the ceiling. You are correct about the “assigned color” part – I typically gray down whatever color it is so that it doesn’t “scream” a certain color – much more sophisticated that way!

  18. Aimee Molina says:

    What is the color you used on this ceiling? I am looking at doing this in my bedroom, which is vaulted. I know the colors look lighter on the ceiling and I don’t want to go too light and lose the effect!

  19. BillG says:

    This looks awesome! We just picked paint colors for our brand new home. We chose a creamy brown for the walls and a kind of vanilla-esque color for the ceilings… but they accidentally painted the ceilings white instead! We don’t have crown molding and I’m afraid the white ceiling will look terrible with the brown walls. The ceilings in the living areas are vaulted, but in the kitchen/dining and bedrooms they’re flat and only 8′ high. I’d be curious to know what you’d suggest in our scenario!

  20. Christine says:

    One question about darker ceilings (something that I adore quite a bit). I have a small master bedroom (13.5′ x 13′) and have a golden color on the walls (Valspar’s Woodlawn Lewis Gold). I really like the idea of painting the ceiling a deep, aubergine (I’m currently crushing on Benjamin Moore’s Caponata), but can’t decide where to start and stop the color transition.

    My room does not have crown molding (1960’s brick rancher) and I have no plans to add crown molding. My initial thought is to NOT paint the ceiling along the wall/ceiling line, as one traditionally would. Rather, I like the idea of carrying the wall color a few inches into the ceiling and painting the inset ceiling (as created by my extended wall color) the darker aubergine. However, I also think the reverse may be better – carrying the darker ceiling color down onto the walls a few inches. I don’t plan to add an molding at either transition, but wouldn’t be against painting a faux band of molding with the trim color.

    I can’t decide which direction is best. I appreciate your feedback.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      It depends on the height of your ceiling. When you say inset, do you mean you have a tray-type ceiling? If the room height is standard eight feet, bringing the darker color down the wall a bit will definitely make the room feel more closed in – it would be fine if you have tall ceilings in there, even cozy it up a bit.

      • Christine says:

        Thank you for responding. I have neither a tray ceiling, nor a high ceiling. Standard 8 feet of boring box. I guess crown molding just got bumped up on the ‘to do’ list. Thank you for your input and professional opinion.

  21. Sarah says:

    Would you recommend painting a ceiling darker when there is no trim separating the wall and ceiling and also if the ceiling has dramatic slops that follows the roof line? I hope that make sense.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      No, Sarah – maybe you should instead consider wrapping your wall color onto those slants, as well as the ceiling. This will make the room feel more expansive and de-emphasize those odd angles.

  22. Holly says:

    I love dark ceilings. We have an open concept first floor and have a custom shade of brown on our ceiling with light beige ish walls, dark oak molding and dark hardwood floors. I thought my husband was crazy when he told me his idea, but it has created the illusion that the walls are receding as you look across the house. Definitely makes the house look longer than it really is. I am so happy I listened to him.

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  24. Coley says:

    I absolutely love what you did here! So many designers change out the entire room that costs a pretty penny and I just love that all you changed was the paint. I’m not able to do this in most of my upstairs as I have the dreaded popcorn ceilings 🙁 When our bathroom gets redone though, I’m going to attempt wrapping it in the same color. Still deciding on whether to change it from eggshell to flat on the ceiling though as I have to think about the humidity issue…

  25. Carol Daniell says:

    Going over all your old posts, and this one is a good one for me. We’re starting from scratch now, so I’m going to be utilizing you a lot! Not just for ammunition against hanging TVs in the middle of the living room just so my husband can see it from the toilet from the hall bath (remember that one?) Well, our house burned down, and I’ve been so upset, he’s pretty much letting me do what I want. So since we have eight foot ceilings, if we paint them darker, they’ll look higher, right? And the TV is going into an armoir! I think I told you about that in another post. Thank you so much for having such a wonderful blog. I refer to it quite a bit.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thank you, Carol. I guess the bright side of your very difficult situation is him letting you have your way a little!! One more piece of advice: I don’t recommend painting every ceiling dark – smaller, square rooms will look taller and larger with a darker ceiling. But a long, rectangular room? Not so much. Good luck and blessings to you as you move onward and upward xoxo

  26. Louisa says:

    A lot of people have asked about textured ceilings, but nobody has asked about textured 12-in ceiling tiles, which unfortunately came with our house. Would you consider painting those a darker color?

  27. Laura Tallant says:

    Hi Kristie,

    My husband and I both love these paint colors and we are going to paint our dining room with the same scheme. I have a question for you though. We have a large mirror with a gold and black frame that we will be re-hanging. We also have 2 additional pictures with black frames with gold highlights. The furniture is a medium to dark cherry. We are trying to decide what type of chandelier and finish we should purchase. What would you suggest? Thanks for your help!

  28. Robert Audlee says:

    We’re building a ‘dramatic’ conference room, with purple chairs, and two big whiteboards ‘backlit’ and a conference table ‘underlit’ with purple LED’s. Would we be COMPLETELY crazy to go with a black ceiling and medium/dark grey walls?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Wow, that DOES sound dramatic! I’d do a black ceiling with light gray walls, rather than medium/dark gray walls to keep it from being too-too dark and heavy. Maybe Ben Moore Stonington Gray on the walls?

  29. Robert Audlee says:

    I bought some cheap disposable black plastic tablecloths, and stapled them to the ceiling to get a feel for what it would look like (Haven’t finished mounting the LED rope lights behind the whiteboard yet- I just threw them behind it to see how they’d look)

  30. Robert Audlee says:

    here’s one with room lights on. Ceiling is Valspar “Very Black”, light grey walls are Ben Moore “Nickel”, dark grey wall is Ben Moore “Crucible”, trim on door and windows is Ben Moore “Hematite”

  31. Michael says:

    Kristie, I’m a new homeowner and there are several projects I need to do to this place and my funds are dwindling. I wanted to have all the ceilings scraped and redone but because they are all vaulted its going to cost me thousands I don’t have so I may have to keep the popcorn. :-/ Have you ever painted a popcorn ceiling darker to conceal it more? i haven’t found many pictures online and wonder if that would be disastrous. The one pic I found didn’t look too bad….

  32. lisa says:

    Kristie, I am a fan of darker colors on walls but would like to try reversing what I have done on my previous renovations and paint the walls light and the ceilings dark. My husband and I are renovating a 1698 chapel and hermitage in Europe into a home. The nave will become a living and dining rooms. The barrel ceilings reach just over 16′ and has a ledge on the wall at about 10′. The width of the room is 13.5″. The floor tiles will be neutral shades of cream and tan. I thought about faux painting the ceilings darker tans and browns with large antique golden stencils. I thought about faux painting the walls light cream colors. I was also trying to decide whether or not I should paint a wainscot on the walls the same darker colors as the ceiling. Every day, I change my mind and I would love some expert advice.

  33. lisa says:

    I posted a photo of the same room from the other direction. I forgot to mention that the room is 32′ long. Would light walls and darker ceilings make the room look even more narrow? I am anxious to hear your comments.

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