Thursday, January 9, 2014

Adding Character To Ceilings-Part 1

In my line of work (faux painting), a ceiling is prime real estate. They are a blank canvas, for lots of fun of options. 
Sometimes its hard to decide what to do, on different kinds of ceilings. 
What brings the ceiling up? What will draw your eye? What will make the room look to small? Will a dark color close a room in? What finish is best with this ceiling? How much is to much?

There are so many types of ceilings, Coffered, Tray, Barrel, Cathedral, Cove, Groin, Domed, and Vaulted. Not every ceiling needs enhancing, but some just get lost with out it.

Now, I'm not saying you should jump on a ladder, and learn to faux finish overnight.
These simple tips will help you determine what kind of finishes works best on whet ceiling type, or knowing what to hire someone else to paint on your ceiling.

Here are some ceiling that I have finished over the years, and what to do with them.

To start, lets talk about a Groin ceiling.

This is a fairly common ceiling in entry ways.
It has four main points, and can be very small, or span the width of a kitchen.
This is a ceiling that should most definitely be painted...even just with a base paint. If left plain you don't see the detail of the arches. When putting a faux finish on a groin ceiling, the most important area to pay attention to, are the arches edges. When doing a simple glaze, I like to go back and darken these lines, this accentuates the arch, and really draws out the shape.
You can also see that adding a stencil or painted design to the arched edges, like in the 4th picture,  will bring out the detail. When using a stencil on an area like this, it is important to map out a plan on paper to arrange how the pattern will cross at the middle.

Another way to accent a Groin ceiling is to leave the arches alone, and focus on the flat portions of the ceiling. This is where it gets a bit tricky. Not all groins have equal sections. In this case, you may want to use a stencil or painted design, on 2 facing pieces of the ceiling.  For a very large groin like this one, above a kitchen, it wasn't necessary to add the design, since there was cool-stone elements added to the arches. So not to loose the shape of the ceiling though, I added a large painted design. Each side was a different size, and the pattern used, needed to be ordered to fit perfectly in those spaces...alot of measuring!

If using a straight base paint in an area like this, stick to a satin finish , or even a semi-gloss base paint. A flat or eggshell tends to get lost in a high ceiling like this.
Depending on the lighting, a metallic paint works really nicely.
-If your lighting shines down, or doesn't provide much light, the ceiling will appear dark, and you may not get the full effect of what your putting on the ceiling. So don't go to a ton of trouble to make a wow.
-If your lighting shines up, toward the ceiling, you will see it more, but it will have a glared look with the metallic. Your base color, will need to be a similar color to the metallic paint you are trying to use on top.
-Remember with an metallic paint, you will see your brush strokes, and they will be amplified by any lighting. This is a hard ceiling to roll paint on, because of the curves. Use a brush, in a small crosshatching motion, like little x's, brushing out any harsh lines.

The next kind of ceiling, is the Dome
I love dome ceilings, you have sooo many options for faux finishes. Alot of finishes that are heavy, and busy, and don't look great right up in your face...are perfect for a high dome ceiling.
Painting a dome can be another difficult area. There are no flat parts, so a roller, even a small one, tends to leave lines on the wall, from both sides of the roller.
Here, you can brush that out, in the direction of the dome, top to bottom. When doing a faux finish in a dome, I like to do something that is directional. You see the shape  more, and it makes it look taller and larger than it is.
If your doing this yourself, a metallic does work well here too, even a plaster brushed on, can give it a cool effect, and is simple enough to do.
If you want to glam up a simple base paint, use a high gloss sealer on top, this will really make the area pop.

All of these domes have stopping points....with another ceiling meeting up, a border, or set in as a tray. These all make it very easy to stop the finish.

This kind of domed ceiling below, just rolls into the wall, which makes it very hard to find a stopping point.
This was in an entryway, and had about 5 arched openings meeting to this area. None of which were the same size. I took the highest one, and went about 2 feet above that, to stop the gold paint.
With no accent paint/faux finish in this area, you'd really loose the grand feeling that you should get with a ceiling like this.
I leveled off a line, and taped all the way around. Then painted a gold base, and added a glaze to the top of that. To cap off the edge of the gold, I added an intricate stencil. This can be done with any kind of stencil, but works best with a border type, that has a flat edge on one side. Check out Royal Design Studio, for a good array of border stencils. I painted this in a bronze finish, to give enough contrast from the gold, and to make this delicate stencil pop off the wall. I used a similar design on the top, around the light fixture, in the same bronze tone.


The Tray ceiling
One of the most common ceilings in houses these days, are tray ceilings. The are often in a master bedroom, or above a dining or living room space.
For most of my clients, these are the most difficult to figure out how to paint .
Some trays are rather simple, and just have one step, like this one below. There is a bit of molding between the two layers, but the difference in depth is only a couple of inches. As you can see the detail gets lost, and you'd never even look to the ceiling, if it weren't for adding paint. On this one, I added a paint roller technique, which is super simple, you can see how to do HERE.

Then, there is the multi-level, tray ceiling. This is most common. 
First look at the different steps, if they are all equal in shape, then you can apply the same paint to all, or even get lighter or darker as you go up. 
If the last, or bottom layer stretches out into a larger area than the rest, like over a sitting area, or by a doorway, then I wold leave that step alone (match it to the wall, or a lighter version of the other steps). 
That usually leaves one, to three more steps. I usually like to a variation of colors on these. For instance, when doing a glaze finish, I will do a dark version on the top, and each step down, I lighten it, or put it on lighter. When each step is the same, you tend to loose the layers, it just looks like a ceiling. When you define each area, you give height to the room, and show the shape of each step. 
Never stop on the vertical pieces, the 6"-1' sections, the color should always land on a horizontal piece, the soffit or the underneath part of the ceiling. 

 For those of you who are addicted to change (no shame here, I too, am one of those), then committing to a smaller area, may work better. This gives you a spot for a pop of color, without all the commitment of a whole paint job to change.
In these ceiling areas below, a subtle tone on tone was used before. Sticking with a neutral color palette on the wall, gives you some wiggle room to bring a bold color on the ceiling. If your going really grand, or really glam, you could do the whole ceiling.
In the after, you can see how the ceiling ties in with the room now, without overpowering it. It still draws your eye up, but it's not an eye-sore. This also really increases the height of the room.

If your looking for an even more simple solution, a stenciled pattern may be a better route. This ceiling below, had such beautiful detail, but when you walked into the room, the last place you would look is up. The ceiling is very high, and the walls are massive, it just wasn't a focal point. The curved areas at the corners were screaming for help. 
I used a stencil, well a couple stencils, put together, to get the right pattern and shape. Around the light fixture, I used a similar pattern, and matching color. This deep bronze color, was already in the the cabinets and furniture, in the glaze on all the main walls, and a hint in the accent wall behind the bed. 
Bringing it on the ceiling, just tied all of these pieces together. 

 The same idea was used in this round tray ceiling. I put a faux finish just on the top portion, and added a design around the outside border. This mimicked other parts of the room that were painted, and the designs in the bedding.
Its really about continuing the room, not making it a whole separate factor. It should blend nicely, not stick out to heavy.

When deciding where to put a stencil or design on a ceiling, step back and look at the area. Does the vertical portion of the tray get light? If not, like in the picture on the right, above. Then it's best to leave this area alone it. These areas tend to be dark, and hard to see, so most painted details will be lost on these areas. Also look at where vents, lights, and smoke detectors are located, when planning a design, they tend to be in weird locations, and may interrupt a design.
When using a base paint on a tray ceiling, don't pick three different paint colors. Even on the same chip, there can be a big gap between the colors. Try having the paint store cut the main color with some white tint, to make a lighter hue of the same color. You can do this for each additional step, adding more white per step.

Any of these ceilings can be painted with a straight base paint, or simple metallic paint, that most can do themselves.
The main factor when picking a color, a sheen, or a type of faux finish, all boils down to the lighting. 
-Dimly lit rooms will look smaller, and the ceiling lower, with a dark or heavy color. 
-Lighting that shines directly upon a ceiling, like a traditional chandelier, will open up the room up alone, so you have alot more options with color. Just remember that metallics tend to have a glare in heavy light, and flaws will be more apparent.  
-In a smaller room, a tone on tone is always a safe bet. Pick a color from fabrics around the room, or add a bold color that may have not otherwise been noticed.
-Any color you put on the ceiling, will instantly tie other objects, in the same color family, together. 
-A dark ceiling doesn't always close in a room. If the room is at least 10' tall and had lots of light, a dark color can actually lift a ceiling up. Though, try to stick to just the top piece of ceiling, or at least the top two steps. Don't carry it on all of the steps, as you loose the distinction.

There are so many types of ceilings to cover, so if I haven't talked about yours here...don't worry, there is a part two

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