Four lofty ideas about the fifth wall

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

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My husband and I recently went to Japan. Like many things in life, our trip revolved around food: sampling the street food at Tsukiji Fish Market, experiencing an authentic teppan dinner, walking (and tasting) through innumerable types of ramen at the stands in the Ramen Museum, to name a few.

However, one thing that I didn’t realize would stand out, apart from the food, was the design. It made otherwise small spaces seem not only larger, but also visually impressive. The ceilings, for instance, were done in ways that drew the eye up. They complemented the rest of the room without competing with it.

This made me realize how little attention we often give to ceilings. They take up just as much room as flooring, sometimes more, and yet often go relatively untouched and unnoticed. If you’re looking to enhance your existing space by paying attention to what those in the know call the “fifth wall,” consider four ceiling ideas:

1. Pressed-tin panels. These tiles can give your home an air of vintage style without breaking the bank. They are easy to install and, because they blend metallic material and antique design, they complement both modern and traditional looks.

2. Coffers. These are the hollow wood-panel grids that you often see with classical, Renaissance-era or Old English-style homes. They work best in rooms with high ceilings or in spaces that you would want to feel more intimate, like a study or den. If you’re handy, you may be able to build and install coffers yourself. If not, consider consulting a contractor.

3. Wallpaper. Embossed or textured wallpaper can give you the look of a tiled or stenciled ceiling at a fraction of the cost — not to mention less time to install. The trick is to start with a very clean surface, and to make sure the seams perfectly align as you go.

4. Paint. Whether you want to keep it simple with a solid color, or go more elaborate with a pattern or even a mural, paint offers endless options. If you go the DIY route, start by painting a thick cut-line around the perimeter with a paint brush. Then, with the cut-line still wet, fill in the rest with a roller, painting over the cut-line as you go.

Have a question or comment for Joanne? Email her at thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.