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While each and every part of an interior counts, I have found that the ceiling is often an afterthought – and in many cases completely overlooked.

Ceilings Can Make A Difference

This is unfortunate as the ceiling is an important focal point – especially since it comprises nearly 1/3 of a room.  The good news is there is a vast array of wonderful patterns, finishes, materials and designs that can transform a plain white ceiling into a beautiful work of art.

At The Grand Del Mar, a one-of-a-kind luxury resort just north of San Diego, we designed each and every ceiling differently: using such techniques as hand stenciling, frescoes, elaborate wood, stone or fabric inlays, wood beams and light coffers.  In this particular project, we were intent on using ceiling designs that reflect what is seen in many historic buildings throughout Europe. Most importantly, these ceilings are all in keeping with the interiors – an intricate Mediterranean style – and never fail to amaze visitors.

Following are ideas – some simple; some more ambitious – that will bring life and character to a plain, unadorned ceiling:

Stenciling: Stenciling can enhance any room, but is especially useful if ceilings have been painted with a flat paint in medium- to dark-based hues.

Moldings and Stenciling on the Ceiling, Compliment Each Other Well

Exposed Wood Beams: Wood beams lend architectural appeal. They can be formal or informal and are particularly interesting when rusticated.  We have used rusticated beams extensively, especially when designing mountain or rural retreats.

Wood Planks: If you like the look of wood flooring, consider installing a similar look on the ceiling – wood planks infuse warmth and elegance.

 Hammered/Pressed Tin: A unique and antique look, this style can really brighten up a space, and typically works best in older homes.

Lighting: Beautiful, well thought out lighting is the finishing touch on any ceiling. Install a beautiful chandelier and highlight with a dimensional plaster or foam medallion or a stenciled rosette.

Moldings: Moldings are a classic, timeless accent. Consider crisp white crown moldings and/or panel moldings in a ‘tracery’ or other kind of pattern.

Decorative Moldings at Ceilings, shown at The Grand Colonial Hotel, in Del Mar, California

Coffers: Coffers are drops in the ceiling and provide an interesting dimension to ceilings.  When designed correctly, multiple coffers add a great deal of depth and often trick the eye to an otherwise low ceiling.

Ceiling Coffers

Beams: Wood beams that crisscross in a grid, lend a traditional, polished touch. Try painting beams in a special finish or adding a stencil pattern to the bottom or sides of the beams.

Wallpaper: This is a fairly simple ceiling solution, and the diversity of products on the market offer myriad possibilities. Try using a wide tone-on-tone stripe and install it in a rectangular format so the stripes follow the direction of the walls

Wood /Stone or Fabric Inlays: Create rectangles on your ceiling, either with wood beams, coffers or panel moldings.  Within the rectangles, install either wood veneer panels, wall coverings or upholstered fabric panels to add color and depth.  During a recent project, we installed antiqued mirrors within the rectangular insets.

Special Note: Keep in mind that ceiling height smatter and are a definite factor in setting the tone for a room.  Ultra high ceilings, in particular can make a room appear empty if they don’t have the right decorative element like a unique chandelier, while lower ceilings can make a room feel smaller. In general, we tend to recommend higher ceilings in living, sitting and dining rooms and lower ceilings in kitchens and bedrooms.

Whether you opt to add architectural elements such as vaulted or cove ceilings, beams or moldings or to simply dress them up with paint and imagination, redoing ceilings adds a new dimension – as well as style and character – to all rooms.


Please send me photos of your newest ceiling design!



While the design philosophy of Warren Sheets Design Inc. is often rooted in classicism – with ample use of traditional forms and a host of various finishes – we love to work in different styles, especially since we firmly believe that no two projects should be alike.  With this in mind, following is an overview of some basic design styles:


The most popular design style, traditional is a mix of timeless and well-defined elements, and for the most part refers to European design although it can also reflect specific countries such as England, France or Italy or regional styles such as Art Nouveau, Georgian, French Regency– all of which are indicative of a point in history.

Each of these traditional country or regional styles has its own distinctive details, and all elements within these interiors reflect designs or details from the past. For instance, wood floors, beams, stone fireplaces, arches, decorative iron with classical detailing, bronze, fabrics with damask patterns and cords and trims are all design accents and elements that can be found within a traditional interior.  Furnishings typically reflect antique or antique reproductions, such as French Louis, English Queen Anne or Chippendale styles. The key advantage of designing in a traditional style: longevity.  When done correctly, incorporating finishes and fine details in traditional interiors, rarely – if ever – go out of style.


Transitional or “new traditionalism” refers mixing old and new. While this style has no rules or boundaries – other than to use both traditional and contemporary design elements – it is, nonetheless, a well thought-out way of decorating. When designed in an artistic and provoking manner, new traditionalism utilizes lively, upbeat, contemporary patterns, textures and design motifs harmoniously juxtaposed against traditional elements. I think this type of design is an art form which works best when traditional outweighs contemporary elements. An example might be using a contemporary silver leaf finish on a classical chair frame. Inspiring and artful ‘transitory’ interior design is not random or haphazard, but comprised of one simple detail: composition. Keep in mind this approach to design is complex and not a discipline that should be approached by the novice designer.


While contemporary interiors are often considered sleek and sometimes cold, this is a misconception. A contemporary interior is actually extremely livable and comfortable. What most contemporary rooms possess is an element of surprise, such as a splash of color, an abstract light fixture or an unusual textile. In general, contemporary design is characterized by clean lines, smooth surfaces and minimal details or clutter — utilizing balanced, warm, bright tones. As an example, Scandinavian, Modern, Retro as well as the styles created by Eichler, Thonet and others are defined as a contemporary style.

Before you embark on a renovation or redo, carefully determine precisely what it is you like – regardless of the style. With this in mind, make sure whichever style you choose encompasses your likes and dislikes, and aptly conveys your personality.


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