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Embracing The 'Fifth Wall' Trend

Go Ahead… Look Up: Statement Ceilings are Breathing New Life into Home Décor

Statement ceilings are nothing new. They’ve been around for centuries and were the ultimate symbol of opulence. From the Palace of Versailles to the Sistine Chapel, ceilings were once the epitome of art. This extravagance fell out of favor following World War II, and the ceiling was slowly forgotten. Rest assured—times are changing.

“Ten—fifteen years ago, ceilings pretty much stopped at the crown molding. Now, in almost every house I build, the main focal point of the living area is a statement ceiling. It’s almost expected in new, high-end homes,” says Ben Chapman, owner of Ben Chapman Development. From coffered ceilings with decorative molding to exposed beams to vibrant paint and wallpaper, there’s a wide variety of ways to add interest to your ceilings. There’s been so much recent attention that this style trend garnered its own interior design concept known as ‘The Fifth Wall.’ This concept emphasizes the importance of putting the same amount of thought into your ceilings as you would your walls.

 Adding interest to your fifth wall can be surprisingly easy and impactful. New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine spoke to Ben Chapman to learn more about this design concept.

What can you tell us about the fifth wall concept?

The fifth wall is your ceiling or the empty space above your head. This concept is a reminder to formulate the design of your home with everything from floor to ceiling considered. Intentionally including the ceiling in the design of your home is essential and here to stay. That said, the ceiling should not be considered separately from the rest of your home design. For example, if you have wainscotting on your walls, something bolder, like coffered ceilings, will complete the design aesthetic. However, if your home is more modern and minimalist, paint or wallpaper may be more appropriate for your design. 

Do you have any tips for ceiling design?

Yes! At the risk of sounding repetitive, my biggest tip is to consider the room as a whole. Don’t decide that you want to change your design and just change the ceiling. In other words, the ceiling shouldn’t be an afterthought. My second tip is that when it comes to statement ceilings, it’s a lot easier to do on a new house that’s being built than to add to an older home. Framing in coffered ceilings after a house is built can be costly, labor-intensive, and messy. Exposed beams are another style that’s hard to do after a house is built. Exposed beams are a great way to add architectural interest to a home’s aesthetic. The best way to do this is to expose the actual framing of a home and finish the beams in a material of your choice. You can add reclaimed materials or create a faux beam if the house is already built. However, this is often not well done and can look odd in the space if it’s not natural to the structure. If you want to add a statement ceiling to a finished home, I think it’s best to start with paint or wallpaper. 

Okay, let’s talk about paint and wallpaper. Any tips?

The first thing you want to consider is your ceiling height. If you have low ceilings, you’ll want to avoid anything too dark because it will make the space feel more closed in. Paint can be surprisingly impactful. I built a house on the ocean, and in the dining room that overlooked the water, they painted the ceiling a light blue. This simple paint choice connected the entire space to its environment. It turned out beautifully. And when it comes to wallpaper, I always recommend talking to an expert. Wallpapers can be tricky both aesthetically and when it comes to installing. But, when it’s done well, it can transform a space.

Last question: What trends are you noticing regarding the fifth wall?

Currently, minimalist modern designs are trending, but that changes very fast. Things like very clean, simple wood paneling or painted ceilings align with the wall trends that I’m doing, which include sanitary casing and moldings, which are very simple baseboards and window frames. When it comes down to it, in my opinion, trends aren’t the most important thing to consider. You should choose a design that you like. When done well, anything can be timeless.