If you've got a home, we can pretty much guarantee that you've got ceilings (prerequisite: check!). But there's a chance that you haven't yet taken advantage of that open real estate over your head to make an impact on your overall home design. A bold ceiling can set the tone for a room's experience, subtle details can prove that every inch of a home's design was intentional, and a simple ceiling can fade away to allow other design elements in a room to shine. As we often say, it's all about balance!
So, if you're looking to up your ceiling design game and brush up on the terminology to make it happen, we've got you covered with all kinds of info and ideas. First, we'll walk you through the basics of ceiling structures and treatments so we're all on the same page with what's what. Then we'll show you a variety of ways we've designed ceilings for our projects, and top it off with answers to FAQs!
There are many styles and structures of ceilings in the world, but we're focusing on the three most common to our residential interior design projects.
CONVENTIONAL: A flat, seamless surface. Conventional ceilings are typically 8ft high based on standard build materials, but can range higher in custom homes.
RECESSED / SOFFIT / TRAY: Regardless of what you call it, this ceiling's perimeter hangs lower than the inset section in the center. A standard tray ceiling consists of drywall and plaster and mimics the shape of a room on a smaller scale. The recessed area can be purely decorative to add interest and height to a space, and can be treated with many of the materials listed below. This two level style can also be utilized to hide air ducts, plumbing pipes and support structures without bringing your entire ceiling down to conceal the framework. The projected portion of the ceiling that hides those "behind the scenes" necessities are called soffits, which is why our team often refers to this ceiling style as a "soffit ceiling."
VAULTED: An angled ceiling that meets at a higher central point. This element draws your attention upwards while creating the illusion of a larger room. Cathedral ceilings are a type of vaulted structure where both sides slope at equal angles and follow the pitch of the roof.
While the structure of your ceiling can really only be tailored with an in-depth renovation of your home, many ceiling treatment options are more accessible for a quick refresh.
BEAMS: Part of the ceiling's structural support that can be exposed to add visual interest and style to a room. Beams can also be added purely for the visual charm without any structural responsibility.
BOXED BEAMS: Decorative beams arranged in a grid pattern. Typically three-sided, hollow structures that can be added to a ceiling for visual interest. Boxed beams can be used to create a coffered ceiling effect.
FAUX WOOD BEAMS: Beams made to give the illusion of architectural wood beams without the weight and price of the real deal. Faux wood beams can be made of foam and finished to replicate the look of wood, or they can be engineered with real wood milled into thin panels that surround a hollow structure.
SOLID WOOD BEAMS: Real, solid wood (as you would have guessed!) that can serve as structural support and visual interest.
COFFERED CEILINGS: A series of recessed sections in a grid layout. This ceiling detail is typically decorative and adds a nod to historic style. Coffered ceilings bring a sophistication and intimacy to a room.
MOLDING: Decorative trim that can be arranged in various layouts to add a more traditional and ornate style to your ceiling. Molding typically follows the perimeter of a room to hide the seam where the ceiling meets the wall.
PAINT: Adding a coat of paint to your ceiling is one of the simplest ways to refresh your space. Choosing strategic hues and sheens can create different effects in the room. (Scroll to FAQs at the bottom for tips on how to achieve your desired look.)
TONGUE + GROOVE: Continuous wood planks that run parallel to each other and interlock leaving a ridge in between. This side-by-side style adds texture and depth into a room while maintaining a uniform look.
TRUSS: An A-frame structure that supports the roof, commonly seen with vaulted ceilings. Trusses can also be added as a decorative feature where the structural support isn't needed.
WALLPAPER: A decorative accent that can bring color, texture and pattern to a ceiling without weighing it down with heavy materials.
WOOD ACCENTS: Planks of wood that cover a ceiling in a staggered pattern without ridges in between, similar to that of hardwood floor. These planks can be found as smooth or as rustic as you intend for the style of your space.
CEILING STRUCTURE + TREATMENT COMBINATIONS
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH COFFERED TREATMENT
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH SOLID RECLAIMED WOOD BEAMS
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH FAUX WOOD BEAMS
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH BOXED BEAMS
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH BOXED BEAMS + TONGUE + GROOVE
CONVENTIONAL CEILING WITH WOOD ACCENT
STANDARD TRAY CEILING
RECESSED CEILING WITH MOLDING
RECESSED CEILING WITH BEAMS
RECESSED CEILING WITH TONGUE + GROOVE
RECESSED CEILING WITH BEAMS + TONGUE + GROOVE
RECESSED CEILING WITH WOOD ACCENT
VAULTED CEILING WITH BOXED WOOD BEAMS
VAULTED CEILING WITH TONGUE + GROOVE
VAULTED CEILING WITH BEAMS + TONGUE + GROOVE
VAULTED CEILING WITH TRUSSES
How do I make a room with low ceilings feel larger?
When working with low ceilings, you want to stay away from adding any treatments that are too bulky as it will bring the overall ceiling height down. Thin materials such as wallpaper, paint and wood planks are great solutions for adding interest to standard height ceilings.
Generally, light colors brighten and broaden a room while darker hues create a cozier feeling, so we recommend keeping that in mind while choosing a finish for your ceilings. Light colors will help a low ceiling feel taller!
If my ceilings are painted, should they match the color and sheen of my painted walls?
Walls and ceilings can match in color, but they don't have to. For white walls and ceilings, we typically match. In a room with all colored walls, matching the color on the ceiling can unify the space and create a cove feeling, especially with darker hues. In the middle photo below, we contrasted the light tan walls with a white ceiling that brightens the room and coordinates with the soffits and trim work. If one wall is painted as an accent, we usually match the ceiling color to the majority wall color (example below: pink accent wall, white remaining walls and ceiling).
Again, light shades open a space to feel larger, dark shades pull in a space to feel cozy and inevitably smaller.
A flat or matte paint sheen is recommended for ceilings to reduce the glare from lighting and hide any surface imperfections under the paint. Whereas wall sheen can vary depending on the use and traffic of the room. Read more of our paint tips here.
Do the ceiling treatments need to match the materials of the walls or floors?
Nope. Ceilings can match another material in the room/home or they can add contrast with a new material. The white-wood beams at Project Newport Waterfront that match the white painted walls and ceiling add subtle texture and dimension to the room while keeping a soft transition from wall to ceiling.
The music room hallway at Project Orchid shows how wood accents on the ceiling can differ from the hardwood floor style. We mixed several mid wood tones throughout that home!
Do ceiling designs need to be consistent throughout a home?
Definitely not! Each space has the opportunity to express its own unique style to enhance the room design. Check out Project Orchid for mixed and matched ceiling inspiration!
Think of the ceiling as another wall of the room, it can be as simple or dramatic as you want for the specific space. The structure of the ceiling should also guide you in your designs to maximize its potential.
We do recommend keeping ceiling designs cohesive with the general style of the home -- for example: chunky, knotted wood beams can add great character to an earthy, Mediterranean home, but probably aren't the best fit in a sleek, contemporary residence.
What is the benefit of using different ceiling designs throughout a home?
Strategic ceiling design can be the cherry on top of a well-designed home bringing your eyes all around the room in an intentional way. We design each room in a home to take advantage of its best features and that goes for ceilings too. If it was built to make a statement, highlight it! If you want the focus to be on another design element in the room, keep it simple.
Ceiling designs can also help define spaces in an open concept floor plan. Check out the great room at Newport Coast to see how the direction of ceiling beams breaks up the open space.
How do you determine which ceiling design to choose?
First, look at the structure of the ceiling and size of the room to determine which options you have. Decide whether you want to use the ceiling as an accent wall to make a statement or let it fade away with a simple design. Once you understand your parameters, design away! We've saved loads of inspiration on our Pinterest board.
SOME CEILING STYLE INSPIRATION FROM AROUND THE WEB
Have more thoughts about ceilings? Share them with us below!
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