Ceilings Are the Fifth Wall
Loft, The New American Home 2018
Photography by Jeff Davis
Incorporate Ceilings Into Your Overall Design

Ceilings today are often referred to as the “fifth wall” as a way of drawing your attention to them. Home builders and remodelers may not realize that a ceiling can have as powerful an effect on the look and feel of a space as the other four walls have. If you neglect the ceiling and concentrate only on the vertical walls when you build a home, the ho-hum ceilings can negate the wow factor you worked so hard to create. A ceiling offers a tremendous opportunity to add dimension and character to each room. So, include the ceiling in your home design plans and consider how the fifth wall may be used to benefit each space.

One significant role a ceiling plays is to provide consistency between the exterior and interior architecture of a home. As an example, the ceiling treatments of a Craftsman Bungalow style home, which typically features exposed rafters and massive piers on the exterior, would be quite different from that of a Georgian/Federal style home, which displays more delicate classical motifs, or a Modern style home that showcases simple straight-lined sculptural shapes.

It is also important to analyze how the ceiling will enhance the way a room functions. Envision the entire area as a three-dimensional space, rather than thinking of the ceiling as a separate feature. A well-planned ceiling can be used to delineate specialized areas in an open floor plan. In an open space with high ceilings, dropping the ceiling over a lounge area can create a more intimate atmosphere. Painting the ceiling a dark color, or installing stained wooden planks will also serve to lower the perceived height of the ceiling.

A ceiling may be used to optimize room acoustics. A room with many hard surfaces, such as tile, concrete, glass and metal, will reflect and magnify the sounds generated by the activities of your home buyer and their family. A ceiling treatment that makes use of soft, absorbent materials, such as draped fabric or glass cloth-covered ceiling panels, can help reduce the sound reverberations.

There are many ceiling treatments to consider, some which involve structural work, such as coffered ceilings, tray ceilings, exposed structural beams, vaulted ceilings, barrel-vaults, and drop-down sculptural designs. Designs that are more decorative in nature include fancy moldings, medallions, beadboard, embossed tin, mirrors, fabric, wood planks, and faux wood beams. Always, take note of the style and dimensions of a space before you decide on any of these treatments. Heavy wood beams may look out of place and overbearing in a smaller room, but the same treatment might be perfect for a large space with a high ceiling.

You can also use light to provide visual interest on a ceiling. LEDs are perfect for this application, since they do not add heat to the room, nor will they often need to be replaced—an