Painting the Ceiling a Different Color in a Living Room – Yay or Nay?

sky gray blue color on living room ceiling by The Decorologist

Since I am known for painting the ceiling a different color, I am often asked which ceiling to paint and what color to choose. Like many of the often-asked questions in life, the best answer depends on several factors. If you are considering painting the ceiling a different color, you need to choose a room in your home to create this special effect. Anywhere or everywhere is NOT the right answer!

Lately, I’ve had many readers ask about painting the ceiling a different color in a living room – yay or nay?

Let’s think though this. Is it a large living room that gets everyday use? I don’t typically choose painting a ceiling a different color in a large living space where homeowners spend most of their time. You will want to consider this carefully if your ceiling is not higher than 8 feet, but it can be done. If you want a different color on the ceiling in a large living area with average-height ceilings, I would suggest a color that is no darker than a tint or mid-tone and brings to mind the sky. This will bring the eye up naturally, like the sky does in nature. But it won’t feel like a distraction in the space.

painting the ceiling a different color by The DecorologistThe Decorologist

This is from a living room redesign I worked on several years ago, but I don’t believe I’ve ever shared this one with you before. The ceilings here are 8 feet high. Here’s the same room before we changed the paint colors and replaced the furnishings:


If definitely matters what color the living room walls are, as well. If the living room walls are a light and updated neutral color, painting the ceiling a different color is an option. However, if the walls are already dark or are a saturated color, painting the ceiling a different color can create a dated effect that would NOT result in the look you were hoping for. I’d like to show you a photo example of a dated looking color combination, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings . . .

If the walls and trim of your living room are white, there is good natural lighting, and the ceiling is at least 9 feet tall, you CAN definitely go dark on the ceiling:

black ceiling in white room, painting the ceiling a different color by tamera mageldesign by Tamara Magel

If your living room walls are a light neutral and your ceiling is high (above 10 feet) and flat, you can definitely paint it dark. Perhaps a black, almost black, or navy. If your ceiling is vaulted or slanted, I would NOT recommend painting it a different color than the walls or trim. That would only bring attention to the odd angles above.

You may be itching to try a fun, new color on the ceiling of your living room – maybe a color similar to Benjamin Moore’s 2020 Color of the Year?

It’s a bit of a risk, but not too scary if you keep the walls very light and airy.

pink ceiling by jeffrey bilhuber in ADdesign by Jeffrey Bilhuber in AD

A sky-colored ceiling is a great choice in a white living room, regardless of ceiling height.

testing paint colors with SmallWall paint color boards

The most important thing to do when choosing new paint colors is to test them the RIGHT way.

I highly recommend painting out a SmallWall sample board (available at Sherwin-Williams retailers) and testing the new color in the room you are considering painting.

small wall paint sample boards

small wall

If you have a smaller living space where you spend limited amounts of time (perhaps a library or music room), you can do a high contrast, dark ceiling even with 8 foot ceilings.  There’s nothing wrong with high drama in a space like that, but it could feel like “too much” in your larger main living room.

dark ceiling in music room by The DecorologistThe Decorologist

You may be surprised to hear there is so much you can do (and so much you SHOULDN’T do) in regard to painting ceilings. In my Psychological Color Expert™ certification course, I actually have two entire modules on how to specific paint for ceilings! I teach you what to do with tray and coffered ceilings, ceilings with/without crown molding, textured/patterned ceilings, vaulted and angled ceilings, etc. I give you specific colors in both Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams for dining room and bedroom ceilings, and specific color combinations for walls and ceilings in the same room. You can find out more here.


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Great post, Kristie, thank you. Our master suite is due for a re-do. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of painting the ceiling something other than basic ceiling white. The appropriate tint ratio for ceiling to walls has been my source of hesitation; I was focusing on just how wrong things could go. With your advice and helpful photographs, I feel more confident about painting the ceiling a color. Many thanks!


Hi. Thank you for this post. I have been contemplating painting a dining room ceiling. 12′ high. But it is textured. Can you paint a textured ceiling or will that just look silly?

Sheri Bruneau

Great advice Kristie. Most of the homes where I live have a lot of popcorn so painting is not always an option. I have always loved the look of a painted ceiling.

Sunny Penner Cox
Sunny Penner Cox

Hello All, Sometimes this effect works wonders and is just what the doctor ordered, especially in a small space! Buy real paint and use the Small Wall to great effect as you test paint colors; especially on the ceiling! We have tried to apply much of what I’ve learned from Kristie as we have renovated our new home, achieving a significant downsize into a 1950’s cape. One of the “quaint” things we inherited is a plaster ceiling swirl technique (an effect which appears to be common in our area of the Southeast.) Fortunately, ours is in our smallest public room,… Read more »

Barb Carroll
Barb Carroll

Kristie, Love this post and love love the painted ceilings with the light wall colors! You’re the best!

Leanne Leman
Leanne Leman

Wow, Kristie, what a great post. I will be dreaming of beautiful rooms with beautifully colored ceilings… Love the impact of the light fixtures placed harmoniously against the ceiling color. So inspiring, Thank you!