- Associated Press - Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ceilings are the Rodney Dangerfield of homes. They get no respect. But there are plenty of easy ways to make over this oft-overlooked area, from the quirky charm of Victorian-era pressed-tin tiles or beadboard to a simple splash of color.

“Historically, ceilings were highly decorated, but it seems as houses have become more modern, they have been forgotten,” said San Francisco-based interior designer Cecilie Starin. “Once again, though, ceilings are starting to get the attention they deserve.”

Here are some suggestions — from the simple to the complex — to transform your ceilings from drab white squares into the focal point of a room.

* Probably the easiest way to bring the eye upward in a room is with a ceiling medallion, a white or colored decorative disk typically mounted around a light fixture.

The pieces come in a variety of styles and can be found in any home-improvement store. Another bonus? Today’s lighter polyurethane models are much simpler to install and easier on the wallet than those from decades past, said Alex Bandon, online editor of thisoldhouse.com.

• “I personally like that look in the bedroom,” she said. “It’s a really unusual thing, but it makes a simple bedroom much more romantic and exciting.”

* If you have tall ceilings or want a cozy feel, extend the wall color onto the ceiling or go bold and throw a darker or contrasting color up above to make the area appear smaller.

• “Color on the ceiling is not forbidden,” Ms. Bandon said. It’s “something you can play around with a bit.”

• Go with a flat paint on ceilings to minimize light reflection and mask imperfections, said Puji Sherer of the eco-paint manufacturer YOLO Colorhouse in Portland, Ore.

“Since ceilings are not in danger of greasy fingerprints and the regular wear and tear that walls receive, higher-gloss finishes are not necessary,” he said.

• For a classic New England cottage look, you can’t beat the charm of wood paneling, such as beadboard on the ceiling.

Amy Matthews, a contractor and host of the DIY Network’s “Sweat Equity,” prefers the ease of gluing and nailing larger beadboard sheet panels to the ceiling rather than tacking up individual tongue-and-groove pieces.

The panels, which can be cut with a power or handsaw, should be nailed to ceiling joists and then can be stained or painted.

Ms. Bandon said she likes the look in bathrooms, where walls with wainscoting are common, or on front-porch ceilings, in a traditional light-blue color that was thought to keep insects away.

• Pressed-tin panels are a popular ceiling option if you’re looking for a folksy, vintage feel, and they also come in larger, patterned metal sheets for easier installation, Ms. Bandon said.

The panels can be nailed in place with a hammer or nail gun onto furring strips that must first be nailed up, according to thisoldhouse.com.

Overlap the edges and seal the panels with a clear polyurethane or paint them with an oil-based paint.

• Many people shudder at the thought of a drop-panel ceiling, envisioning the utilitarian white grids and fluorescent lighting common in 1960s basements and office buildings.

But Ms. Matthews said today’s drop ceilings are handsomer, designed in many more colors and textures. Several companies even make individual panels in materials such as wood and tin that fit into existing metal grid systems, giving homeowners a cheaper way to bring their drop ceiling into the 21st century.

Originally used during the Renaissance and popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, coffered ceilings are one of the more complex ceiling projects, but also the most formal and dramatic.

The process involves attaching flat or more intricately molded beams to the ceiling to create a square, gridlike pattern that is then typically trimmed out with crown molding, Ms. Bandon said.

It drops your ceilings down, so use caution in a small room, but it adds instant classic elegance to a dining or living room.

“It’s a great way to hide flaws in your ceiling,” Ms. Bandon said. “It’s also a great way to hide ductwork or something you have to put in your ceiling.”

Building a soffit box around the perimeter of a ceiling also can give the look of a layered, cofferlike ceiling, said Ken Collier, editor-in-chief of the Family Handyman magazine.

Install recessed lighting in the soffit box or run downlights along the top to make the light “kind of wash along the walls. It looks very dramatic,” he said.



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