The 5th Wall

The 5th Wall

How often have you walked into a space and noticed the ceiling? Our eye often goes immediately to the art, the furnishings, or the floor. But those who look up are often rewarded, especially in public spaces, where the ceiling is frequently addressed. We designers love to embrace the ceiling as part of the overall design plan for a space. Sometimes referred to as the fifth wall, the ceiling presents us with the opportunity to expand our design vision, to add a little more texture or dimension to the space, to reinforce a color story, or to get a bit more exuberant in an otherwise quiet space.

Unfortunately though, the ceiling is often over looked in residential spaces. And while the public and commercial space ceilings pictured below would be too much for most homes today, simple treatments like faux boxed beams painted the same color as the ceiling or a ceiling painted in a complementary color trimmed with crown moulding can add interest and depth to a residential interior.

This ceiling this stairwell at Woodcrest is stunning. Without the ceiling treatment the space would still be beautiful but with the ceiling treatment it makes a complete statement.

This gorgeous ceiling in the dining room of Jakes Grill is inlaid with brass and reinforces the Art Deco design.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit New York city’s Grand Central Terminal you may recognize the photos below as details of the celestial painted ceiling from the central terminal. It’s really an amazing ceiling and well worth taking the time to look up.


The giant wood gears in the nearer part of the ceiling and thread spools in the ceiling toward the back are whimsical and speak to the history of this restaurant, Villa de Bear, in Bangkok. It was once a teddy bear factory.

Residential ceilings don’t have to be overly ornate to make a statement. For example Jean Louis Denoit. He seems to be a master with ceilings. I love how this ceiling echoes the curve of the sofas. The space would still have been stunning without the ceiling treatment but this one says that every aspect of the design was addressedd. It’s beautiful and brilliant.

Here he has reflected the carpet in the ceiling. Again, this would be a beautiful room without that ceiling but with it it’s amazing.

This ceiling treatment is simple and quite. The tray ceiling has been painted the same color as the door, unifying door and ceiling.

A beautiful ceiling in your entry or foyer is never wrong.

And what’s not to love about this dining room ceiling by Tobi Fairley? The ceiling keeps the eye moving in this long, narrow space. And the color is so pretty.

Design: Tobi Fairley | Photo: Nancy Nolan

The ceiling treatment in this lovely and serene bedroom echoes the classic feel of this bedroom.

Design: Yawn Design

Even an outdoor space can benefit from a beautiful ceiling treatment.

And of course, we can’t talk about fabulous ceilings without visiting at least one European castle. In this case the vault of the gothic Vladislav Hall in the Old Royal Palace, dating to the 16th century. Truly amazing.

I hope you’ll be inspired to look up more often now.

And, as summer is winding down if you’re thinking of updating your home I’m now booking clients for fall and winter. Contact me at and let’s discuss  your project.

Thanks for stopping by.