before & after: hallway ceiling makeover

One thing I love about simple graphic patterns — chevrons, stripes, houndstooth, etc. — is that their style can change dramatically depending on the contrast level of the colors and the size you choose for the print. You can have a bold, eclectic, eye-catching chevron like we saw in Brittany’s knotted chair DIY yesterday. But you can also have a clean, calming, elegant chevron like this painted ceiling project from Gemma Bonham-Carter, which is equally beautiful despite having a vastly different feel. I think the scale she chose for the print is perfect, and I love the subtle play between the bright white and pale gray. I could stare at this ceiling for hours. Great job, Gemma! — Kate

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Time: The ceiling project took me an evening to complete — about an hour of prep, two hours of painting (plus a couple hours between coats!) and then 10 minutes of clean up (the best part, since that’s when you get to take the tape off!).

Cost: The ceiling actually didn’t cost me a dime, since I already owned the paint, tape and all the painting supplies. If you didn’t already own those things, though, it would probably cost about $30 in paint and another $15 for supplies (you need lots of painters’ tape, a paintbrush and a roller brush).

Basic Steps: First thing was to clean the ceiling (mine was already painted a crisp white, so I didn’t need to re-paint the base coat). Then it was a matter of getting the tape up. First was to divide the ceiling into quarters lengthwise (put a piece of tape down the center, then two pieces half-way between the center piece and the walls, and then two pieces along the walls to keep your edge crisp). Then I measured 10-inch increments along all three pieces of tape on the ceiling.

Once you add small pieces of tape connecting the dots of where you made those 10-inch marks, you’ll see a chevron pattern emerge. Since you want to rotate the two colours in your pattern, a little trick is to put a dot of tape in the rectangles that you don’t want to paint. That way you won’t make a mistake along the way! Once everything is taped out, it’s just a matter of rolling on the paint (two coats is probably a good idea) and then pulling off the tape. The results are so much fun!

I was doing a fairly small space, so the chevron pattern worked really well. If you were doing a really large ceiling, it would probably be easier to go with stripes or another pattern that doesn’t require so much intricate tape-work. Some other tips would be to paint two thin coats rather than one too-thick coat (you don’t want any paint seeping through the tape or drips on your floor!), make sure that the paint is a lower-gloss for the ceiling (mine was eggshell) and step back and really look at your pattern before you get painting to make sure it’s perfect — better to fix any mistakes before painting! — Gemma


This ceiling paint is so chic! I might be jumping the gun here, but I’m almost hoping that stenciling makes a comeback. Updated from 1990’s toll-house designs, of course :)


Subtle but makes such a huge difference! Great transformation. I would love this in my kitchen. :)



Wow! And it even gives a slight optical illusion that the ceiling isn’t flat. It looks fantastic–nice work!

Heather Lou

Looks great but why keep that generic Home Depot fixture? What a great opportunity to find install something really special.


Love it! The optical illusion in that second-from-bottom shot with all the tape still on is quite startling, but the effect is toned down nicely in the finished state. Well done.

Helen Morris

@ Natalie, Stenciling is still here and the design choice has expanded since the 1990’s. Have a go! It’s tough on your neck ( I’ve stenciled many ceilings) but can look wonderful! Nice job Gemma!


The painting is a great change. But you kept the boob light?!?!? It ruins the entire effect! Would love to see an after-after picture with a different light fixture.

Gemma from The Sweetest Digs

@ Heather Lou — I absolutely agree!! I have big plans to change up that awful light fixture in the near future.. still trying to figure out with what, but it’s on the “to do” list!

@ Michelle – I was totally inspired by Vintage Revivals and other painted ceilings for this project. I referenced them at the beginning of my own post here: Her entryway is gorgeous!

@ everyone else – thank you for the lovely comments! good luck with your own projects :)


Love the paint job! CJ (comment above) stole my words though… I was going to to question why the boob light was still there, as well


That’s gorgeous! I can’t picture how to get the tape on so neatly without a full scaffolding underneath – did you manage it with ladders, or how? It makes my neck crick just thinking about it! I love it though… :o)

Gemma from The Sweetest Digs

@RBJANEITE – luckily all I had to use was a chair to get up to tape out the ceiling. Definitely a sore neck though! I took mini-breaks to watch clips of HGTV during the project :)