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I've noticed that (at least here in Germany) some walls are painted so that a tiny fraction of the upper wall has the same color as the ceiling. Why do people do that? I find this not so pretty.

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Surely this is down to personal preference, but here in the UK you might find that a room that has a picture rail painted in a similar manner.

The ceiling colour will be painted above the rail with a different colour painted below the rail.

One objective reason might be to hide imperfections in the join between the walls and ceiling. If the ceiling is uneven you'd get a wavy line around the room. Painting a stripe of the same colour around the wall could reduce the impact of this.

NOTE:

Picture Rail Functional molding installed 7–9 feet above the floor from which framed pictures and paintings are hung using picture wire and picture rail hooks.

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Those stripes are probably meant to hide imperfections, since most of them are not much wider than several millimeters. I find those small gaps visually disturbing and would prefer a close ceiling/wall joint, even when wavy. –  user973 Oct 25 '10 at 13:09
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It may be that the painter can use a rollor without having to touch up.

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It would be easier to apply painter's masking tape that way - If you try to get tape right to the edge, it might lift in places and allow paint the bleed underneath.

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As ChrisF said, this is a matter of personal taste. Here in my part of Australia the norm is to paint the ceiling and cornice (crown moulding) one colour, generally white, and the walls down from there to the skirting boards another colour.

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