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Inspiration from Above: 6 Unique Homes with Decorative Ceilings

Luxury Defined spotlights six unique homes with decorative ceilings from around the world

Throughout history, the ceiling has become a unique surface for art, a showcase for the beauty and the sublime, from the temples of the ancient world to the cathedrals of the Middle Ages and the palaces of the Renaissance.

Grandly designed ceilings are no longer exclusive to church and crown: Cathedral ceilings embellished with frescoes, vaults, bas-reliefs, gold-leaf moldings, and other museum-quality details adorn many private homes around the world. In this Luxury Defined edition, we spotlight six fine examples.

1. Palazzo Gradenigo in Venice, Italy 

Palazzo Gradenigo in Venice, ItalyPalazzo Gradenigo in Venice, ItalyPalazzo Gradenigo in Venice, Italy

This historic palazzo occupies the piano nobile (“noble floor”) of a Baroque palace in Venice’s Santa Croce sestiere, a brisk walk from the Rialto market and Venezia Santa Lucia railway station.  

Palazzo Gradenigo was built circa 1600 for the Gradenigo family, a noble family of the Venetian patriciate. Its architect, Domenico Margutti, was a disciple of Baldassare Longhena, a master of Baroque architecture.  

Within are 2,906 square feet of museum-quality interiors, which underwent an extensive restoration in 1999. The entrance features two marble arches crowned with statues. 

A majestic marble staircase designed by Longhena himself rises to two reception halls. The first features an ornate ceiling with decorative 18th-century plasterwork and monumental French doors opening to a view of the Rio Marin Canal.

The second hall is the pièce de résistance, its magnificent ceiling frescoes were painted by Italian Old Master Jacopo Guarana. Solid stone columns, bas-reliefs, and a gilded family crest heighten the splendor.   

The principal suite (one of two bedrooms) has a beautiful frescoed ceiling, marble bathroom, study, and walk-in closet. A kitchen, full bathroom, and laundry room round out the interior appointments.

Also of note are Palazzo Gradenigo’s formal gardens, which inspired scenes from Gabriele D’Annunzio’s 1900 novel, Il Fuoco (The Flame).  

2. Palace Granada in Marrakech, Morocco 

Palace Granada in Marrakech, MoroccoPalace Granada in Marrakech, MoroccoPalace Granada in Marrakech, MoroccoPalace Granada in Marrakech, Morocco

This opulent private villa is an ode to the Alhambra, the vast medieval fortress and royal palace in Granada, Spain.

Set within five acres in Marrakech’s palm oasis, Palace Granada offers more than 19,000 square feet of grandly scaled and luxuriously appointed living space.

Among the rich architectural details are museum-quality zellige mosaics, chiseled-cedar ceilings, carved-wood columns, decorative archways, and stained-glass windows.

There are multiple living rooms, two kitchens, five bedroom suites, a private office, and a wood-panel library. The courtyard garden has a secret cabana, while several pavilions offer quiet places to read or relax.

The villa’s lower level is styled in the tradition of ancient Moorish baths, with treatment rooms, relaxation lounges, and a beautiful pool under a rib-vaulted brick ceiling.

Adding to the resort-like ambience are a bar and disco, a lagoon-style outdoor pool, and clay tennis court. The private grounds are a paradise of rose gardens, citrus and palm groves, and reflecting pools, with the Atlas Mountains as the backdrop.

4. Quinta Villa Beatriz in Santo Emilião, Braga, Portugal 

Quinta Villa Beatriz in Santo Emilião, Braga, PortugalQuinta Villa Beatriz in Santo Emilião, Braga, PortugalQuinta Villa Beatriz in Santo Emilião, Braga, Portugal

Quinta Villa Beatriz is surrounded by nearly 100 acres of landscaped gardens, ancient woodland, farmland, and vineyards in the Vinho Verde, Portugal’s largest wine-growing region.

At the heart of the estate is a circa-1906 neo-Gothic palace classified as a Monument of Public Interest by the Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico (IGESPAR). The beautiful blue-tile structure features four towers (one at each corner) rising three stories high.

The main façade is recessed to integrate the great hall and its balcony. The interiors have retained all their original splendor: exotic wood floors, vaulted and coffered ceilings, frescoed walls, and hand-carved wood and marble finishes. 

The centerpiece of the great hall is an imperial staircase ascending three stories. The first flight leads to a landing supported by a handcrafted wood balustrade topped with classical stone columns.

From there, a double staircase rises to another columned landing crowned with a magnificent ceiling dome and oculus. This design evokes the staircase in one of the world’s most beautiful—and famous—bookstores: Livraria Lello in Porto.  

Just beyond the villa are formal gardens leading down to a private, sandy beach on the River Ave. 

4. Palatial Estate in Atlanta, Georgia 

Palatial Estate in Atlanta, GeorgiaPalatial Estate in Atlanta, GeorgiaPalatial Estate in Atlanta, GeorgiaPalatial Estate in Atlanta, GeorgiaPalatial Estate in Atlanta, Georgia

This palatial Mediterranean-inspired mansion abides on two landscaped acres on West Paces Ferry Road, one of Atlanta’s most affluent and elegant districts.

The ornate façade, built from imported Dominican coral stone, opens to a magnificent two-story foyer with a sweeping staircase under a vaulted ceiling embellished with 10k gold leaf.

The stately reception rooms continue with a Versailles-inspired grand salon, banquet-sized dining room, and fireside living room, graced with limestone floors and ornate, gold-leaf ceilings.

Three wine cellars and a tasting room, a cocktail bar, tiered theater, recording studio, game room, and hair salon are among the lavish amenities.

There are nine bedrooms, including two sumptuous principal suites, each with a spa-inspired marble bathroom.

The outdoor spaces are designed to the same exacting standards. The central courtyard features a classically inspired pool and spa. Surrounding the pool are several balconies and loggias and a limestone terrace with a brick-oven pizza kitchen bounded by glorious formal gardens.

5. Custom-Designed Home in Charleston, South Carolina  

Custom-Designed Home in Charleston, South Carolina Custom-Designed Home in Charleston, South Carolina Custom-Designed Home in Charleston, South Carolina Custom-Designed Home in Charleston, South Carolina 

This brand-new, custom-designed home is in the Riverland Terrace community on James Island, Charleston’s most beautiful suburb.

Russ Cooper & Associates designed this 4,000-square-foot open-concept residence with extraordinary attention to detail.

The light-filled foyer features 10-inch white-oak and fixtures by Ralph Lauren Home. The great room has a striking hand-hewn beamed ceiling, a custom wet bar, and a wood-burning fireplace.

The living and dining areas open to a dream kitchen with custom cabinetry, quartzite countertops, and natural tile backsplash. A wood-panelled den and a primary suite with groin-vaulted ceiling are further highlights of the main floor.

Four additional en suite bedrooms are on the upper floor, along with a charming bunkroom with cozy reading nooks. Adjacent is an elegant sitting room and bonus room, ideal as a fifth bedroom or private office.

At the rear of the house, a loggia leads to a Pennsylvania bluestone terrace. Beyond are lush, landscaped lawns sheltered by an old oak tree. The scenic Wappoo Creek boat landing and the Stono River are just two-and-a-half blocks away.

6. Penthouse in Brera, Milan, Italy

Penthouse in Brera, Milan, Italy Penthouse in Brera, Milan, Italy 

This grand penthouse in Milan’s Centro Historico is in a Neoclassical building designed by celebrated Milanese architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni, whose works include the Teatro Filodrammatici.

The 2,152-square-foot three-bedroom, three-bathroom residence underwent a sensitive restoration by architect Lorenzo “Renzo” Mongiardino, a master of illusionary stage designs. (Mongiardino created the film sets for Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew, a masterpiece of stage-set trickery, with marble, wood, and tapestries conjured out of paint and shadows).

The highlight is the sitting room with its beautifully ornate barrel-vault ceiling and a sun terrace to take in the streetscape.

The focal point of the dining room is a wall and ceiling adorned with bas-reliefs depicting classical motifs.A monumental crystal chandelier hangs from a magnificent ceiling with gilded plasterwork leaves.

Decorative solid wood doors, patterned oak floors, marble columns and statuary, and furnishings upholstered in textured, jewel-toned fabrics add to the grandeur.