The fifth wallPublished on October 5, 2014

  • Image supplied by CIL Paints

Traditionally, most ceilings are painted in a stark, flat and sterile white (blah!). Now don't get me wrong - white ceilings have a certain charm and serve a very important purpose. Painting your ceilings a flat white helps to mask any imperfections the ceiling may have; it reflects light, adding a sense of additional space and height and creates a contrast between your walls and ceiling. However, ceilings can be much, much more! 

Choosing the perfect colours for our walls is a very personal undertaking. We all have a unique sense of style and taste, and colour is usually at the top of the list. Our favourite go-to colours often provide the bases of all our interior design decisions, especially when choosing colours for our walls. So, when I was recently asked to paint a ceiling for a client I was left scratching my head, but only for a moment.

I have always referred to the ceiling as the fifth wall. For a number of reasons, I felt it deserved as much attention as the four walls that surround a room. Firstly, if you get the ceiling wrong, the whole room looks horrible.  Painting your ceilings a stark white, or conversely going with a colour that's too dark, can dramatically change the sense of space and flow in the room. Also, most ceilings lack the same finished quality of the rest of the room. Drywall professionals find it difficult to work over their heads (and if you have ever stood under a ceiling being sanded you would try to get the job done as soon as possible), so details in the sanding and taping are often imperfect. Choosing paint with sheen will highlight any imperfections in your ceiling, drawing the eye to them as soon as you enter the room. So here are some valuable tips I use when painting the fifth wall:

Use the tone of your walls when painting the ceiling. Every ceiling in my house is painted using a shade of the colour that is on the walls.  When I worked on Divine Design, I would simply mix a quarter of the gallon of flat white for the ceiling with the same amount of the wall paint and stir it up. The result was a soft blend between the walls and the ceiling, without the stark contrast. It leaves a soft hue of colour on top combined with the richness of the wall colour.

Another way to achieve this is to ask the paint store to mix in your flat white paint with a quarter formula of the wall colour. Since you are starting from a flat white and not a base, the mixture will tint the white paint in a soft hue of your wall colour.

Always paint your ceiling using a flat or matte paint finish. Flat paint is your best defence against poorly taped or sanded ceilings. I avoid actual ceiling paints as they are usually stark white and too clinical-looking, plus most have a slight sheen that allows imperfections on your ceiling to shine through.

Another great resource when preparing to paint your ceilings is to hit the web. I often research my favourite paint companies for the latest trends in colour and design. Check out or @sherwinwilliams on twitter. The Twitter feed will also show you DIY jobs and real feedback from paint pros and homeowners. 

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