Embracing the Fifth Wall: 4 Ceiling Design Trends to Elevate Your Space

Brian Hogan
Feb 24, 2022 8:30:00 AM

Always in a state of perpetual evolution, interior design is constantly being propelled forward by emerging trends — even as it’s stabilized by a solid roster of well-defined décor styles. Eventually, every new design trend reveals its true nature: Some possess genuine staying power, while others become outdated in relatively short order. 

Vaulted ceiling with exposed wood, gable truss beams.

So how can you discern between fleeting fads and enduring stylistic shifts when you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing space

As renovation and design experts who’ve been keeping a finger on the pulse of interior trends for over two decades, our team at Hogan Design & Construction knows exactly what it takes to merge timeless design with evolving styles to meet the current moment — no matter what your personal aesthetic preferences may be.  

With that in mind, let’s explore an interior design trend that’s making waves in 2022, and is, by every indication, here to stay. It has to do with making the most of the so-called “fifth wall.” 

The Forgotten Fifth Wall

Ever heard of the fifth wall? Every room has one. It’s the great expanse of empty space that’s above your head wherever you happen to be inside your home: the ceiling.  

Ceiling design is nothing new: For centuries, architects and artists have found imaginative ways to transform this blank canvas and incorporate it into a vast array of interior schemes. Even so, white ceilings remain a standard and ubiquitous part of the average modern home.   

That’s starting to change, however, and it’s a trend we expect to see a whole lot more of in 2022 and beyond. These days, builders, renovators, and interior decorators are paying close attention to thefifth wall and the myriad of design possibilities it offers.    

Ceiling Design Trends and Ideas 

If you like your interiors to reflect the moment as much as they reflect your personal taste, it’s time to stop seeing the ceiling as a flat, neutral space that can be ignored — and time to start seeing it as an opportunity to enhance your design choices and infuse your space with ambiance. 

Here are four ceiling design ideas that are perfectly on trend for 2022 and beyond:

1. Architectural elements

The right architectural feature can transform a basic bare ceiling into an integral design element that has the power to enhance your entire space. To set a cohesive aesthetic tone that draws the eye upward, try:

  • Framing your ceiling with extra-wide custom crown molding 
  • Installing a well-scaled ceiling medallion above a hanging light fixture
  • Installing exposed beams and highlighting them through color 
  • Using picture frame molding to define the center of the ceiling 

If you’re ready for something more dramatic, you can’t go wrong with an inverted tray ceiling or a more intricate coffered ceiling. Also called a recessed ceiling, a tray ceiling is higher at its center than it is at its perimeter. Tray ceilings offer height and an unexpected visual counterpoint in dining rooms, living rooms, and primary bedroom suites, especially when they’re dressed up with color, wallpaper, or ambient light (see below).  

A coffered ceiling is a gridwork of beams that forms a pattern across the ceiling. While they’re traditionally constructed in a pattern of square boxes, simply rotating the grid on a 45-degree angle creates a unique pattern of triangles and diamond-shaped boxes.     

2. Ambient lighting 

When it comes to lighting, the ceiling is traditionally reserved for general overhead fixtures or statement-making chandeliers. In most conventional spaces, mood-setting ambient lighting is left to glowing wall sconces, table lamps, and floor lamps. 

After years of advances in energy-efficient lighting, however, many people have discovered the illuminating benefits of installing ambient LED light strips around or near the ceiling. We’re not talking about tacking an LED strip at the top of the wall around the perimeter of a room; we’re talking about using a room’s architectural features to conceal lighting strips for the ultimate ceiling “glow up.”

In a kitchen or bathroom, LED light strips offer the perfect amount of upward ambient glow when tucked along the topside of tall hanging wall cabinets. They’re also ideal for creating subtle illumination along the inner edge of a tray ceiling, the inside perimeter of coffered ceiling boxes, or the topside of horizontal beams that brace a vaulted ceiling.    

3. Mood-setting colors

Sometimes, all it takes to fully incorporate a ceiling in its space is the right color (you know, any hue that’s not basic, boring white). Just like the tones you choose for your walls and trim, a thoughtfully selected ceiling color can make a room feel brighter, bigger, cozier, cheerier, more elegant, or simply more cohesive. 

A bedroom with deep grey walls is instantly more sophisticated and tranquil when the ceiling is painted the same continuous shade, especially when it’s balanced out by white trim and light-colored flooring and bedding. A crisp and modern white-on-white kitchen gets a major infusion of personality with a bright yellow ceiling. 

You can use ceiling color to accomplish a range of design objectives: A dark ceiling over light walls can create the illusion of a higher ceiling; a ceiling color that highlights a hue from the room’s wallpaper can make all the colors in that pattern appear more vibrant and saturated; a black ceiling in an industrial-style space can really highlight statement lighting fixtures.  

Board & batten, Shiplap, Cross Beam and Unique Lighting fixtures work to make these ceiling designs stand out despite their typical white color.

4. Patterns and textures

Just as the four walls around you provide the perfect canvas for pattern and texture, so too does the fifth wall over your head. In fact, putting a patterned or textural design element on the ceiling rather than on the walls is a great way to spin almost any style concept on its head and create a fresh take that makes your space feel much more personal. 

No matter what other well-chosen elements it contains, a modern farmhouse kitchen just feels more complete with the added dimension brought by a shiplap ceiling. Similarly, a traditional kitchen in a historical home looks more pulled together with a vintage-style beadboard ceiling — especially when it’s painted a subtle and complementary hue. 

Embossed tin ceiling tiles and smooth, shiny faux paint finishes designed to look like natural stone are two other dramatic textural options that can unify a space through upward visual interest. You can achieve subtler ceiling patterns and textures with grass cloth or a muted wallpaper

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