6 Ways to Perk Up Your Ceiling

Reinvent your fifth wall with one of these do-it-yourself ceiling makeovers and transform the whole look and feel of a space.
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BPF_original_tween-girls-bedroom_ceiling-hardware_4x3

Designer Brian Patrick Flynn adds wow factor to the walls and ceiling with a bold, purple wallpaper.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

Designer Brian Patrick Flynn adds wow factor to the walls and ceiling with a bold, purple wallpaper.

By: Jen Jafarzadeh L'Italien
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It's easy to focus simply on what's straight in front of you and forget to look up. So when you're decorating your home, remember there are five walls in a room. Sure, you can leave every ceiling painted plain-Jane white. But imagine the possibilities if you add color, pattern, texture or dimension to your ceiling. Treat the fifth wall like a blank canvas, and you can really create a wow factor in a room's design. As a bonus, a room will look bigger when you draw attention up.

Check out these six dramatic ceiling makeovers and start noticing the pretty view above — like remembering to look up at the starry night sky.

Be Playful With Wallpaper

Wallpaper is going through a renaissance. Patterns with a fresh, modern feel have exploded on the decorating scene. A cheerful wallpaper design brings personality and color to a serene space, like a home office. The fifth wall can act as an accent wall in a room.

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HGRM-ceilings-blue-wallpaper-office-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Wallpaper Buying Tips

Removable wallpaper tiles are certainly a modern invention — just ask any homeowner who's spent hours peeling off dated wallpaper from the '50s. There are three general types of wallpaper — non-pasted paper, pre-pasted paper and paste-the-wall paper.

  • Non-pasted paper is easy to find but it requires more work. Before you hang the wallpaper, you must brush each strip of paper with wallpaper paste, let it sit for a few minutes and then apply to the wall.
  • Pre-pasted wallpaper is easy to apply and remove. The paper is backed with a paste that’s activated by water.
  • Paste-the-wall wallpaper is a DIY-friendly choice. Use a brush or paint roller to paste the wall. This type of wallpaper is less mess and a quicker application.

How to Wallpaper a Ceiling

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Clear Skies Above Head

A cheerful wallpaper design brings personality and color to a serene space, like a home office. The fifth wall can act as an accent wall in a room. Here's how to achieve the look of a wallpapered ceiling, featuring a pretty blue sky of birds overhead.

Materials List

For this project you'll need wallpaper (we used removable wallpaper tiles from Hygge & West, an 8-inch plastic smoother, a seam roller, measuring tape and a pencil.

Get Started: Prep, Plan and Apply

Before hanging your wallpaper, you want to make sure that your ceiling is in great shape: All holes are filled, all imperfections have been spackled and sanded, and dust and dirt have been cleaned off the surface. Do not apply wallpaper to a ceiling that's been freshly painted and has not cured for 20 days.

Flatten Your Tiles

The wallpaper shown here is actually a design of removable wallpaper tiles by Julia Rothman for Hygge & West. Open up and gently unroll the tiles, and lay the wallpaper tiles flat for 24 hours before starting this project.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Measure and Plan

Take down the measurements of your ceiling. Using a tape measure, plan where your first wallpaper tile will go.

Mount the Tiles

Remove a few inches of the tile's backing from the top edge to expose the back of the tile. Apply this sticky edge to the ceiling and firmly smooth with your hand. Reach under the tile and slowly pull down the remaining backing while applying the tile to the ceiling. Smooth from the center outward using an 8-inch plastic smoother. Work out and down to reduce air bubbles. Repeat this process for the remaining tiles.

Smooth the Seams

Use a seam roller to be sure the seams of your tiles lie flat. Seams should butt into each other but not overlap. Smooth the wallpaper tiles as you go for the perfect placement. Quick tip: If you’re moving, or simply itching to redecorate, and you want to remove the wallpaper tiles, simply peel each tile from top to bottom at a 120-degree angle with smooth, consistent force.

Add Personality With a Pattern

Stenciling a ceiling with an intricate pattern is an affordable way to add a real wow factor to a room. If you're using an intricate stencil, enlist a friend as a second set of hands (one person paints each color) to make it go faster.

If you want to make your own stencil design, use contact paper from your local hardware store. Contact paper is a great material for stencil-making because it has a tacky adhesive side that will stick to the ceiling, but can be removed without leaving a residue. Another option is Mylar, a sturdy, transparent polyester film you can find at art supply stores. If you're using Mylar, you'll need a spray adhesive to stick the stencil to the wall. Mylar stencils have the advantage of being reusable over and over again.

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HGRM-ceilings-blue-gray-stencil-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Stencil a Fun Pattern on Your Ceiling

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The Scoop on Stenciling

Stencils give you the drama of wallpaper with the freedom of paint to work in any room, without the risk of peeling and mold.

Oriental Flair

We picked this Moroccan tile stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils and chose a gray and blue color palette.

Materials List

For this project you'll need a stencil; a stippling brush; 2-inch dense foam rollers; spray adhesive; painter's tape; a paint tray or plastic plate; a piece of cardboard or paper for sample board; paper towels; large zip-top bags; small plastic containers for paint; and latex paint.

Get Started: Prep, Stick and Paint

It’s a good idea to practice your stenciling technique on paper or a sample board, like a piece of cardboard, rather than moving straight to painting your ceiling. Getting your stencil technique down first will save you time and frustration in the long run. You can try out color combinations for your stencil pattern, too. After your stencil test run, map out the design by making pencil marks where each stencil pattern will be positioned.

Prepare the Surface

Clean walls to prep your surface for a clean-edged stencil. A solution of water and dishwashing liquid with a sponge works well to clean dust and dirt off your ceiling.

Stick Up the Stencil

When you’re stenciling a wall, you can use either painter’s tape or spray adhesive to secure and reposition your stencil as you paint the pattern. Stenciling a ceiling is trickier because you’re working against gravity. It’s best to use a spray adhesive for stenciling the ceiling or for intricate designs. Then add a few pieces of painter’s tape around the edge of the stencil to keep it firmly in place. You’ll want to start your stencil on a section of the ceiling that lets you paint an uninterrupted column of the pattern. Then you’ll have a perfect vertical pattern from which you can extend out from.

Paint the Edges

Always start with the edges. Pour some paint onto a plate or paint tray. You don't need a lot of paint (maybe two to three tablespoons of paint to start), and you'll want your stippling brush to be almost dry as you paint. Use a dabbing motion with your stippling brush to start painting in from the edges of your design. You'll use the stencil brush for filling in any gaps where the ceiling meets the trim.

Fill In With Paint

Grab a two-inch foam roller and mini paint tray. Pour a little paint onto your paint tray and load up the foam roller with paint. Keep moving the roller over the paint a few times until it absorbs most of the paint, and then blot any excess paint with a paper towel. When you start applying the roller to the ceiling, you should see no visible paint on the roller surface — it should look almost dry. Use painter's tape on the narrow edges of the stencil to prevent paint rollovers. Let the paint dry, and then apply a second coat. Quick tip: When you're working with a stencil, it’s always best to have less paint on your roller or brush rather than too much.

Tape, Paint, Repeat

Reposition your stencil, lining it up with the painted pattern. Continue on with the pattern. Let the stencil dry overnight. This stencil comes with an additional top-edge stencil — the upper part of the design cut as a smaller separate stencil. This helps make it easy to fill the gaps by your ceiling line after the main section is stenciled.

Bag Your Roller

Painting a stencil on a ceiling is definitely more challenging than painting a wall. When you need to take a painting break, put your roller cover in a zip-top bag and store it in the refrigerator. Check to be sure there’s no excess air in the bag. Then you'll be able to pick up where you left off — no dried-up paint on the roller — without needing to clean your roller cover.

Stick Polka Dots Up Top

Polka dots will never go out of style, and it seems neither will our love affair for metallics. This budget-friendly ceiling makeover is the perfect pick-me-up for a tranquil room. The small-scale polka dots look grownup and chic, since large-scale polka dots can appear more kid-appropriate. By using copper contact paper, the polka dots translate to rose gold dots on the ceiling. This ceiling makeover idea is great for renters, as contact paper is easy to remove.

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HGRM-ceilings-polkadot-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Add Playful Polka Dots on Your Ceiling

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Personalize Your Polka Dots

The small-scale polka dots look grownup and chic, since large-scale polka dots can appear more kid-appropriate.

Materials List

For this project you'll need metallic contact paper, a large circle cutter, measuring tape and pencils.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Get Started: Cut, Measure and Apply

Decide on the size for your polka dots. Then use a large circle cutter to cut out polka dots from the contact paper.

Map Out the Polka Dots

Figure out the spacing and pattern you want for your polka dots. Measure the distance you want to create from one polka dot to the next. Use a piece of string and blue tape to map out the polka dots on the ceiling. Create tape "flags" on the string and use a pencil to mark where each polka dot will go. Simply hold up the string and make a pencil mark at each tape flag to mark the center of each polka dot. Follow the same process for the width of the ceiling.

Apply Polka Dots

Place your polka-dot decals on the pencil marks and create a grid of metallic dots on your ceiling. Peel off the back of the contact paper as you stick each polka dot onto the ceiling. Smooth with your hand.

Paint an Eye-Catching Focal Point

The fifth wall can be the perfect place for a splash of color. Feeling uneasy about painting an entire room in your favorite green? Leave your walls neutral as a flexible backdrop. Then, play with vivid pops of color in your furnishings, accessories and ceiling. Think of it this way: You just have one wall to paint. And a painted ceiling feels less expected than an accent wall, which is often based around the location of a fireplace or flat-screen TV. Like an accent wall, a painted ceiling adds personality to the space.

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HGRM-ceilings-green-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photo by: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Paint a Bold Color on Your Ceiling

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Go Green

A painted ceiling feels less expected than an accent wall, which is often based around the location of a fireplace or flat-screen TV. Like an accent wall, a painted ceiling adds personality to the space. This spring green creates a happy mood in the living room.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Materials List

For this project you'll need a roller frame with built-in extension pole for reaching the ceiling; a roller tray; a paint stirrer; a nap roller cover; painter's tape; a pouring spout; canvas and plastic drop cloths; hole filler; an angled sash brush; latex paint; a cellulose sponge; and dishwashing liquid.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Get Started: Clean, Tape and Paint

You need a well-prepped ceiling to get that professional-quality result with painting. Make sure you patch any holes in your ceiling. Then you want to remove the layers of dust residing on your ceiling. Use a cellulose sponge with a solution of mild dishwashing liquid and water.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Trim It Out

Use your painter's tape to tape along the crown molding and protect it from dribbles of color paint. Make sure you remove the tape right after painting, before the ceiling dries, to avoid pulling off any paint with it.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Brush the Edges

Your roller won't be able to reach in all the cracks and corners. Use an angled sash brush to paint around the trim and in the corners of the walls. As you paint along the edges, extend out three inches from moldings.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Use the W Technique

You want to avoid leaving brush marks or roller lines, which you'll get if you paint the ceiling in a straight line. The W technique is an efficient way to paint your ceiling evenly. Start in the corner of the ceiling and roll on a three-by-three-foot W pattern. Use your roller (with the extension pole attached to make it easier) to fill in the pattern without lifting the roller. Repeat this, working in sections on your ceiling.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Try Out Stripes

The rules for fashion apply in the home, too: Stripes can make a space appear wider or taller (depending on the direction of your stripes). And in a narrow kitchen, fooling the eye to think the space looks wider is a great solution. Stripes on the ceiling also draw attention away from less-than-stellar cabinets, counters or appliances, if you're not ready to renovate for a while. Stripes are one of those classic patterns that couples can agree on, too.

To make perfect stripes running across your ceiling, try this painting tip we learned from HGTV Star contestant Anne Rue. Tape off your lines using painter's tape. Over the blue tape, rub a dab of caulk along the edge, which fills any gaps (especially with an uneven textured ceiling.) Then you're ready to paint your stripes.

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HGRM-ceilings-stripes-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Paint Stripes on Your Ceiling

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Simple Stripe Solution

Stripes can make a space appear wider or taller (depending on the direction of your stripes), and are one of those classic patterns that couples can agree on. This ceiling makeover idea is easy on the wallet and doable enough to complete over a weekend — you may even find a use for that leftover paint you've been holding onto. We used Benjamin Moore Pigeon Gray and Decorator's White for this project.

Materials List

For this project you'll need a roller frame with built-in extension pole for reaching the ceiling; a roller tray; a paint stirrer; a 3/8-inch nap roller cover; painter's tape; measuring tape; a sponge; a tray liner; a pouring spout; canvas and plastic drop cloths; hole filler; an angled sash brush; latex paint; a cellulose sponge; dishwashing liquid; a pencil; and a straight edge.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-lewis

Get Started: Prep, Plan and Paint

Before you paint, it's a smart idea to wipe down your ceiling using a sponge dampened with a cleaning solution of water and mild dishwashing liquid. Then rinse the ceiling clean with a damp sponge. You'll remove all the dirt and dust that's accumulated on your ceiling, making for a smooth paint finish.

Tape the Trim

Use your painter's tape to protect any trim or woodwork that you're not painting. Carefully place the painter's tape around the perimeter of your ceiling so you get a crisp, clean edge when painting.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Plan the Stripes

Decide on the size and direction of the stripes on your ceiling. Measure and calculate the total area of ceiling that's being painted to determine how many stripes you'll need to paint. This can be the most challenging part of the project, because you may not get an even number of stripes. Keep in mind your painter's tape width (one-inch thickness is common) and the size of your roller cover (9 inches).

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-lewis

Measure the Ceiling

Use a tape measure, level and pencil to mark the top and bottom lines of where each stripe will go. Use the level to connect the dots and make a light pencil line between them.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-lewis

Tape It

You'll need to tape out your stripes for a crisp edge. Add painter's tape along the pencil lines you've drawn on the outside of the area to be painted. Press firmly on the painter's tape to ensure the paint doesn't bleed through. That will give you a clean edge.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-lewis

Cut In With Paint

Use a sharp straight edge over the painter's tape so that the edge of the straight edge and tape line up. Then use an angled brush to paint against the border of the straight edge. Using the straight edge will give you a clean paint edge.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Paint It

Apply your paint to the ceiling between the taped-off stripes. If you decide on thin stripes, you can use a brush. For thick stripes (like the ones shown here), it's best to use a roller. Continue painting in sections until you're done. Apply a second coat of paint after an hour.

Photo By: Charlotte Jenks-Lewis

Finish Up

Pull off the painter’s tape after your second coat has dried for a few hours.

Hang Floral Fabric

Think out of the box if you want to add drama to the bedroom — and this DIY canopy is cheaper than getting a four-poster bed. You can create a beautiful fabric canopy that feels modern, romantic and cozy. It's easier than making your own headboard, too. The drapey look of a fabric canopy adds dimension, and the texture feels charming and bohemian. Don’t be afraid to go big and choose a spectacular fabric with scale and drama.

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HGRM-ceilings-fabric-bedroom-no-resize_s4x3

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Hang Floral Fabric on Your Ceiling

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Bright and Cheerful

Don't be afraid to go big and choose a spectacular fabric with scale and drama, like this floral fabric we found at DryGoods Design Online. A bright, bold pattern makes an excellent foil for a bedroom with lots of whites and neutrals. Your fabric canopy is sure to be the exclamation point in the room.

Materials List

For this project you'll need fabric; measuring tape; a sewing machine; grommets; a grommet tool; scissors; a pencil; ceiling hooks; rope or twine; an iron; and fabric scissors.

Measure the Fabric

First, choose your fabric. The floral fabric here is a lightweight cotton fabric. Measure and cut how much you’ll need to create your fabric canopy. Consider the size of your bed and how much you want the canopy to drape when deciding the measurements for the canopy. Home decor fabrics are typically a wider width (54 to 56 inches wide) so you wouldn’t need to fuse two panels together. You would need about 3-4 yards of wide-width fabric. The fabric shown here is a lightweight fabric we found at DryGoods Design Online. It's 45 inches wide, so we worked with 7 yards, fusing two panels of fabric together. A lightweight fabric will have a pretty drape, and you won’t have to worry about reinforcing the canopy to the ceiling, as you would with a home decor fabric, due to the weight.

Sew the Edges

To create your canopy, you'll need to finish the raw edges of your fabric and fuse two panels of fabric together to create one canopy that matches the width of your bed. It's true that there’s no-sew stitch witchery you can use if you don’t have a sewing machine. But the canopy is a lot of fabric, so the no-sew solution would not look polished — and the seam down the middle of your canopy will ripple if it's not properly sewed. If you don't have access to a sewing machine, try taking your fabric to a local tailor to have it hemmed.

Add Grommets at the Corners

Try adding the grommets to a scrap piece of fabric first to test out using your grommet tool and grommets. “Once you’ve decided where you’re going to install the grommets, take the front grommet piece and make a mark by outlining the interior circle with a fabric marker or lightweight pencil," says Keli Faw, owner of DryGoods Design Online. Use fabric scissors to cut the circle out. “Insert the front grommet piece through the hole and then flip over, placing the washer on top, on the wrong side of the fabric." says Faw. Follow the instructions with your grommet tool to install the grommet. Repeat on each corner of the canopy.

Hang It

Measure and mark on the ceiling where you want your canopy to hang. Consider the drape and the canopy’s placement over the bed. We used simple metal C-shaped ceiling hooks to hang the canopy. A sturdy nautical rope works well to hang the fabric. Be sure the rope is thin enough to fit through the grommets. We used a sink-stopper knot to prevent the thin rope from slipping through the grommet hole.

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