Paint The Ceiling or No?

Homeowners often ask me whether or not they should paint the ceiling white or something different. I happened upon a couple of kitchen photos yesterday that perfectly illustrate a point that I make in my Just the Right Paint Color educational video.

paint the ceiling here

via BHG

See how the yellow wall color is wrapped onto the ceiling in this photo? This is “right’ in The Decorologist’s book!  As a Color Consultant, I usually recommend that my clients wrap the wall color onto the ceiling if there is no crown moulding – especially in a kitchen where there is so little wall color above the cabinets anyway. Look at the difference when the color isn’t wrapped, but instead stops at the ceiling:

when to paint the ceiling

via BHG

I’m not saying this looks particularly bad or wrong, but it would look better if the color was wrapped onto the ceiling here, too. With such little wall space painted yellow, it just reads like a stripe of color.  In fact, that stripe draws your attention to the intersection of white and yellow, which makes the ceiling look lower.  Paint the ceiling the same as the wall color and it will make the room feel larger. In this case, it would make the ceiling appear higher and would be like inviting sunshine right into the kitchen!

For more advice about on-trend paint colors and color placement, check out my Just the Right Paint Color video!

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38 thoughts on “Paint The Ceiling or No?

  1. Rhonda says:

    The yellow kitchen is lovely! I’m assuming, though, that a ceiling wouldn’t be painted a color if there were crown molding?

  2. Cathy says:

    You have so many great ideas; on this one though, I think it lowers the ceiling and gives me the feeling of being in a box.

  3. Susie says:

    Hi Kristie! I love the look of painted celings but I have a question. The pictures that I see in magazines or on the internet show a plain celing. What about the a/c vents or high hats? Do you leave those white or paint them also. What if you have knock down?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      I never paint textured or popcorn ceilings a color – it draws too much attention to the ceiling! I have my painters paint out the air vents and anything else the same color as the ceiling.

  4. Eileen says:

    That’s something I hadn’t thought of before and I agree that it looks so much better in the first picture. Looking at my own kitchen, which is in need of painting, would you still paint the ceiling if you’ve got a higher ceiling height? I don’t have just a strip of wall above the cabinets; it’s more like 3 feet. Also, what sheen would you use in a kitchen when you’d be painting the ceiling as well? I’ve heard that ceilings should be a matte finish, but wouldn’t you want more of a wash-down friendly finish for kitchen walls?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Absolutely, I’d do it regardless of the height of the ceiling. If your ceiling isn’t perfect or you might obsess over a stray roller mark, you can paint the ceiling in a flat version of the wall color. Flat paint hides imperfections. I use eggshell finish on the walls – it cleans up easier and it looks a bit more sophisticated. I have painted many ceilings in my own home, and frankly I use eggshell on them as well because I like the sheen. I don’t mind the ceiling imperfections, plus I have a great painter that leaves no roller marks.

  5. Arlene says:

    I think the top photo really works well partly because the ceiling is not very high. The photo on the top has quite a high ceiling and can get away with a white ceiling. I think it is important to see the whole room before making a judgement on the second photo.

    Really love the yellow!

  6. Val says:

    Painted ceilings have been on my mind a lot lately! We have cathedral ceilings in our great room with a kitchen, dining and living room. I’m looking for the perfect blue to wrap up the walls and ceiling. I think it will expand the space. I’m also considering removing the picture molding from the 90’s for better flow for the paint color. Do you think that will work?

  7. Lisa says:

    When should you paint the ceiling lighter than the wall color? Is it when the ceiling is high or the room is large?

  8. Pamela says:

    I had an old cracked ceiling in my 90 year old kitchen so I used wainscot on the ceiling that I first painted by mixing equal parts water and paint and then wiped off leaving a pickled (green) look and finished with several coats of polyurethane. I painted the upper walls white and finished with white crown molding. The kitchen looks fresh and unique. It is my favorite thing about my house.

  9. jeannie says:

    I love this tip! I so wish I could do this in my kitchen, it is such a different look – opens the room up! But I have popcorn ceilings – boo. Any suggestions for textured ceilings? I don’t want to do beadboard, as I plan on doing that for my bathroom ceiling. Are the hard to remove, is it a DIY project? Thanks!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      When you paint the same color on a wall and a ceiling (with no trim between them!), it looks about a half shade lighter on the ceiling, whether or not you change sheens. Most people prefer a flat on the ceiling. I always do eggshell on the walls and actually prefer it on the ceiling for its reflective qualities (although you will see more flaws).

  10. Eileen says:

    Just had to update you that I just painted my kitchen–walls and ceiling–which I wouldn’t have done had I not just read this post. I used eggshell on both everything (I hate cutting in so using the same sheen saved time) and it looks fantastic. It’s a Benjamin Moore color called Gray Cashmere and I can’t quite decide if it’s more of a blue-gray or a green-gray.

    Love, love, love it!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Yay Eileen! Gray Cashmere is one of my (many) favs!!! It’s so subtle that it is a no-brainer to wrap around a ceiling. Does it read slightly lighter on the ceiling than it does on the walls?

  11. Eileen says:

    Definitely reads lighter. Yesterday was cloudy here is the northwest and the ceiling looked just slightly lighter, but today it’s very sunny and it looks much lighter, almost white if you don’t really take the time to notice. What it doesn’t do is emphasize the line between the wall and the ceiling, so I’m thrilled with it.

    Now I’m painting the adjoining family room, which doesn’t get nearly as much natural light, in a shade just a hint lighter than the gray cashmere. I’m pretty confident that it will look great, but my I-hate-change child is pouting. Everyone else is excited.

  12. Jessica says:

    Hi! I just found your blog and LOVE it. I just moved into a new home and I’ve been trying to decide on a paint color. My question regarding painting the ceiling is what do you do if your kitchen and family room are completely open to each other (only separated by an island) but the family room has crown molding and the kitchen does not?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      You could paint the ceiling (wrapping the same color from the wall) in the room without crown (I’m assuming this is the kitchen), and leave the room with crown with a white ceiling (the same white as the trim, but in a flat finish). Using the same wall color but different ceiling colors in adjoining rooms will give you good color flow, while giving each space a little different personality. Hope that helps!

  13. Jennifer Eanes Foster says:

    Hi Krisite,

    I just found your blog and this post on painting the ceiling.  I am the interior designer for the kitchen on the top photo (painted ceiling).  This was a great post and explanation on what painting the ceiling can do for a room with no crown molding.  It can scare some clients, but it makes such a difference.  I tell them the same thing about rooms with angled ceilings/under gables…wrap the color on the walls, angled ceilings, and flat ceilings.

    Love your blog!


  14. Sonya says:

    I just found your blog as I am searching frantically for some insight on what to do with ceilings!!!  We are building a new home and I have been totally stressing over trim/ceiling colors.  I'm going with a very neutral palette, using Valspar Moose Mousse on the walls in my biggest open area (den, dining, breakfast, kitchen area – all of which have crown molding) and Lovely Bluff in the bedrooms and hallways (most of which have crown)  with December Starlight as my trim color.  But I have been totally confused on what to do with the ceilings because my builder had told me I needed a contrast between my crown and my ceiling.  But after reading this post, you are saying paint my ceiling the same as my crown, and the angle change will provide the contrast – right?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      No, the angle change won’t provide contrast if both the crown and ceiling are the same color.  But I do not agree with the builder that you need a contrast between the crown and ceiling.  It will be a lovely architectural “cap” to the room if it’s the same color as the crown – just a flat finish vs. the gloss on the crown.

      • Sonya says:

        Thank you,  if I decided to go a shade or two different on the ceiling than on the crown, would you recommend going lighter or darker than the crown??   Or do you just prefer it to be the same?  I have to be honest, I've never paid a lot of attention to the ceilings in houses until this!

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