Walls are generally covered in paint, wallpaper, wood paneling — the list goes on and on. Floors have rugs laid over stone, wood or tile. But ceilings? They’re painted white and forgotten. According to more than a third of interior designers who participated in 1stDibs’ 2024 Designer Trends Survey, however, this is the year to elevate your rooms with color and pattern overhead.
For the living room of a two-floor penthouse in New York’s West Village that started out as several small apartments, interior designer Rafael de Cárdenas used a subdued palette to create a calm gathering space. The swirling ceiling is the most dynamic element. “It’s not wallpaper but a special finish,” says the designer, whose eponymous firm is based in New York. “We wanted no seams, so we worked with a decorative painter to develop this neutral version of malachite, which offers movement to the space. But the choice of tonality brings it down to a whisper.”
The furnishings continue the neutral palette but with dynamic shapes. De Cárdenas custom designed the asymmetrical settee, and Parisian artist Isabelle Cornaro created the work hanging over it. The two floor lamps are by Jean Royère. The buff-colored armchair is by Élizabeth Garouste, while the gray one is by Jacques Adnet.
A tiny attic office in an Atherton, California, home provided Chloe Redmond Warner, founder of Bay Area firm Redmond Aldrich Design, with the opportunity to show how even a small space in a 10,000-square-foot house could be loved and appreciated. “Offices are typically white — they are supposed to be serious,” Warner says. “But we wanted to add pattern to make it feel fun, fresh and modern.”
The room is all angles and slants, and continuing Scalamandré’s Raphael wallpaper from the walls to the ceiling made it feel cozier and more interesting. The furnishings in the petite office are a mix of contemporary and vintage, with a Lawson-Fenning desk and Jonathan Adler swivel chair alongside a vintage wooden chair and Oushak rug. “My client and I are aligned in our love for pattern and color and incorporating timeless elements that could be viewed as old-fashioned,” Warner says. “We love when they feel fresh and new again.”
Hired by the owners of a Healdsburg, California, house with Craftsman and Mission roots whose tastes ran more contemporary, San Francisco–based designer Jeff Schlarb leaned in to his clients’ sensibility to create a sophisticated country retreat. The ceiling goes a long way toward putting a 21st-century spin on the room’s architecture, with its combination of inky wallpaper and a chandelier from OCHRE.
“The brushed-herringbone wallpaper from NewWall pulls in the blues from the drapes and the lounge chair and creates a real wow moment,” Schlarb says. “The structured organic pattern of the paper in a rich blue also adds warmth to the room.” The glamour continues with a pair of Randolph & Hein Odilia sofas and a hand-knotted carpet.
To conjure the atmosphere of a French salon, Duncan Hughes began by saturating the entry hall of a Boston penthouse in turquoise. “It was important to create a feeling of relaxation and unity immediately upon entering this apartment,” Hughes says. “We chose a hand-painted and -decorated ceiling wallpaper that is exactly the same color as the walls to create visual interest no matter where you looked — including the ceiling.”
Hughes, whose firm is based in Boston, balanced the walls and wallpaper by linking the detailed marquetry work of an 18th-century French mahogany chest of drawers with a custom marquetry motif he had inlaid in the floor in place of a more expected rug. Staying with the Gallic theme, he incorporated a pair of French crystal sconces from the 1920s, purchased from Antique Elements on 1stDibs, and a hand-carved Louis XV–style mirror.
In tune with the music-obsessed culture of Austin, Texas, the third-floor listening room of a new build on the city’s west side sets the mood with a McIntosh turntable and rock-legend portraits. But it’s the ceiling that steals the show. Instead of wallpaper, designer Fern Santini, who’s based in Austin, used a custom-colored Kyle Bunting hide overhead. “It’s a destination within the property, and the dramatic ceiling is the first thing you see as you come up the stairs,” Santini says. “It’s textural, unexpected and has amazing acoustic properties.”
Santini custom made the built-in banquette and added a pair of fringed stools from McGuire, as well as an antique wooden chair. The vintage pierced-brass pendant, found on 1stDibs, plays off the room’s golden hues. The rock-and-roll photographs, which pay homage to the Woodstock era, came from different sources, including the Morrison Hotel Gallery on 1stDibs.
A young family in Houston, Texas, enlisted designer Meg Lonergan to fill their newly built house with cheerful color. “Normally, I’m the one pushing people into color, but these clients wanted a home full of bright shades,” Lonergan says. “We led with the clients’ favorites — aqua, chartreuse and fuchsia — and softened them to create a timeless, iconic feel.”
The library ceiling is adorned with four-inch squares of real gold leaf. “The metallic overhead, coupled with vibrant aqua walls and lively art and fabrics, was just what these playful clients were looking for,” Lonergan says. “The gold imparts a beautiful glow, illuminating all the colors and people in the space.” Also on the ceiling is a classic Serge Mouille chandelier. A teak chair and a white oval coffee table enhance the room’s mid-century vibe.
For a decorator showhouse in McLean, Virginia, Frederica Asack, founder of Northern Virginia’s Masseria Chic, received a tricky assignment. “My space was a seven-by-seven-foot hallway and vestibule on the terrace level with no natural light,” she says. “My intention was to give it life by lending it a sense of intimacy and injecting enough style to inspire guests to pause for a moment.” Her muse was a 19th-century plaster statue of a reclining lady from a Parisian atelier that she had spotted at Côté Jardin Antiques. She used an Indian block-print wallpaper by Kravet to surround her French friend with flowers, including on the ceiling.
That pattern is complemented by the floral design of the vintage Khotan rug underfoot. The statue rests on a bamboo-and-glass console flanked by tiny topiaries. Completing the garden theme are a pale-green bergère, also from Côté Jardin, and a Hunt Slonem bunny painting. “This small area can hold its own because of all the elegant decorative elements and the surprise wallpapered ceiling,” Asack says.
The living room of a Midtown Manhattan pied-à-terre presented Australian designer Greg Natale with a vexing issue — an unchangeable low ceiling. Instead of ignoring it, he decided to work with it. “The beautiful wallpaper from Cole & Son balances the mix of patterns and textures in the room, and it also combats the challenge of limited space,” Natale says. “The expansive marbling pattern of the malachite design above makes the room appear larger.” On the floor, he mirrored the ceiling’s organic design with a snakeskin-patterned rug by Diane von Furstenberg. Crisp-white beams and crown molding further define the space.
Natale made sure the room’s furnishings included vintage pieces that created exciting moments. Paul Evans Cityscape tables (found at Space Modern on 1stDibs) flank the sofa, while in front of it, a vintage coffee table by Artedi refitted with a custom Arabescato marble top speaks to the black-and-white scheme on the ceiling.
Glenn Gissler has called Brooklyn Heights home for more than 12 years, so when he was chosen to decorate the living room of the first Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse, he was thrilled. “It’s a grand 19th-century townhouse,” he says. “We decided to honor the architectural history while making it a relevant room for 21st-century living.”
The shimmer of gold on the ceiling comes from Farrow & Ball’s Bumble Bee wallpaper. Its design was inspired by the pattern adorning silks in the bedroom of Joséphine Bonaparte, the first wife of Napoleon I.
Gissler reached out to several New York dealers — all of whom are on 1stDibs — to furnish the space. In keeping with the wallpaper’s French origins, he included a circa 1960 Jules Leleu desk and a pair of circa 1950 Jacques Adnet armchairs, all from Maison Gerard. The desk is adorned by a modernist lamp from Karl Kemp Antiques. A 19th-century Khorassan carpet from Nazmiyal fills the space while allowing the original Greek-key floor inlay to be seen around its edges. The English Arts and Crafts armoire is from Newel.
“Papering an attic ceiling just makes so much sense,” says Robin Henry, who runs her design studio out of Westport, Connecticut. Henry did just that in the top-floor office of a large Victorian home in Larchmont, New York, that she renovated for a family with four children. “This room has angles everywhere, and covering it all is so cozy and cohesive. It quiets things, even though the print is lively.”
The wallcovering is actually an acrylic-backed Indian Kalamkari fabric, which Henry notes softens the space even further and is great for sound absorption. Purchased on 1stDibs, a 1960s handblown Murano glass globe light with amber-and-white swirls imbues the quirky space under the eaves with a touch of glamour. Henry paired a mid-century walnut desk with a classic Eames swivel chair, topping it with a vintage horn table lamp by John Rosselli.
When Gabriela Gargano, founder of GRISORO Studio in New York City, designed an Upper East Side condo for a family of four, she included a playroom for the couple’s 3-year-old twins. “We came up with the idea to paper the ceiling as a way to emphasize its height while also adding something unexpected and artful,” she says. “We paired the bold and graphic ceiling wallpaper by Schumacher with mint paint to ground the room and add some softness.” The ceiling’s geometric print is echoed in a contemporary mobile by Flensted, as well as a cleverly designed birch-plywood table and chairs.
In the Brookline, Massachusetts, home of longtime clients, the team at Evolve Residential updated almost every room, including the entryway. “When the door swung open, the first sight of the interior was an endless blank white canvas of plain ceiling,” says Josh Linder, one of the firm’s three principals. “What better way to set the tone for the house than an intricate wallpaper?”
The designers sourced the navy-and-silver paper from Waterhouse Wallhangings, which specializes in historic reproductions (the pattern they chose came from the late-19th-century home of Civil War hero and Maine governor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain). To bring some punch to the entry, they referenced the blue on the stairs and front room wall with a lacquered dark-blue console.
San Francisco–based designer Noz Nozawa worked with the owners of Mureta & Co. jewelers to bring energy to their somewhat hodgepodge space without sacrificing character. “Their inspiration was vast but keen: Paris interiors from the Art Nouveau era, 19th- and early-20th-century apothecaries and San Francisco’s Victorian architecture,” Nozawa says.
Custom cherry display cases rise to the ceiling, which is covered in a cheeky Schumacher design that depicts goddesses on cell phones and cupids wearing baseball caps. Nozawa notes that the wallpaper brings the eye up to the bookshelves around the ceiling’s perimeter, which house antique tomes from the original shop. Brass accents, including a ginkgo-leaf chandelier and Arts and Crafts–style ceiling lights, give the interior a gleam to rival the store’s vintage jewelry.
Elizabeth Georgantas, principal of Boston–based firm Georgantas Design + Development, ferried to nearby Martha’s Vineyard to renovate a 1950s beach house for a family with two children. Georgantas lined the walls with built-in bookcases and covered the ceiling in a starry midnight-blue Ralph Lauren wallpaper to give a second-floor passageway presence. “It’s a secret entrance to the hidden library,” she says. “We wanted to make it feel like a magical space to enhance the mystery of it.”