(New York) In interior design, it’s natural to be obsessed with walls and flooring. But what about the ceiling?

Generally, we don’t think much about it: two coats of matte white paint and we don’t talk about it anymore. This is a missed opportunity, says New York designer Steven Gambrel.

“If the wall or floor covering has character, I either try to give the ceiling the same level of patina or create a major contrast. »

For New York interior designer Corey Damen Jenkins, the ceiling may be more important than the walls. “In a room, there are usually six planes: four walls, the floor and the ceiling. But the ceiling is the only plane that isn’t obstructed by art and furniture,” says Jenkins, who can define a room with a statement piece on the ceiling. “I sometimes start there and work my way down. »

Sprucing up the ceiling matters a lot in the rooms guests will see: “Powder rooms, bars, libraries, dining rooms,” says Fern Santini, a designer from Austin, Texas. In places where you have a drink or dine, you need fun things to create fun rooms that have atmosphere. »

A few designers explain the process to us, step by step.

To enhance a ceiling, Mr. Gambrel sometimes gives it a mirror finish with a high-gloss paint. “It makes the room glow because the light reflects off the ceiling,” he explains. It adds a little shine. »

To achieve the desired finish, he applied several coats of high-gloss Hollandlac enamel paint, from Fine Paints of Europe. But since this reveals all the imperfections in the ceiling, it must first be made perfectly smooth by applying a thin layer of plaster, then sanding. If you just want to increase the light in a room, a neutral color is fine. But Mr. Gambrel has also created ceilings with strong character, with peach or coral colors.

Mr. Jenkins achieved this in a dining room with highly polished Venetian plaster. “It almost looks like a pool on the ceiling, upside down,” he says.

To make a ceiling shine, you can also give it a metallic finish by applying gold leaf or another metal (or a coating having the same appearance).

Douglas C. Wright, an architect in New York, applied unpainted embossed sheet metal to the ceiling of a kitchen in Connecticut, an old technique that adds texture and shine. “The ceiling was low, and the sheet metal reflected a lot of light,” Wright says. She transformed a rather dark space into a bright, warm and intimate room. »

Wallpaper isn’t just for walls. It can make a very nice effect on the ceiling.

Mr. Jenkins put wallpaper on the ceilings of some rooms with multicolored marbled or floral designs; clouds, too. Ms Santini designed a kitchen whose ceiling was covered in a swarm of bees, thanks to Timorous Beasties wallpaper. “It’s another dimension that makes this piece so interesting,” she says. We could have painted the ceiling white, but what a bore…”

Some pieces require more discretion. You can then install wood paneling on the ceiling, which adds visual interest without stealing the show.

Mr. Wright designed many types of wood ceilings, painted and unpainted. At a Connecticut bookstore, he covered the ceiling with wide garnet-painted wainscoting: “Simply planks joined end to end and painted, which create a striped pattern similar to that of hardwood flooring,” he says.

In the living room of a New Jersey home, which he wanted light and bright, he chose herringbone paneling for the ceiling painted glossy white, creating a more pronounced pattern that still reflected plenty of light.

No need to cover the entire ceiling with wood to give it character. It can also be framed with a wood or plaster molding. The crown molding that covers the entire room is a great classic, but there are other possibilities.

When Mr. Jenkins designed a house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he proposed thin MDF moldings on the ceiling of an open area to mark the boundary between the living room and the dining room. and highlight the lights. “I drew this geometric pattern on the ceiling, but with very cheap, common materials. »

Mr. Gambrel likes rooms with heavy crown molding, but he also uses utility molding on the ceiling to simulate boxes or beams, sometimes to hide access panels or to frame light fixtures. He often paints these woodworks in a contrasting, glossy color to highlight them.

If you don’t want anything too busy up there, there are subtle ways to add visual interest.

Mr. Gambrel recommends waxed plaster: a layer of bare plaster finished with only wax. “The plaster is smooth to the touch and the eye sees a lot of movement and life in the finish, unlike a coat of paint applied with a roller. »

When he wanted a darker color for the entrance to a London apartment, Mr Gambrel chose tadelakt, a stucco coating he applied to the walls and ceiling. The finish is as soft as suede.

The ceiling, he points out, isn’t just a detail; nor should it appear so.

Whether it’s an ornately decorated ceiling or one with a simple, calm finish, “it needs to look intentional and thoughtful.”