Ceiling Paint and Tween Rooms

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In this episode, I share a quick personal update and my thoughts on the two worst designed interiors: doctors office and hotels in addition to addressing two listener questions. 

If you have questions for me, make sure to submit them here because soon I will be going on maternity leave and want to get enough episodes queued up to sustain the weekly release schedule while I’m gone. 

This episode, we discuss…

[00:21] Personal updates from Betsy 

[01:29] The worst designed interiors: doctors offices and hotels 

[05:10] Ceiling painting woes (Illana) 

[12:00] Decorating a tween bedroom (Jennifer) 


Hi Betsy! We miss having you design our house so we’ve been listening to your podcast for our fill of Betsy advice until you’re back to seeing clients! Here’s our question… when do you paint the ceiling the same color as the walls in the room and when do you paint it white? Our new house has 2 of the bedrooms on the third floor, attic type space with 6.5 feet ceilings and we obviously want to make the rooms look as open and large as possible given this restriction.  Our family room, off the kitchen, on the other hand, has very high ceilings. We’ve heard painting the ceiling the same color as the walls in low ceiling rooms makes the room look bigger but then also heard you paint high ceilings the same as the walls to make it cohesive. Which is it? Pictures of both our third floor bedrooms and our family room are attached. Thanks!


First of all, the new place looks adorable and filled with character and personality. Second of all, you have peaked sides of the room that then go up to a ceiling. In my opinion, unless it’s like a very tight entryway or a small powder room, I would not paint the ceilings the same as the walls or if you had wallpaper I would not wallpaper the ceilings the same as the walls unless it’s a very small space. 

In this case, the ceilings are low at six and a half feet and typically when I do have those sloped sides in a room, I will paint the slope sides if there is a clean line of demarcation before it goes straight. For instance, my old house in Westchester had this same exact situation and there was a clear demarcation even with a picture rail of where the slope ended and the ceiling began. The ceiling turned out to be a very narrow rectangular strip but the previous owners had not painted the slopes and it actually made the room look much smaller. What I cannot discern from these particular pictures is if there is a clear demarcation between where the slope ends and the ceiling begins so that the paint would be a very clean application. Even if there’s not a clear demarcation here, it also appears that there’s not a clear demarcation of where the slope begins on the wall below so you’re gonna have to make something up. That’s the bottom line. Now here you have such a narrow rectangle of potential ceiling. I mean, maybe it’s four and a half to five feet wide. Maybe this is a case where I might do the entire room in the color without the demarcation. Now of course I’m not referring to the trim or the doors which you are going to keep that white color right. But yeah, in this room with the small, low ceilings and the non demarcated slope, maybe I would do it all one color but it’s not typically something I ever go for. 

I don’t believe any of those tricks like people would say, if you paint a small room a dark color, it’ll feel small. If you paint a big room, a light color, it’ll feel bigger. All of those are really contingent on other variables as well so I don’t think there’s one rule in terms of those things that you could follow every time to get the desired effect. 

Now, let’s look at your large family room. This is very exciting, this place looks great, by the way. 

Here, the two slopes meet in a peak, there is no rectangular plateau at the top, they meet in a rather pointed triangle. We’re gonna have a lot of white in here, because this family room opens up into the kitchen with the white trim. Now, we definitely want the ceiling of the kitchen to be white, definitely but as the kitchen opens up into the family room, it peaks and has that triangular shape that I was referring to earlier.

If this were my house, I would keep the entire rectangular shape of the two peaks, which are very clearly demarcated in this room, the white color of the ceiling in the kitchen, because there’s recessed lights in the ceiling in the kitchen and there’s also recessed lights in these peaks so you’re kind of treating the same type of ceiling the same type of way. Then I would paint the actual walls, the room color that you’re going for. I think I answered all your questions. Illana, of course, if more come up, feel free to ask me because this is the only way you can get my design advice until January or maybe even March.


I love listening to your podcast! You are so talented in getting to the heart of the issues in a room and even addressing things that probably weren’t on the writer’s radar. I am needing help with my 11-year-old daughter’s bedroom. I’ve always struggled with the layout in this small space. The window is large and off-center. How can I use curtains to balance the window? The doorway opens up into one of my best wall-space and the closet doors take up nearly an entire wall. (BTW-the closet runs through both door spaces…I don’t know why they made two separate doors. It makes it difficult to utilize the space behind that tiny bit of wall. I’d really like to have the doorway redone as bi-fold doors and put in a good closet system so she wouldn’t need a dresser. It’s not in the budget right now…but maybe you can weigh in on this?) The room is 10′ 10″ x 10′ 10″. I recently bought a 6-cube storage piece to double as a nightstand; however, I do still have her old nightstand. I’d like to add a desk or other workspace to her room hence the need for moving the dresser to the closet. Will vertical furnishings or decor help this room not seem wall to wall furniture? Or should any desk be a color instead of white to help break this up? She is not wanting ANY changes to the space, so I am compromising by re-using her bird pictures and turning the hanging birdcage into a mobile with origami cranes. I am going to put rattan baskets in the bottom 3 cubes as a nod to bird nests and possibly add a rattan mirror. The bird art and a feather print fabric (colors are pink, mint and aqua-which I plan to make into pillows) are my inspiration pieces. I’ll paint the wall as well. I’ve attached images of the room from different angles. I truly appreciate your help! Congratulations on your upcoming family addition! Both of my children were born in August, so I feel for you and the summer heat at the end of your pregnancy!


Basically, it sounds like you’re wondering about the layout. If you want to see pictures of Jennifer’s room, just go to our YouTube channel, they’ll all be posted there. It is a pretty tight room at 10 feet, 10 inches by 10 feet, 10 inches. In terms of the closet, I hate it when they do that, when they put those two closets side by side, I have the same thing in my old house, and it goes all the way through and it is so hard to use that space behind the slim piece of wall dividing the two doors, you may want to consider in this case, instead of bifolds, you may want to consider like some barn doors or something. If you do do that sliding door, I do like a sliding door. I like it better than bifolds because they come off the track so easily, I see a ton of problems with them. I prefer the sliding door side to side, if you did a barn door, you’d have to leave that wall next to the closet empty. 

I do think in any room, you need to go vertical. The reason is because you want pieces around the room to undulate high and low and high and low. If everything’s at like this three foot height, whether it’s the six cubby bookcase, or the twin bed, then it starts to look really boring and plain and predictable. Also in a room like this, you’re just not maximizing its potential so I would definitely consider using the verticality, and I also would not be afraid to block the window. She does have a beautiful big window, and I can see you’re partially blocking it with the bed, which is fine by me but I also would not be afraid to partially block it with some furniture. 

Now when I’m creating a layout for a room, it’s not anything that I ever do on the podcast, because I like to try every possible option but I take the main piece of furniture in the room, which in this case would be that twin bed, and I would try every possible option. I’m not convinced that her bed is in the right placement. Once you do find the right placement for this bed, I think the rest of the pieces will make more sense and fall into place and show you where you can go vertical versus where you can go low. 

I know she doesn’t want to make any changes but the other thing you could consider in this space with an 11 year old. At 11, a lot of times they are resistant to change, you might be going into middle school, she might be facing a lot of just intrinsic change, and may not want her room to feel different but something that you may want to consider is a loft bed. You know where then you can use the verticality and have her bed up high and have a lot of functionality down low. That’s another idea. It could be something really cool that she would either love and get super excited by or immediately shut down. 

The one thing that’s really bothering me is this valance on top of the window. You have this piece of fabric spanning the top of the window and not only is it encroaching on a lot of the window space, it’s eating up a ton of the natural light and it’s just not doing anything for the room. I would be more inclined to put panels on each side that could possibly make the window look wider. When you hang it higher than the window it’ll also make the ceilings feel a little bit taller so it’ll visually expand the room in some ways. Those are two big changes that I would make, losing the valance, adding the drapes to add a lot of visual bang for your buck. Don’t worry that it’s off center, life happens. 

The other thing that you can do to make a space feel less claustrophobic in terms of just pushing all the furniture against the wall, is to do something on a diagonal. Whether it’s a fun chair or a corner bookcase, something on a diagonal can help to break up all the just pushed furniture against walls if you can’t truly float something in the middle of the room, as you probably shouldn’t with this smaller room. So think about that but first start with that layout evaluation. 

Ask your daughter if she’d be open to some kind of loft beds, see if it’s within your budget. If she says no, that’s fine, but do reevaluate the placement of this bed. Don’t be hesitant to block a window guys, it’s O. K, especially in small rooms where every inch matters. 






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