LOOK UP: Decorating the “Fifth Wall”

WE OFTEN SAY IT BECAUSE IT’S TRUE: No textbook can immerse us in history and art like travel can. Travel saturates our senses and invigorates our minds and imaginations—as Duet principal Devon Tobin experienced this fall when she traveled to France with her family.

Europe reminds many design professionals of the long, deep history of architecture and interior design. Perhaps the finest example is Paris’s famed Louvre Museum, which offers the richness of millennia of art history in the 15th-century former royal residence. “I stood in the middle of room after room in the Louvre and looked up and kept thinking, ‘Look how much time they spent on the ceiling!’” Devon says. “The art up there is almost grander than the art on the walls, and it creates an experience in the whole room, not just on the walls.”

As she explored France, Devon noticed decorative ceilings everywhere—in castles, cathedrals, boutique hotels, and old restaurants. “It seemed to me that artisans and architects took more risk on the ceilings,” she says. “If it wasn’t paintings and frescoes, it was elaborate panels and crown moldings and trusses.” When she walked through the Mont St. Michel, Devon noticed the abbey’s austerity was warmed up by the elaborate ceiling beams with tongue-in-groove woodwork.

When she began her career 17 years ago, American interior designers weren’t paying much attention to the fifth wall, but she and other designers who are enamored by the arts pushed to embrace the timelessness of decorative ceilings. Today, the team at Duet utilizes all kinds of applications, ranging from simple plaster motifs on eight-foot ceilings to large two-toned beams in grand, high-ceilinged spaces. Our best tip: If you’re going extreme on the fifth wall, everything else in the room needs to be subtler to provide visual balance.

WE LOVE TO INNOVATE IN EVERY SPACE, AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY, TO CREATE LASTING BEAUTY WITH TIMELESS APPEAL. If we can help you transform your home into a place that makes you want to look up and smile, please get in touch.

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