A ceiling medallion is an ornamental decorative feature, usually round in shape, that is used to dress up a ceiling. They were very popular features in middle- and upper-class homes in the 19th century, especially in Victorian-style homes. In those days, the medallions were made of wood, plaster, plaster of Paris, or papier-mâché, though papier-mâché was the most common material. The styles were usually based on leaf or flower designs, although sometimes the medallions were simple plain discs.
Today, ceiling medallions are still popular for large rooms in more stately homes and are especially useful as a transition between a hanging ceiling fixture and a plain ceiling surface. They are also useful for purely practical reasons—to cover the light fixture's ceiling box. Today's medallions, though, are usually made from coated polyurethane foam, and rather than being hand-molded by artisans, they are mass-produced in factories. Even big-box home improvement stores may stock ceiling medallions, and online retailers offer hundreds of size and style options to choose from.
Choosing the right ceiling medallion for your room involves considering both the size proportions and the decorating style of your room.
When choosing a ceiling medallion for your home, numbers play an important role, since the proportions of the medallion must be in proper ratio to the room size. Here's how to choose a correct size:
- Measure the width and length of the room.
- Multiply the numbers to get the square footage of the room.
- Divide the number by 7. This number is the proper diameter in inches of your ceiling medallion.
For example, a room that is 12 by 12 feet has an area of 144 square feet. The ideal diameter size for a ceiling medallion for this room would be about 20 inches (144 ÷ 7).
This is not a hard and fast rule, since the size of the light fixture also plays a role. Generally speaking, aim at sizing the medallion so it is roughly the same diameter as the chandelier. But in very ornate rooms with lots of trim moldings, the medallion can be larger in diameter than the chandelier. In smaller, plainer rooms, it's appropriate to size the medallion so its diameter is less than that of the light fixture.
Ceiling medallions are sold in sizes that vary from 4 inches in diameters for a closet or dressing room to over 60 inches for a very large room. For a large hall or ballroom with several light fixtures, it's not uncommon to install several medallions, one above each fixture.
While medallions are in general most appropriate for large, ornate rooms, within that general recommendation you have dozens of options—from very simple disc medallions that are well-suited for Colonial-style homes to intricately shaped designs that work best in homes with the feel of an Italian villa or French chateau. Designers usually recommend using the shape and style of other room elements to help guide your choice of ceiling medallion. Crown moldings and chair rail moldings, in particular, may give you clues as to the best patterns for a ceiling medallion. Remember that the medallion is an architectural feature and should be matched to the style of the room. If the other moldings or trim work in the room have identifiable motifs, try to match these in your ceiling medallion.
Ceiling medallions usually come primed and painted white from the factory, but they can be painted to match your ceiling, or to match other woodwork in your room. In a very ornate room, such as in a Victorian-reproduction home, you can even paint different portions of the medallion in different colors. Anything goes, provided it fits the style of the room.