a favorite detail: ceilings with a sheen

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Twenty two years ago I went to purchase paint for our very first house.  It was a little gem of a house in the beautiful old neighborhood of Eastmoreland in Portland, Oregon.  I did my research and found that Benjamin Moore was the best paint available at the time.  I then purchased the wrong paint sheen for the ceiling... at least that is what my painter told me!  I had purchased Benjamin Moore's "Pearl" finish for the paint to be used on the ceiling.  My painter made a big issue about me buying the "wrong" paint sheen-  painters like flat on the ceiling as they think it hides a multitude of imperfections and makes their paint job look better.  
Despite his protests, I had the painter paint the ceiling in one bedroom so I could look at it and decide.   I could stand in the hall between this bedroom and the master bedroom and have the perfect vantage point that let me look in both bedrooms by simply turning my head;  one with a sheen on the ceiling and one with the original flat paint.  As my painter went on and on admonishing me for my error and how now you see all the small cracks and imperfections in the circa1939 ceiling, blah, blah, blah.... all I could think was:   the ceiling with the sheen looks 2 inches taller!  The small, rather dark room was transformed and looked beautiful as the natural light from the windows subtly danced off the ceiling.  It was a mistake gone good!   From that moment I have never used anything but  Benjamin Moore's Pearl (which is a sheen between an eggshell and a semi-gloss) on my ceilings in all my houses (most paint lines only have flat, eggshell, semi-gloss, and gloss.)

Light, both natural and from lamps and chandeliers, bounces off the ceiling and creates this lovely subtle effect of life and movement in the room.  I say subtle because no one walks into your home and says "Oh look, you have shiny ceilings."  It's more of a feel than a sheen.
In our 1950's neighborhood in Dallas where all the original houses were one-story ranches I had a neighbor over and he was noting how similar in layout our houses were, except that my ceilings were taller!!  They, of course, were not taller- it was the paint sheen that made them feel that way!  To this day I don't think he ever really believed me that it was just the paint!
Be forewarned-  painters will argue to their death about why you shouldn't use it and how you're going to see small cracks and imperfections.  Stand your ground!  While there might be a small amount of truth to what they say, the effect on the room by having a sheen on the ceiling FAR outweighs seeing some small cracks.  You'll notice the feel of the room, not the imperfections- I promise!!
If you have 12 foot ceilings this sheen probably won't be of interest to you, but if you have 8 or 9 foot ceilings this little detail can be a lovely element in a room. 

I think it is important to always keep an open mind in regards to design!  Some of my favorite design elements have risen out of either a mistake, or a structural issue needing to be addressed, or money (i.e. lack of funding;) ;  but, if your eyes aren't open to the possibilities- even in the problems and the negative, then you might miss them.


( to read my other favorite design details click here. )