Monday Inspiration: Beautiful Rooms

There has been a lot of talk about the ceiling being the fifth wall and how you shouldn’t just paint them white – well all right that last bit was mostly me, but I thought it might be fun to look at a few painted ceilings in honour of the fact that I am about to paint my spare room ceiling gold. And, because white is the default colour when it comes to ceilings.

new season colours from H&M
new season colours from H&M

I know that’s definitely been the case in my house, although I also know that The Mad Husband is quite keen on a white ceiling. It took a long time to persuade him that doors and walls look better when they are painted to match the walls. He was quicker to get the skirting board argument and while I say I may never win him round on ceilings, he has agreed to go for gold on the first one. I did point out that he never goes in there which may have helped mind you.

interior design by Em Gurner of Folds Inside
interior design by Em Gurner of Folds Inside

Anyway, look at a few of the beauties here. The first one was for a campaign shot for H&M last year and I don’t know if the location came like that or if they painted it to suit. Above is a recent project by the supremely talented Em Gurner of Folds Inside. I initially thought it was a dull gold but it’s actually olive green.

I’m aware that a super high ceiling makes it easier to pull off this look – it’s the old supermodel theory of Kate Moss in a bin bag – but Em has done the same thing with this bedroom below where the ceiling is much lower and it still looks great. The walls are a really rich burgundy and while painting the ceiling white would have been the obvious thing to do, look how much better it looks in pale pink. It makes the whole room look finished off. And that, I think is a really important point. This room looks like every detail has been considered and nothing was left out.

he burgundy room by em gurner of folds inside with its pink ceiling
the burgundy room by em gurner of folds inside with its pink ceiling

Yes, there is a white radiator but it’s a feature one not a modern slab and it sits under the white window. I also love the blue curtain which was a bold choice and one, if I’m honest, that I probably wouldn’t have made because I’m not good at having too many contrasting colours in a room.

The key every time is to look at the colour of the walls and ask yourself if white is the best compliment to that. Yes a white t-shirt probably goes with everything in your wardrobe but is it the best choice? I’m not banning white paint – contrary to popular belief – I’m just asking you to ask yourself if it’s the right thing for the room.

interior styling for bo concept
interior styling for bo concept

Above and below are a couple of press shots from Bo Concept. Yes, they’re both in the same room but the furniture is very different and I particularly like the contrasting orange chairs with the pink ceiling.

I also thought it was interesting that, at this stage, there are quite a few pink ceilings around and not so many in other colours. This comes back to another point I have made that pale pink is a really good neutral. Perhaps it’s the new grey. It goes with every other colour – either contrasting or complimenting, it’s not too dark so it’s easy to live with and it’s not too much of a shockinge change from the white. On a practical note, you can tell those who say they don’t like pink, that it’s beige or mushroom. That’s put an end to more than one domestic dispute that I have come across.

pink ceiling at bo concept
interior styling for bo concept

Also, and I wrote about this in my book, pink was originally for boys as it was thought that was a much stronger colour than dainty blue. Blue is the colour of the Virgin Mary’s dress was the thinking. It was changed for a US marketing campaign in the 1940s, because – it is widely assumed –  that that would encourage people to shop as they would no longer use their old pink boy clothes (and vice versa) for fear of being thought old fashioned.

I also wanted to show you this room by Emma Jane Palin, which doesn’t show the ceiling, but does show two really bold stripes on a pink wall showing another way to be bold with paint and also how pink really does like all the other colours. Here the effect is warm but a couple of black or grey stripes would work brilliantly as well and take it from warm Califorian vibes to a soft industrial feel. Of course if you wanted to be really subversive – that’s a little strong but you know what I mean – you would do the whole thing pink and leave a wide white stripe all round the top.

Striped walls by EJ Palin for Revamp Restyle Reveal
Striped walls by Emma Jane Palin for Revamp Restyle Reveal

Finally, I wanted to show you a couple of images where the paint colour has been taken up the walls and over the ceiling as well. First up is Erica Davies study which is painted in Earthborn’s Hobbywood . It’s a wonderful colour for an office – at least I think so as I find green really restful. But the other point is that cocooning the room in the same colour all over is also calming as it doesn’t distract the eye and draw attention to the edges.

painted walls and ceiling by Erica Davies
painted walls and ceiling by Erica Davies

And then there is Jess’s bold, black bathroom. It’s a really dramatic choice for this room but it works because there is a) plenty of natural light from the window b) that window shines onto the gallery wall opposite which will also reflect and bounce the light around from the glass frames c) the brass cupboard reflects onto the white bath opposite throwing the light round still further d) the large pale marble shower and glass enclosure. So yes, a brave choice, but one that totally works.

It would a different story in a bedroom or sitting room where the soft furnishings would absorb the light rather than reflecting it.

black ceiling in the home of Jess Hurrell of Gold is a Neutral
black ceiling in the home of Jess Hurrell of Gold is a Neutral

So, painted ceilings? Who’s in?

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I’m just about to experiment with a dark ceiling in my dining room in a house full of white ceilings!

  2. I wonder if this would work as well on sloped ceilings. I think all the colored ceilings I’ve seen in pictures are flat.

  3. Love unexpected ceilings (ie. not white). We have plain cream walls in one of our high ceilinged rooms but with a William Morris modern print wallpaper on the ceiling, inspired by Morris’ The Red House. There the ceiling has a similar pattern painted on the hall ceiling, and plain walls.

  4. I love them all! My daughter has a pink bedroom and a white ceiling, perhaps I should have painted the ceiling pink too! On another note, painting radiators – what type of paint do you recommend?

  5. The entirely green study by Erica Davies feels dark and claustrophobic but I’m loving all the others.

  6. Great piece! I’ve designed rooms with black, blue and bright green ceilings and am most definitely in when it comes to painted ceilings! Love that you’re spreading the joy of the fifth wall!

  7. I’m in! Already have a soft gold ceiling in the bedroom and have been contemplating painting the dining room pink for far too long. I procrastinated because I have white walls and floating white cupboards and couldn’t picture repainting walls and having the glaring white cupboards. But it’s just occurred to me that I could get round this by painting the ceiling F&B Calamine or Setting Plaster, I think). We have a Victorian house with high ceilings, Kate, my question is whether to paint over the architrave and down to the picture rail, or just over the architrave?

  8. Ive just painted my kitchen ceiling (which is pine tongue and groove from the 70s) in Valspar’s ‘curiosities wonder’. The room isnt finished yet but Im prety excited by the ceiling. I wouldnt have thought of using colour up there with out all your comments about this. Cheers!

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