The Best Color to Paint Your Ceiling, According to a Real Estate Agent

Whether you’re looking to sell your home or you’d just like to brighten it up, you may be wondering which color (or more realistically, which shade of white) to paint your ceilings. It can be a mind-boggling question — especially if you have a hard time telling the difference between cloud white and decorator’s white — so I talked to a few experts to help you figure out how to decide whether to paint your ceilings, and which color will work best in your home. Here, Seattle real estate agent Katie Melton and her client, recent homebuyer and avid home decorator Jenna Somers, offer their advice.

Should you paint your ceilings? 

A fresh coat of paint never hurt anyone, but how should you decide if it’s worth painting right now? Somers shared a few factors she considers when evaluating her ceilings.

  • Is the ceiling and trim the same color throughout the home? If not, it’s a good idea to match them.
  • Is there a prominent feature ceiling in your home? If you have skylights, wood beams, or other noticeable ceiling features, those are going to draw the eyes up. Somers recommends a fresh coat of paint in these cases, or at the very least, a good cleaning. 
  • Do you have recessed lighting? This is another home feature that draws the eyes toward the ceiling, so fresh paint or a thorough cleaning can go a long way. 
  • Have you replaced the flooring recently? If you have, Somers suggests refreshing your ceilings as well to keep the overall look of your home cohesive. 

Lastly, consider your motivation for painting your ceiling. If you’re doing it because it makes you happy, great! But Melton cautions against seeing that fresh coat of paint as a strategy to get a bigger payoff when you sell later on. “It’s more something that should be on your list of things to do to prepare for selling,” she says. Your ceiling may need another coat of paint after five years anyway.

One note to keep in mind, though — if you’re working with a popcorn ceiling, Melton says that it’ll be expensive to safely remove and redo, so ask your agent for guidance and trusted vendors.

What color should I paint my ceiling?

While there’s no one shade of white that’s better than the rest, Melton suggests sticking to a flat or matte finish rather than a shiny gloss.

Where you live may influence your decision, too. “Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s dark nine months out of the year, so most people are going to paint their ceilings white to brighten up the room,” Melton says. 

Somers favors warm whites over cooler whites, which she says can feel too clinical and uninviting in a home. 

Still, what if you’re tired of white and you’re ready to take some risks? Melton shared some handy guidelines to help you create the ceiling of your dreams without going overboard. 

  • Save the risk-taking for the master bedroom, powder room, dining room, or entryways, while keeping the most heavily trafficked rooms like kitchens and living rooms more reserved. 
  • People like waking up to bright, cheerful patterns or soothing grasscloth wallpapers, so try these in a master bedroom. Experiment with deep colors like black or navy blue. 
  • You can go wild in a bathroom or powder room, so consider bold, bright colors, metallics, or unique tilework. Melton says bathrooms are the perfect spot to show off your design skills without overwhelming yourself or others. 
  • Feature ceilings can add lots of interest to kitchens. Think skylights, copper tiles, red or white planks, or shiplap.

Just remember: you can never go wrong with a matte white, and if you’d rather not paint, keeping your ceilings clean will go a long way. 


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