More Ceiling Ideas: Crown Moldings and Ceiling Medallions

Monday, March 21, 2011

A beautiful faux

We return with some additional ideas on painting your home’s ceiling.

An interesting trompe l’oeil method of creating the illusion of height is by making a faux “tray.”  Sketch a line anywhere from a foot to two feet away from each of the four walls (depending on the dimensions of the room).  Then repeat, but this time go another six inches or a foot inward from the initial line.  This will create the outline of the tray: the skeletal foundation of the effect.

There are a few different directions we recommend homeowners consider from this point: 1) paint the ceiling area to the first line with the same color as the walls, followed by a darker hue in the middle section, and paint the center a lighter hue; or, 2) paint the first section the same color as the walls, the middle section a darker hue, and the center a lighter hue.  The first option expands the ceiling through optical illusion, the second collapses it.

These effects, while available to all homeowners, can be tricky if one desires to pull them off correctly; which is why we recommend a professional painter do the job.  Other variables come into play as well, such as light vs. dark colors, and it is important to understand color theory and color mood boosters.

To step up the illusion, one can paint one set of parallel tray bands a lighter hue, and the other set of parallel bands a darker hue.  This will create the effect of light creating more complex shadows (see the video below). 

Other tromp l’oeil effects can be utilized to create a tiered effect, by combining paint with crown molding where the lines have been sketched.  And if you are really committed to creating an outstanding illusion, a great idea is to combine the relief crown molding (a variety of styles are available) with a ceiling medallion.  Ceiling medallions are typically used to create an attractive radius around a fan or light fixture hanging from the ceiling.  Why not utilize those fixtures for decorative effect? 

The fake tray ceiling effect also requires an understand of geometry and a steady hand, even though it would seem quite a simple task.  One needs to understand perspective, in addition to color theory, before taking on such a project. 

If you have additional questions on trompe l’oeil effects for a faux tray ceiling, please give Lakeside Painting a call at 262.642.9445 or email us at

Below is a video of Theresa ‘Mrs. FIXIT’ McGraw demonstrating the technique, as well as some brief footage of a recently-painted fake tray ceiling:

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