Ceiling style

karinlOctober 22, 2009

Our old house is a fairly low key Victorian, its only pretension to grandeur being 10-foot ceilings.

The rooms are small (most are less than 10 feet in at least one dimension), as is the house, and the predominant way of doing the ceilings has been with a picture rail or border dropped a foot from the ceiling, and a paper or paint that differs from the walls. That works to offset the elevator shaft effect.

We have one big room, the living room, which is a 50-year-old addition off the back of the original house and measures 12 x 16. Also with the high ceiling and picture rail.

As we finally get around to doing this room - it still has 7 layers of wallpaper with paint in between and overtop with lath and plaster underneath - we are a bit stumped as to what to do with the ceiling. Just painting it, as we've done in other rooms, bores me, papering it seems like a nightmare and I'm not sure it would look that much better than just paint. Besides, there is an issue of the direction of the pattern.

I kind of like the look of pressed tin or a criss-cross of light beams (or even artwork panels as one GW poster has shown), but can't see either one going with a picture rail unless the ceiling treatment extended down to the picture rail and incorporated it - and I can't always picture how that would be done. The height of the room, even given its relatively generous size, does seem to call for the retention of the picture rail.

Can anyone tell me a bit about the conventions regarding high ceilings and picture rails, or maybe show pictures of what they have found in old houses or have done?

Guidance and suggestions appreciated.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sometimes the picture rail was down a foot and the ceiling color extended to it. That foot space was sometimes a radiused plaster cove.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2009 at 10:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 9:51PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks, Worthy and MacV, coving the 1-foot drop is one of the things I am wondering about. I've actually only seen this done in lower rooms with normal ceiling heights and wonder if it is done at 10 feet. The room you're showing above is maybe 9 feet at most?

It's funny how sensitive the height thing is. In our kitchen, which is long in the direction the joists run and the ceiling thus a bit saggy, we sistered the joists with an extra 2x4 under them (the joists are only 2x6), reducing the ceiling height from 10'4" to about 10 feet - and when we went to put up a border a foot below the ceiling as we had in other rooms, it just looked wrong. So we put it right at the ceiling in that case.

In the link you've provided, there is actually a photo above the one you've posted that shows what I imagine for a light-weight grid (as opposed to making it look like huge beams, which just doesn't fit this house at all). I wonder how that sort of thing would look with a picture rail or if extended to incorporate the picture rail. It seems odd to me to just slap that on the ceiling with no connection to what's going on below.

In our other rooms we have extended the ceiling colour down to the rail.

For doing anything else, there probably isn't a textbook answer... the dismantling phase of our renovation showed us that no one's come up with anything different to do in this house in a hundred years, so maybe we'll just go with the flow!


    Bookmark   October 25, 2009 at 2:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd guess that ceiling is closer to ten feet. The b&b home shows how uniformity in ceiling treatments is not needed to create a unity of design.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 9:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We have an old house with 9 ft ceilings. Our living room has the radiused plaster cove macv described, with a picture rail (ceiling is otherwise unornamented). Our dining room has a coffered ceiling. It has a plate rail at ~5 ft with paneling beneath.

You might consider trading off the picture rail for a chair rail. You could put different colors above/below and it would break up the height of the room, and would pair nicely with the coffered or tin ceiling of your dreams.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2009 at 6:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The plate rail is an interesting option - thanks for the reminder of that. I've seen it done often enough, and with a coffered ceiling too come to think of it.
I'll have to remember to check the ceiling height next time I see it - I do think that, as in your case, I've seen it mostly in 9-foot rooms. And sometimes it helps just to have the right vocabulary - the word "coffered" had previously eluded me. I wouldn't have even thought of "ornamental." I should be able to do some more productive searching with the terminology.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the removal of the picture rail is on the menu at all, due in part to the damage to the plaster that would be incurred by removing the rail.

Worthy, it is the amount of space above the door and window that leads me to believe that's a 9-foot ceiling. I could be wrong, but I have more space than that above the doors, so that would have to be a honking big bedroom door if it's a 10-foot room. I do appreciate that other message from the house you posted. It isn't so much unity that's driving me, as a sense that the room really needs that visual offset for the height - and that I don't want to take a crowbar to these walls.

Thanks again for the help with the thinking process.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 12:01PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wouldn't remove the picture rail because it is original and it is a nice feature that future owners would like to have. I love our picture rail; it is so convenient for hanging pictures and mirrors.

The B & B pic posted has a nice molding inset on the ceiling itself that would allow you to add Anaglypta, tin, wallpaper or just a different color paint with in its borders. It would also work fine with the existing picture rail. Why not explore that?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 2:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Diane, for suggesting that a ceiling inset might work with the picture rail. I think that would be especially the case if I frame the inset(s) with similar trim, painted the same colour.

There really are a ton of options and I think I was just hoping to learn some of the conventions for different ceiling heights. I'm not wedded to convention by any means (as suggested by screwing in our mouldings!) but they can help to sort the options and make a decision.

I appreciate the inputs.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 12:29PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Old-Growth Heart pine paneling -- reused as flooring?
Hi, My new 1939 colonial has a family room and foyer...
1940 house (colonial) need period lighting advice
Hi! I'm really trying to stick with lighting that would...
Craftsman tile question
I recently visited a friend who lives in a beautiful...
New windows in kitchen for 1926 house
We are planning a kitchen and bathroom remodel in our...
Hi. I have never posted in this particular forum before,...
Sponsored Products
Hampton Bay Ceiling Fans Lonestar II 52 in. Natural Iron Ceiling Fan AL875-BK
Home Depot
Barr Pool Table/Island Light - H-5001/73-3C-14
$284.40 | Hayneedle
Troy Lighting Sausalito Modern Contempo Large Pendant
Glomar Track Lighting 3-Light MR16 White Gimbal Ring Low Voltage Track Lighting
$93.99 | Home Depot
Lite Source Menna Table Lamp - LS-22427
$216.00 | Hayneedle
Stacy Garcia Harvest Stripe Giclee Glow Mini Pendant Light
$99.99 | Lamps Plus
Kichler Larkin Traditional Foyer Pendant
Feiss Urban Renewal 22 1/4" Wide Antique Brass Chandelier
Lamps Plus
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™