Sunday, July 8, 2012

a favorite detail: ceilings with a sheen




Twenty two years ago I went to purchase paint for our very first house.  It was a little gem of a house in the beautiful old neighborhood of Eastmoreland in Portland, Oregon.  I did my research and found that Benjamin Moore was the best paint available at the time.  I then purchased the wrong paint sheen for the ceiling... at least that is what my painter told me!  I had purchased Benjamin Moore's "Pearl" finish for the paint to be used on the ceiling.  My painter made a big issue about me buying the "wrong" paint sheen-  painters like flat on the ceiling as they think it hides a multitude of imperfections and makes their paint job look better.  
Despite his protests, I had the painter paint the ceiling in one bedroom so I could look at it and decide.   I could stand in the hall between this bedroom and the master bedroom and have the perfect vantage point that let me look in both bedrooms by simply turning my head;  one with a sheen on the ceiling and one with the original flat paint.  As my painter went on and on admonishing me for my error and how now you see all the small cracks and imperfections in the circa1939 ceiling, blah, blah, blah.... all I could think was:   the ceiling with the sheen looks 2 inches taller!  The small, rather dark room was transformed and looked beautiful as the natural light from the windows subtly danced off the ceiling.  It was a mistake gone good!   From that moment I have never used anything but  Benjamin Moore's Pearl (which is a sheen between an eggshell and a semi-gloss) on my ceilings in all my houses (most paint lines only have flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss.)

Light, both natural and from lamps and chandeliers, bounces off the ceiling and creates this lovely subtle effect of life and movement in the room.  I say subtle because no one walks into your home and says "Oh look, you have shiny ceilings."  It's more of a feel than a sheen.
In our 1950's neighborhood in Dallas where all the original houses were one-story ranches I had a neighbor over and he was noting how similar in layout our houses were, except that my ceilings were taller!!  They, of course, were not taller- it was the paint sheen that made them feel that way!  To this day I don't think he ever really believed me that it was just the paint!
Be forewarned-  painters will argue to their death about why you shouldn't use it and how you're going to see small cracks and imperfections.  Stand your ground!  While there might be a small amount of truth to what they say, the effect on the room by having a sheen on the ceiling FAR outweighs seeing some small cracks.  You'll notice the feel of the room, not the imperfections- I promise!!
If you have 12 foot ceilings this sheen probably won't be of interest to you, but if you have 8 or 9 foot ceilings this little detail can be a lovely element in a room. 

I think it is important to always keep an open mind in regards to design!  Some of my favorite design elements have risen out of either a mistake, or a structural issue needing to be addressed, or money (i.e. lack of funding;) ;  but, if your eyes aren't open to the possibilities- even in the problems and the negative, then you might miss them.


( to read my other favorite design details click here. )

84 comments:

  1. Sometimes rules are meant to be broken! I love the way the light bounces off the ceiling! The entire room is just gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I swear, some contractors would argue if you told them the sky was blue!

    In Phoebe Howard's Book "The Joy of Decorating" she shows a lacquered ceiling in the living room of her Florida home and reveals that it makes the room feel much taller.

    I'm going to try this!
    Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for the tip! I always knew there was something special about your ceilings but I couldn't put my finger on it. What a wonderful solution for the shorter ceilings in these vintage and antique homes!

    Tim

    ReplyDelete
  4. We've been using Pearl paint on our ceilings forever and I love it. Same thing I had made a happy little mistake that has lived on.

    I hope you're enjoying this gorgeous Sunday!
    XX
    Debra~

    ReplyDelete
  5. This bedroom is totally stunning and I love the sheen on the ceiling. I need to remember this for the next painting session. Thanks. Hugs, Marty

    ReplyDelete
  6. Have to agree with you although I've never used the Pearl sheen but I'll look for that from now on. I've used semi gloss which seems to make my rooms brighter.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wonderful advice! I am going to try it. I have a bedroom painted in a yellow buttercream and the light dances of the walls in the most wonderful way. I imagine the pearlized ceiling would have the same affect.

    I usually tint my ceilings with the slightest color of the walls, no one notices, but it makes everything blend well. I wonder if I can do that with the Pearl paint.

    Love your blog - thank you!
    Elle

    ReplyDelete
  8. I do believe you and I can imagine all the reflected light bouncing from such a ceiling. I am proud of you to stick to your opinion and not let the painter bully you.
    About 25 yrs ago when sanding floors in our old farmhouse, I tired and decided to paint the upstairs bedrooms floors in a cream white colour, actually very similar to chippy white today. One visitor remarked that my room resembled a mental hospital. I was bothered but it made me more determined to stick to my plan
    Thanks for sharing your story

    Helen xx

    ReplyDelete
  9. this is so good to read. I'm about to do some painting and THIS is my answer! Thanks so much for the post! Very helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Two of my girlfriends do the same thing to their ceilings! I love the look!

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a handy mistake to have! We lived in a house that had low ceilings. That paint would've lessened the pain! :) I'll definitely keep it in mind for this house. Thanks for the tip!

    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  12. I re-painted my master bedroom about 6 years ago...and used an eggshell paint...on purpose. ;) I was plesantly surprised at how much of a difference it makes in my room. The light, any light...lamp, window, overhead...bounces off the ceiling and makes the room so much brighter and it seems to push the ceiling higher. I also like the fact that when I get the occasional cobweb...ick...it wipes right away and doesn't "stick" to the flat ceiling paint. Room by room I'm painting all of my ceilings eggshell.

    tinab158 at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love everything about this bedroom, including the ceiling! Such a unique detail, thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great advice Joan, I love Benjamin Moore paints and their color choices, they are tried and true!! Happy Sunday,
    Kathysue

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ow I love the bedroom....so cozy and elegant !!
    Hugs,Stella

    ReplyDelete
  16. Will this work if ceilings are "stamped" or "stomped" with a pattern? Would love to try in our master bedroom of our log home!

    ReplyDelete
  17. LOVE LOVE the ceilings!!!I use Benjamin Pearl on my whole house and LOVE it!! In fact, Thanks for helping me figure out what I want to talk about today!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Joan,
    I'm so glad you shared this with us. I knew your rooms had a glow but didn't know why. I'm not planning to paint for a while, but I'm filing this tip away to remember when I do.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you, I think you should PIN this idea. I live in a Colonial reproduction, so the ceilings are not even 8 ft. This should help the next time I paint. Thanks Ann

    ReplyDelete
  20. Love this, Joan! I recently started painting bathroom walls in a "shiny" navy. My painter totally disagreed with my choice and talked me into painting another coat in flat. Perhaps I should have stood firm.

    Let me ask you this... have any of the ceilings you've painted been textured? We have that ugly textured look on all of our ceilings, and I'm curious if sheen would look good, or if it's better to not call attention to it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. That is a great tip and a pretty room. I just painted two bathroom ceilings with flat ceiling paint this past week but I will keep this in mind for the next time.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love BM's Pearl paint. I've used it on accent walls. Your ceiling looks gorgeous.

    I was actually toying with the idea of pearl white on my foyer ceiling. Sorry I didn't do it now. I think you've started a new trend.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Since I have low ceilings here at the Dressed up cottage, I appreciate any little tricks of the trade to fool the eye.
    Thanks Joan.
    Will put this tip in my files for future use.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, but we have textured ceilings so I've always assumed it wouldn't work. I might try it in our basement bedroom, though--the ceiling has panels that appear to be made of some sort of OSB-type material in a grid pattern, but it's the only room in the house that's not orange peel textured.

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is a great tip. Since moving to this house with it's 9 foot ceilings from a house with 14 foot ceilings, I've noticed that it's darker inside and this tip sounds like it would help.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Ooh I love this! What do you think about using this finish on a painted beadboard ceiling?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ooh I love this! What do you think about using this finish on a painted beadboard ceiling?

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love that paint too!
    There are times when I really like to put a high gloss also!
    Catherine

    ReplyDelete
  29. Ooh, I absolutely love this idea!!! And when I do decide to paint (or hire someone) my ceilings, I will definitely try the pearl...what an unexpected surprise for any one who walks in the door...love it!!! Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  30. YES...I SO agree! Love a happy mistake! Rhat room ooks delectable with that sheeny-ful ceiling!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I used this idea on the living room ceiling of my 1790's home (7'4" high), not because I made a mistake or was particularly clever, but I read about it somewhere and how it would make the ceiling look taller. With such low ceilings, I needed all the help I could get. Well, it looked beautiful and it definitely worked. BM Pearl finish is one of my favorite finishes.
    Your bedroom is so lovely.
    Best...Victoria

    ReplyDelete
  32. Silly painter! Didn't know he was dealing with an artist! I love it and am planning to use the pearl to paint a horizontal stripe in a cream colored bedroom. Dreamy!

    ReplyDelete
  33. That's great insight. Thanks for the info.

    ReplyDelete
  34. fantastic tip! personally, I have never been a fan of flat paint on any surface!

    ReplyDelete
  35. We did this 24 years ago when we bought and fixed up our 1928 house. Only did this in the dining room, but it's a walk-through dining room used every day. I'm not sure where we got the idea, and our plaster ceiling certainly wasn't perfect, but we liked the effect and have it to this day.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Love all your tips and so appreciate reading about your trials and tribulations as you make so many of us feel 'normal'.

    Will keep this tip in mind for the next paint job!

    NB, Ontario, Canada

    ReplyDelete
  37. Mel@georgicapondJuly 8, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    I so agree Joan. I wanted to do gloss ceilings in our house and the painter moaned and complained about it so much and managed to convince me it would show up every imperfection, so I didnt do it and regretted it. I also wanted high gloss white all the woodwork but he kept telling me the timber wasn't good enough quality and would show up every mark etc. Now I know they just couldn't be bothered and were simply taking the easy way out and I will never again take advice from a painter. Glad you stood your ground. Now seeing your beautiful ceiling I may paint it again myself.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I've always loved shiny ceilings in vintage kitchens. I think it's got a real 1940s look. But I've never really considered it in other rooms. Most of my ceilings are in really bad shape so I'm not sure I could get away with it.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Joan, because I'd noticed this detail before on your blog, I had the walls and ceilings throughout my entire little cottage painted in an eggshell finish (except for the bathroom, which is done in semi-gloss). I love the way the light reflects off the ceiling. The whole place glows like the inside of a seashell. Even the painter agreed it was a good choice!

    ReplyDelete
  40. My favorite design blogger. What did I do before I found your blog? I would have never thought to use anything but flat on the ceiling. I don't even like sheen on the walls. Now I do have a beadboard ceiling in the front room and it is painted in semi-gloss. I am so going to try this idea. We have nice flat, non-textured ceilings, with limited flaws so it should work well. What finish do you use on your walls? Thanks for all of your wonderful posts.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Interesting- I love this idea- and it is the second time I have heard it in the past 2 weeks.

    I totally agree that rules should be broken to find something amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Hoping to paint my small bedroom soon and I'm very inspired by this paint! Checking it out! Lovely bedroom.

    ReplyDelete
  43. another great idea joan. the ceiling looks so pretty! hope you are enjoying your summer!

    ReplyDelete
  44. that is so pretty!!!! love it and everything else about your house.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I think a lot of painter's worlds are going to be rocked after this post. You are a genious. I love the pear sheen finish. So elegant.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Joan what cokor did you use in the pearl finish on your ceiling? I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Wow, our 1830'shome could use this boost! Our ceilings are so low! We did use Benjamin Moore everywhere when we first moved in. It is a fabulous quality paint.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi Joan
    Sounds like the perfect plan. The whole room sings to me.
    Kind Regards
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  49. Joan,
    How interesting. I have never heard of this and I have an older, lower ceiling home. I will definitely give it a try when we paint our master bedroom, which will be the next room to need paint. Thanks.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  50. I had read your blog regarding your paint choices and we used BM pearl finish on our son's hose(still painting). I love your ceilings and I am thankful that you share your tips!!! the BM satin impervo is working great also on his old oak cabinets...have a good day darlene

    ReplyDelete
  51. Joan,
    I love how you stood your ground and created a new look for your home. This is such a great idea. I have a beautiful wallpaper that I'll put up in my small entry/hallway and up the 3 flights of my gently winding staircase. But, the ceiling color had been mystifying me. I have low ceilings and it's not that bright, so this is the perfect solution. I'm going to go for it!!!

    Hope you had a wonderful 4th holiday and are off to a great week.

    xoxo Elizabeth

    ReplyDelete
  52. Elle- Yes, you can mix the Pearl finish in any of the BM colors, or tint it to your liking.

    Anon 3:32- I don't see why it wouldn't work on a stamped ceiling. Please see my comment below for Carolyn & Jessica!

    Nutbird- I don't have a Pinterest account yet:O, but you may pin it if you like!!

    AntiqueChase- Neither have I!

    Carolyn @ Sweet Chaos and Jessica- Yes, painters are a very opininated bunch!! My ceilings in Dallas had a slight texture and it worked well there. My opinion is that, like showing up small cracks and imperfections, it "might" highlight it, but that the effect it has on the room will over-ride any negative effect of highlighting the texture. Maybe try it on the bathroom ceiling, to see if you like it?!

    Maria- It would be gorgeous on beadboard!

    Steve- That's the great thing about the Pearl- it's not as shiny as a semi-gloss which I think might really highlight an imperfect ceiling.

    Seabluelee- Good painter:)

    Deb- I use BM's Eggshell on the walls.

    Cindy- The ceilings throughout the house are White Dove (except for in the master bath which is the wall color.)

    ReplyDelete
  53. Okay, I'm SO glad you posted this because I LOVE your house and use your blog as a reference all the time. So, I went to the paint store a few weeks ago and asked for the pearl finish. I happened to mention that it was for my 8' ceilings and the paint man almost wouldn't sell it to me!! He kept saying, "But you can't do that." I did it anyway. I love it. Thanks for the unintentional encouragement!

    ReplyDelete
  54. I agree with you 100%. Besides, I don't think you could do anything wrong when it comes to your home!

    ReplyDelete
  55. This is so timely! I am about to begin painting my living room that has 8 foot ceilings - and I've always had a problem with how small and squat that room felt even though it is a fairly large room. I thought about a 'shiny' ceiling because my kitchen has shiny ceilings and I've always loved that, but I knew that a gloss or semi-gloss would be too much.
    Thanks again for your beautiful blog and all the inspiration it provides ;)

    ReplyDelete
  56. Hi, Joan - I have not used a pearl finish on ceilings. Thanks for this post. Any trick to raise ceilings and increase light, I love. Have a wonderful week!
    Cheers,
    Loi

    ReplyDelete
  57. What a beautiful bedroom. It looks so relaxing and comfortable. Love the ceiling!

    ReplyDelete
  58. I personally luv the effect! I think the pearl finish is perfect on the flat ceiling here. We have heavily textured ceilings. One day in an effort to save & use what I had, I used leftover white semigloss (prior trim paint) to paint our laundry room ceiling. Now our ceilings are 9' so I wasn't going for a "higher" effect. I just thought it might make it easier to lift the webs & dust bunnies that tend to inhabit high ceilings in a typically "linty" space. But I was very pleasantly surprised when I realized it helped lift the room out of it's cave like dolldrums as it is a north facing room with little natural light coming in. Love all the added light bounce we get in there these days & swore from that day forward I'd always use a higher gloss on ceiling from here on out.

    ReplyDelete
  59. For over 25 years I painted my entire house in Porter velvet walls, ceiling and trim. Aghast, people were then!
    Now I'm going darker. I'm a libra. The see/saw syndrome is as irresistible as it is inevitable! Like you, I think oopsies often are moments of inspiration and grace. And I think it's always important to lead with your heart.

    ReplyDelete
  60. What a great tip !
    Since we are in South America, I cannot buy familiar brands of most things so I did everything here by trial and error. A lot of the error was flat paint rather than some bit of shine.
    I love the idea of the ceilings having a bit of shine/glow to them ! At night with the lights on, it must be lovely. I am definitely going to get my way on this one when we are finally back in NY and I am having yet another house painted :)
    Good thing I like to do this stuff lol. ... besitos from a very cold BA.

    ReplyDelete
  61. Thank you, thank you! I am going to try this in the new house in the bedrooms. The other areas have 10 foot ceilings so I won't need to do this BUT it looks SO beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing theis "mistake"!!! XO, Pinky

    ReplyDelete
  62. Hi! I too love your blog!! I wonder would this technique work on a "stomped or stamped" ceiling? I am in process of painting my kitchen ceiling which is 8 ft. Any ideas? Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  63. Great post!! so many people forget about our 5th wall the ceiling!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  64. An open mind is one ready for happy discoveries -- thanks for pointing out yours to me.

    ReplyDelete
  65. My ceilings are so heavily textured, but if they were smooth, I would definitely paint them with a pearl sheen. Love how it reflects the light.
    BTW, I used to live in a little gem of a house in Eastmoreland too. One of the best times of my life, now 30 years ago. Just one more way our paths have "crossed" in life!

    ReplyDelete
  66. I have loved reading about the progress you are making on your home in NH. This is great advice as usual. There is always something to learn here which is why I enjoy your blog so much.

    ReplyDelete
  67. What a beautiful mistake!! I can see how the light reflects beautifully. Our ceilings are a funny texture. I wonder if it would work with that? I love the soft muted colors in your room. Just lovely...

    ReplyDelete
  68. Joan, I love this post and am anxious to try your recommendation. My ceilings are slightly textured so I think it would look fine and oh I have 8 and some 9 ft. ceilings. I think it would definitely enhance the heighth. Would you be inclined to paint all the ceilings in the house like this. My dining room has cherry red walls with a Swarovski crystal chandelier, I think it would be beautiful in there and expecially in the bedrooms. I am loving this idea.

    BTW, I have been sick, in the hospital but doing better and my son has had a serious accident with a long recovery. My time posting is so limited but I find that it is a much needed way to relax and get my mind on other things. I will be visiting more often.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

    ReplyDelete
  69. i love your rooms! why don't you have a Pin it option? do you prefer people not to Pin your pictures? if you do, can you tell me where and how (i am not so techie)!

    ReplyDelete
  70. This is awesome! Like vanilla ice cream on a hot day!

    ReplyDelete
  71. Jemsmom- Try it in a small space with the ceiling finish (like a bathroom) and see if you like it. I stand by, while it might highlight the texture that isn't what you'll notice- you'll just notice the "effect of the whole room". Perhaps with a heavily textured ceiling you might like an eggshell finish instead?

    Carolyn- Yes, I would be inclined to paint all the ceilings with the pearl. Your dining room would be gorgeous with it! I am so sorry that you haven't been well, and about your son's accident. I wish you both a speedy recovery. xx

    Anon 11:41- I don't have a "Pin It" button as I, too, am not techie and haven't figured out how to add one. Blogger is a complicated beast and they don't always make things easy on us bloggers! I don't have facebook, so I don't have a Pinterest account- but LOTS of people pin my photos directly, so there must be some other way to do it. And, I do not mind at all that people pin the photos as long as the blog (me;)is given full credit.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I have the same problem with my painter. I think they just want everything to be easy and with flat they can do a sloppy job and not worry about the brush strokes and directions. Whatever!!!!!! Hate that. So glad you stuck to your guns. Your room is lovely as your blog.
    Lisa

    ReplyDelete
  73. I too had a painter shaking his head but he knew well enough, after painting two entire houses for me, that I was not going to let go. Pearl ceilings are gorgeous and I have them in my 1910 house. What they do frequently require is another skimcoat of plaster on the ceiling, to ensure it's flawless. Pearl ceilings all the way...all the time! Yours look beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  74. I love this. It adds so much dimension when it catches the light. In our new place they took the same semi-gloss from the walls to the ceiling in the entire place. I guess that's just what the Japanese do, maybe due to humidity? I have no clue! But honestly living with it for a couple weeks, I think it is easier to clean, reflects a lot more light and just feels brighter. I'm a fan!

    ReplyDelete
  75. I love that you decided to post on this because after our conversation, I couldn't help but think you had so much to give and share on the subject! My painter scoffed at me for testing pearl on the ceiling. Because I ran out of time and had to keep things simple, I went with flat in the end. Maybe pearl is in my future. I had to let go of perfection this time around! xoxo!

    ReplyDelete
  76. The sheen is lovely Joan...we painted our master ceiling BM's Healing Aloe, an I bet it would look very pretty all sheened up!
    It's so nice to visit you again...been to long!
    xo J~

    ReplyDelete
  77. Hi!
    I just spent a whole day going through your entire blog and I am amazed at what you have accomplished!! Every single piece you own or have created is a work of art with a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing the (time consuming) process you undertook to create your house! You both are truly inspirational. (I have never commented on a design blog before!)
    -Niki

    ReplyDelete
  78. Niki- Thank you so much! Dan and I loved your comment. Wow- that's a lot of reading;) I am honored to be your first design blog comment! Hope it won't be your last;0 As I told Dan, it's the comments that keep me motivated to keep writing the blog, and yours was very motivational!

    ReplyDelete
  79. Love, love, love it! Those silly painters :) Happy that you stuck to your guns.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Hi Joan
    I had "Beau" do a little post about his favorite blog dogs. You might enjoy it as Ella is the first pic!

    ReplyDelete
  81. Yes, thank you for sharing your "mistake!" I come back to this post often thinking about how I'm going to paint my ceiling. I've been looking into this Benjamin Moore Pearl Finish. It looks like it is not (yet?) available in the No-VOC paints which only have the flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss. If you no-VOC was really important to you, do you think you could have lived with your ceilings being painted in semi-gloss or would that additional level of shine drive you nuts based on what you've experienced with the pearl finish? Just curious! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quon_mom, What I love so much about the Pearl finish is that it is so subtle and the whole effect is very understated. I think by stepping it up to a Semi-gloss it would be a more obvious (almost in your face) statement. While some rooms can handle that look (I've seen many semi, or high-gloss ceilings in magazines for example) I think most rooms would benefit from the understated Pearl. The transition from the sheen of the walls to the celing might be a bit much.
      The Regal Select line uses zeri-VOC colorants making it a low-VOC paint and it comes in the Pearl finish. Or perhaps you could mix a flat or eggshell finish with the semi-gloss to get a Pearl finish?? I would ask BM about that if you were interested. Good luck!

      Delete
  82. Thanks for the tip. We have high ceilings in all the rooms except for our bedrooms where they are only 8 ft. tall. I can't believe that I am actually excited about painting the ceilings. Can't wait to try this.

    ReplyDelete
  83. was looking for something to add a little life to my home and with its 8 ft ceilings in need of paint--I am going to give this a shot --the minute my darling husband leaves on vacation later this week. Will start in the bedroom --it really is dark and can use the burst of energy...thanks so much

    ReplyDelete

Welcome to our house! We love reading your comments, so thank you for leaving one!
Also, "thank you" for using my AMAZON links on the sidebar to do your shopping! :)

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...