As ceilings are in reality a part of the wall, they must always be

considered in connection with room interiors, but their influence upon

the beauty of the average house is so small, that their treatment is a

comparatively easy problem.

In simple houses with plaster ceilings the tints to be used are easily

decided. The rule of gradation of colour from floor to ceiling

prescribes for the latter the lightes
tone of the gradation, and as the

ceiling stands for light, and should actually reflect light into the

room, the philosophy of this arrangement of colours is obvious. It is

not, however, an invariable rule that the ceiling should carry the same

tint as the wall, even in a much lighter tone, although greater harmony

and restfulness of effect is produced in this way. A ceiling of cream

white will harmonise well with almost any tint upon the walls, and at

the same time give an effect of air and light in the room. It is also a

good ground for ornament in elaborately decorated ones.

If the walls are covered with a light wall-paper which carries a floral

design, it is a safe rule to make the ceiling of the same colour but a

lighter shade of the background of the paper, but it is not by any means

good art to carry a flower design over the ceiling. One sometimes sees

instances of this in the bedrooms of fairly good houses, and the effect

is naturally that of bringing the ceiling apparently almost to one's

head, or at all events, of producing a very unrestful effect.

A wood ceiling in natural colour is always a good feature in a room of

defined or serious purpose, like a hall, dining-room, or library,

because in such rooms the colour of the side walls is apt to be strong

enough to balance it. Indeed a wooden ceiling has always the merit of

being secure in its place, and even where the walls are light can be

painted so as to be in harmony with them. Plaster as a ceiling for

bedrooms is open to the objection of a possibility of its detaching

itself from the lath, especially in old houses, and in these it is well

to have them strengthened with flat mouldings of wood put on in regular

squares, or even in some geometrical design, and painted with the

ceiling. This gives security as well as a certain elaborateness of

effect not without its value.

For the ordinary, or comparatively inexpensive home, we need not

consider the ceiling an object for serious study, because it is so

constantly out of the line of sight, and because its natural colourless

condition is no bar to the general colour-effect.

In large rooms this condition is changed, for in a long perspective the

ceiling comes into sight and consciousness. There would be a sense of

barrenness and poverty in a long stretch of plain surface or unbroken

colour over a vista of decorated wall, and accordingly the ceilings of

large and important rooms are generally broken by plaster mouldings or

architectural ornament.

In rooms of this kind, whether in public or private buildings,

decorative painting has its proper and appropriate place. A painted

ceiling, no matter how beautiful, is quite superfluous and indeed

absolutely lost in a room where size prevents its being brought into the

field of the eye by the lowering of long perspective lines, but when

the size of the room gives unusual length of ceiling, no effect of

decoration is so valuable and precious. Colour and gilding upon a

ceiling, when well sustained by fine composition or treatment, is

undoubtedly the highest and best achievement of the decorative painter's


Such a ceiling in a large and stately drawing-room, where the walls are

hung with silk which gives broken indications of graceful design in play

of light upon the texture, is one of the most successful of both modern

as well as antique methods of decoration. It has come down in direct

succession of practice to the school of French decoration of to-day, and

has been adopted into American fashion in its full and complete practice

without sufficient adaptation to American circumstances. If it were

modified by these, it is capable of absorbing other and better qualities

than those of mere fashion and brilliance, as we see in occasional

instances in some beautiful American houses, where the ceilings have

been painted, and the textiles woven with an almost imaginative

appropriateness of subject. Such ceilings as this belong, of course, to

the efforts of the mural or decorative painter, who, in conjunction with

the decorator, or architect, has studied the subject as connected with

its surroundings.