Though hard to reach, ceilings have long been the beneficiary of artistic design. There's the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and the dome of the Library of Congress, just to name a handful of more famous examples.
But it's not just palaces and government buildings that are giving special attention to the surfaces overhead. Such splendor can also be found in private homes.
"More effort is being given to the ceiling," says Elizabeth Franklin, chief executive of The Franklin Report, an online guide to home and lifestyle services. "Ceilings have become a place for artistic expression. They are creating interest in rooms."
Brian J. McCarthy, a New York decorator, once placed the reproduction of a painting by 18th century Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo on the two-story-high entryway ceiling of a home near the north shore of Long Island, N.Y.
For room décor to succeed, adds Franklin, "You need to have one or three items of intense interest, preferably three, like three legs of a stool. The ceiling now has become one of them."
Here are five homes where ceilings are an eye-catching design element:
Suffolk, United Kingdom
London-based dRMM Architects took ceilings to new heights with the design of this one-of-a-kind private home. Residents of the home — which is made up of three buildings: a glazed house, office/studio and garage — can change the look overhead with the push of a button.
It may sound like science fiction but the technology is pretty straightforward. The home has an exterior casing, set on a track system and powered by car batteries, that slides across the site, covering or exposing the buildings as desired. This 20-ton, movable shell is made of steel, wood and insulation and glides along recessed railway tracks. What's more, the unique architecture enables control over heating and cooling loads by designating which areas are covered and exposed throughout different seasons.
Long Island, New York
This ceiling, in the entry hall of a home near Long Island, N.Y., is covered with the reproduction of a work by Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The design was hand-painted on canvas by artists from Atelier Meriguet in France before installation on location. The designer is Brian J. McCarthy of New York.
Wales, United Kingdom
This woodland home in Wales was built by owner Simon Dale, who dug into a hillside for low visual impact and shelter. Materials used in construction — many found on or near the site — included stone, mud, logs, straw and lime plaster. Building the house was "fun. Living your own life, in your own way is rewarding. Following our dreams keeps our souls alive," says Dale.
Tuxedo Park, New York
Ernest de la Torre created the interior design for this home in Tuxedo Park, N.Y. Its dining room ceiling is in the Jacobean style; according to de la Torre, the home's architect favored historical references to English manor houses. The ceiling, he added, "is a plaster person's masterpiece."
Pool House Chic
This modern pool house is adjacent to a home in Greenwich, Conn., that was originally an early 20th century horse stable. The stable's architecture inspired the pool house's wooden ceiling. Pool house design is by Matthew Patrick Smyth, with architecture by R. S. Granoff Architects.
Click here to see more homes with incredible ceilings.