For the love of…ornate ceilings

So…ceilings then…

I confess. I love ceilings, I even have an Instagram account to show special ceilings I see during my life.

It was bound to happen I would write a post about the ceilings in our house.

Disclaimer: Before I start blabbering away on ceilings, I just want to warn you that my translations for the different ceiling parts might not be spot on. I’m Dutch and I’ve had some trouble finding the right ceiling related Dutch words, let alone find the correct UK and or US wording. But I hope most pictures speak for themselves.

Overview of ceilings in our house

In our house every ceiling, except for the kitchen area, was plastered on straw.

damaged plaster on straw
Plaster on straw damaged.

On the first floor, most of this is covered with modern drywalling. The ceilings on the first floor have nothing special about them. They are just damaged plaster.

If you want to see pictures of us tearing this down you can read one of our demolition posts.

On the ground floor the office ceiling is trimmed with a straight trim. Nothing too fancy. But this post will be all about the dining room ceiling and the living room ceiling, because ‘that’s where the magic happens’.

The ceiling in the dining room

Let’s start with the dining room ceiling. In this room there is a circular double rosette and a double frame around the edge.

Dining room area with original ceiling

You may be wondering why the ceiling is brown.

We wondered about it as well. Turns out the previous habitants were avid smokers. They figured they could prevent the ceilings from needing regular painting by painting the complete ceiling in a thick brown layer of high gloss laquer.

It’s as brown as it looks on the picture above.

The pictures below is a close-up of the dining room rosette. It consists of two rings; one small ring in the middle and one wider ring around it.

ceiling rings with brown paint

You can tell the ceiling is in bad shape. Every crack you see is actual damage, not just cracks in the paint.

The corners look like this:

ceiling frames in the corner

And on the parts of the wall that have no straight corner, like where the chimney is, the ceiling looks like this:

ceiling trims

So all around the room the trim is double, with a different finish at the corners.

Trying to restore the original ceiling

Since moving in we decided to try to restore the original ceilings as much as possible. But we soon found out this is no easy task.

We’ve had some advice about it and the primary issue is the brown paint. Not only is it ugly, it’s also badly damaged and the paint was not suited to be used on gypsum (the main component the ornaments are made of).

We were advised to start scraping off the loose paint to see how bad it was.

ceiling rings from up close
You can easily see this is high gloss laquer on this picture.

As you can see this is not looking pretty. I took this picture when I stood on the ladder scraping paint of.

Unfortunately it was not the paint that was loose, it was parts of the actual plaster that were loose.

So after some time scraping the worst parts of this is the result…

Ceiling rings very damaged

You can tell that the ceiling itself is in poor shape as well.

Since the ceiling in the dining room is less elaborate than the one in the living room (keep reading for that!) we decided this is not really worth the effort.

Did it hurt ripping it out? YES!!!!!

But we figured the trims are fairly simple, so it can be replaced.

Where we are now with the dining room ceiling

I almost dare not show you, but this is our dining room ceiling now:

New plasterboards on the ceiling

We took everything out to make place for a new ceiling. We will put new trims in and a rosette as well to keep the original look.

The ceiling in the living room

The ceiling in the living room is my pride and joy.

The trim in the living room is a single list instead of a double and it is pretty much the same:

living room ceiling frames

But can we all just look at this center ornament?

living room ceiling ornament

How beautiful is this?!

I just love this ornament so much. Especially as it features some things that you don’t see in every modern ornament. My favorite parts are:

  • The large wands on both sides that feature different ‘toppers’. One looks like a shield and one like an acorn.
  • I love the two chalices in the middle.
  • The garlands have so much details.
  • It has a special shape and is not symetrical.
  • It’s a fairly floral pattern without being all super flowery (this makes total sense to me).

Sometimes I just look at it and enjoy it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Detail shots for your enjoyment:

detail of ceiling ornament

high gloss detail of ceiling ornament

The bad news

Like the ceiling in the dining room (which we tackled first) this ceiling was also painted with the same high gloss paint and in terrible overall shape.

So we took down this ceiling as well…

Ceiling partly torn

But don’t despair (yet).

We left it like this:

ornament strapped to the ceiling

Yes, that is a ceiling ornament strapped to the ceiling:

ceiling ornament strapped to ceiling structure

We took everything down but the ornament in the hopes of it getting restored.

As you can see the ornament itself was damaged as well. This is not a result of us doing some demolition, this was just broken beneath the paint.

But at some point we had to take it down to get it cleaned.

Is there a worse sight than this:

Back of ceiling ornament stuck to straw

You can see how the straw was plastered and the ornament was plastered on top of it.

And then came the tedious task of cleaning the back (I dared not touch the front yet).

The next picture is hours into the work, but still not nearly done.

ceiling ornament on a table for cleaning

The worse news

Now we were left with a table with an ornament on it ready for cleaning. But I dare not touch it without having at least some confidence I don’t ruin it.

In a weekend we went to Het Schippertje. They are the leading experts on ornament ceilings in the Netherlands.

They advised us to just replace the ornaments in the living room. The costs would be very high and the result would only be ‘okay’  and not ‘stunning’.

So this is where we are left with for now…

new ceiling in the living room

To be continued…

We will hunt for new trims and ornaments, but that is no easy task.

The original ornament is still laying around, because I still can’t part with it. I’m just too attached to it already and I will only part with it if I’m absolutely 100% certain the new ceiling will look as nice.

Don’t be too hard on us for ripping the ceilings out, we’ve thought this through and sought out expert advice.

Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt though. I would have loved nothing more than to keep everything original, but it’s just not the case with these ceilings.

When we continue with the ceiling I will write a new update.



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