Fifth-Wall Wonder

Ceilings are the fifth wall of every room, and yet they are arguably the most underappreciated part of any structure.

“People don’t generally think about ceilings until they have to think about ceilings,” says Noah Davis, showroom manager at Ceilume Ceiling Tile’s location on Southeasr Grand Avenue in Portland. “It’s the surface that’s most visible and least thought about,” he says.

But when a tenant walks into a prospective new home or office space, it’s the ugly, outdated drop ceiling or water damage from a pipe leak that stands out like an eyesore before anything else.

“That’s when they find us,” Davis says.


Ceilume (pronounced – see-LOOM) has been manufacturing and selling decorative ceiling and wall tiles and panels since the 1940s. Boasting the only ceiling showroom in the Pacific Northwest, Ceilume designs and manufactures ceiling tiles that work in just about any setting: ornate, practical, historic, even workspaces.

For basements, white tiles can add depth and openness to an otherwise constricted space, Davis says. For a den, a darker, more ornate, tin-finish tile can add a closer, more intimate feel. And for office spaces with existing sprinkler systems, Ceilume offers drop-away tiles for drop ceilings that can immediately improve the ambience while avoiding thousands of dollars in sprinkler-head rework.

The company’s most recent obsession is the tile style they call “Manchester.” Unlike traditional glue-up tiles that require several cover strips to mask seams, Manchester tiles overlap, saving hours of extra time and effort, Davis says. The style provides a balance between depth and uniformity, so that they can be fit up against wall edges without creating an uneven trim, which can be a problem with deeply featured tiles.


Other best-selling styles include the Stratford, Westminster and Fleur-de-Lis styles, all of which are made in America at Ceilume’s Northern California manufacturing facility. For the sustainability- and cost-conscious consumer, many styles are available in 100% recycled vinyl, for a lower price than industry-standard tiles, according to Davis. And Ceilume tiles are 100% vinyl, which doesn’t particulate and contaminate the air over time. Easy to install in both glue-up and drop-ceiling applications, they can make an immediate difference in turning a ceiling from a fault into a feature.

Free tile samples are available at the Southeast Grand showroom, and photos of renovations using Ceilume tile can be found online at



Work from the middle of the ceiling out.
“You find the center of one wall, you find the center of the opposing wall, and snap a chalk line, so basically you cut the room in half. Then you do the same thing on the adjacent two walls. That’s where you start, and then you work from the middle of the room out. The perimeter squares should be roughly the same size.”

Use flat-profile tiles for borders and edges.
“A common problem that people are unaware of is that when you’re dealing with a ceiling design where partial tiles are going to be at the perimeter of the room, if you have a prominent three-dimensional profile tile, and you cut through it, you get a wonky, uneven edge around the perimeter, which doesn’t look good.”

Choose the right tile.
“If someone is redoing a basement space and they don’t have a lot of ceiling height, I would suggest going with a simpler white pattern if they want it to feel more open, or a coffered style, which actually adds some depth to the ceiling, as opposed to a tile that projects down into the room. Conversely, if someone is doing a home theater or basement bar, where they want it to feel more intimate, I would say darker designs. A dark ceiling tends to bring the room down and make it feel more intimate, whereas a white ceiling tends to feel more open and airy.”