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Forget feature walls, now ceilings are in focus and, when it comes to decoration, the sky's the limit

  • Opulence is back in fashion – and with it grand, painterly ceiling murals
  • If you're after a more trendy look, try tin tiles, which hail from Brooklyn
  • You could even paint the ceiling an alternative colour to your walls

We've long moved on from feature walls. Now the focus is shifting to ceilings, in what could be seen as a tribute to a bygone age. 

Inspiration: The library at Kingston Lacy in Dorset has a magnificent ceiling

Inspiration: The library at Kingston Lacy in Dorset has a magnificent ceiling

After all, some of the world's most beautiful art requires a craning of the neck, whether it be Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel or Carracci's masterpieces in the Farnese Palace, both in Rome. 

So here are some suggestions as to how things might look up in your own home. 

MAGNIFICENT MURALS 

No need to travel to Italy for inspiration. Kingston Lacy, a National Trust property in Dorset, has a fine Guido Reni mural on its library ceiling depicting Dawn separating the voluptuous figures of Night and Day. 

But are we ready to embrace such an ornate look? Yes, apparently. 

Interior designer Joanna Wood (joannawood.com) has seen an upsurge in demand for murals. 'Clients are indulging their imaginations; the pared back look is giving way to opulence,' she says. 

Nod to the past: Sheffield-based artist Mel Holmes at work on an optical illusion ceiling 

Nod to the past: Sheffield-based artist Mel Holmes at work on an optical illusion ceiling 

Mel Holmes, (melholmes.co.uk), a Sheffield -based artist, has been commissioned by clients in Britain and across the globe to paint murals on ceilings. 

'Optical illusions, images of birds, sunny skies, a sense of opening up the room to the world outside is popular. Though I've also been asked to create grand murals in the style of the Italian master Tiepolo,' says Holmes. 

He charges from £300 a day plus expenses and usually paints onto canvas which he then installs. 

'I do paint onto the ceiling if the work demands it, but it's time -consuming,' he says. 

If you want something more subtle and have a steady hand, interior designer Vanessa Brady OBE (vanessa-brady.com) suggests painting a tree or vine climbing up the walls on to the ceiling. 

Shine on: Interior expert Kate Watson-Smyth uses tin tiles to striking effect in her home

Shine on: Interior expert Kate Watson-Smyth uses tin tiles to striking effect in her home

ON THE TILES 

Made in Brooklyn in the 1850s, metal ceiling tiles gathered a following in Britain in the Twenties. They're garnering fans again on both sides of the Atlantic. 

'Its part of the industrial chic look, says designer Dara Huang, founder of Design Haus Liberty, (dhliberty.com). 

The tiles, which come in copper, tin and silver should be professionally installed for safety, but can look striking. 

Blogger and author Kate Watson-Smyth used them in her home. 'I wanted to create some interest in what is, essentially, a small box. Tin tiles were the perfect solution. They go with the stainless steel worktop in the kitchen end and bounce and reflect light back in from the garden', madaboutthehouse.com.

Nick McGrath, of Tramps UK, an online retailer specialising in importing tin ceiling tiles (new and vintage) from the U.S., says they've seen a 50 per cent increase in demand in the UK in the past 18 months. 

Look up: How better to enjoy this copper tiled ceiling by Tramps tiles than in the bath

Look up: How better to enjoy this copper tiled ceiling by Tramps tiles than in the bath

'Clients can choose from a range of patterns, fleur -de lys and Maltese crosses are traditional and popular options, but we offer unpainted or customised tiles, too,' he says. 

Tramps tiles, from £23.76 per new unpainted 610mm2 tile, tinceilingtiles.co.uk. 

PLASTERWORK 

Robert Adam, the great 18th -century architect whose ceilings you can see at Osterley Park and at his House in Isleworth, inspires the work of Bristol -based master ornamental plasterers Hayles and Howe, (haylesandhowe.co.uk). 

Aim high: The wonderful Robert Adam ceiling in the library at Kenwood House, London

Aim high: The wonderful Robert Adam ceiling in the library at Kenwood House, London

They recently reproduced another famous Adam ceiling, the one at Kenwood House Library in London. 

As well as reproductions, they are frequently called upon to embellish ceilings with medallions, cherubs or ornate cornices, as well as preserving existing ceilings. 

PAINT EFFECT  

If Ornamental plaster work isn't your style, then taking the plunge and painting the ceiling to mirror a feature wall is a daring option. 

The best effect is achieved using pastels such as sky blue, leaving the walls white. But do remember that the darker the ceiling, the lower it will appear, so unless you have very high ceilings, choose lighter tones. If you have colour on the walls and want to paint the ceiling, too, then go two shades lighter.  

Tags Property

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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