by Pat Stelzer
Spring has arrived, finally, and with it comes a sense of hope and joy and the promise of renewed life as seen in the first new buds on shrubs and trees, and the first upward thrust of crocus, hyacinth and daffodil greenery through the no longer frozen, dark soil. Birds are returning and how great to hear their early morning chirps as they look for places to call their own and raise their young.
Humans react to spring much like the rest of the ‘animal’ world and find spring to be the perfect season to upgrade their ‘nests,’ both inside and out. Spring is the perfect time to begin changes to indoor and outdoor décor or at least take time to consider the newest trends in home decorating.
Something new has appeared on the decorating horizon and might warrant consideration for anyone planning a major sprucing up of home and hearth. Ceilings are taking on the appearance of their counterparts of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bursting upon the decorating scene are ceiling tiles that mimic or copy the designs in tin ceilings of an earlier era. The use of either tongue and groove wood paneling or bead board wood paneling as a covering for the ceiling is reflective of porch ceilings seen in house construction as late as the 1920s and 1930s. Another old decorating technique that has reappeared, with some new twists, is the use of wallpaper on the ceilings. The new twist to this is that the paper applied to the ceiling is the same patterned paper used on the walls, as opposed to the white embossed or pale jacquard prints of years past.
All of these new ceiling enhancements work well with crown moldings and beamed ceilings. They give charm and character to an otherwise overlooked part of a home’s appearance and help carry a motif throughout the home. These revivals of old decorating approaches also serve another purpose. In homes where the ceilings have suffered damage from water leakage or have become stained from some other cause, one of the new ceiling treatments is a much less intensive way to repair the ceiling and hide flaws time or accident has inflicted on the overhead portion of a room. In other words, it doesn’t take a “master plasterer” (pardon the expression) to install any of these ceilings. It does take some patience and a little expertise with any of the new techniques.
Surprisingly, the new ceiling treatments don’t overwhelm rooms and don’t seem to visually diminish a room’s feeling of spaciousness. In one home with the formal dining area separated from the kitchen by a rather high counter, the papered ceiling in the dining area served two purposes. The walls were papered in a small, understated plaid in soft yellows and darker golds, and that paper was used to cover the dining area ceiling, creating a separation from the off-white kitchen ceiling. Molding on the ceiling, just above the dividing counter helped give the dining room the feel of standing “alone” rather than being an extension of the kitchen. Visually, the papered ceiling also seemed to extend the walls upward, making the ceiling seem higher than it was. No crown molding separated the ceiling and the walls in the dining area.
The major caution to any of these decorative innovations is simply keep in mind the overall effect and how it enhances the appearance of the house. Is it in keeping with the house’s architectural style? Does it add to, rather than detract from, the home’s style and ambience, and can decorative touches on walls blend with the period evoked by the new ceiling? Furniture styles can be subtly mixed to incorporate many time periods, but the ceiling treatments come from very specific eras and should be carefully selected with that in mind. In newer homes, the owner’s choice will work as long as the décor is carried throughout the room. In an older home, it is wise to keep in mind what might have been in vogue when the house was built and what social strata the house fit into. My old house could never be gracefully made to look like the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg, but it does rank with those houses of the working class members of society at the time.
Styles change, evolve, are updated and recycled. So be brave. Try something new/old and have fun doing it.