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How to Dress Up Ceilings

How To Dress Up Your Ceilings

Ceilings are notoriously the most under-utilized plane in architecture. Which is a shame because ceiling treatments can add more architectural interest to a room than any other element that you introduce to a space. It can -depending on your implementation- express formality, a sense of power, give an illusion of age, or just reinforce your style.

Types of Ceilings:










Groin Vault


Flat Ceilings

Flat ceilings are exactly that: Ceilings that are flat across their surface. They are the most commonly used ceiling style.These ceilings are easy to dress up with crown moldings, ornamentation, or even faux paint. To the left is a crown molding application.

Applying wood paneling that is painted or stained is another interesting flat ceiling treatment. It can bring warmth and a natural element to the room. To the right is an example of a wood ceiling.

You could also consider applying ceiling moldings for the illusion of age and architectural interest. To the left is an example of molding.

As flat ceilings are basically versatile, blank canvases there is little limit to what you could accomplish with them.


Dropped Ceilings

A number of modifications can be made to your average flat ceiling, including dropped ceilings and suspended ceilings. Dropped ceilings are basically a second ceiling hung below the actual structural ceiling. They can be simply functional such as commercial acoustic tile ceilings, or they can be aesthetically purposed and interesting such as the ceiling shown.


Suspended Ceilings

Suspended ceilings have a very similar concept to dropped ceilings except that suspended ceilings are just a portion of the ceiling -sometimes uniquely shaped such as the bedroom shown- suspended by cables to achieve a 'floating' look. These are often back-lit for indirect lighting.


Tray Ceilings

Tray ceilings are a series of flat steps up into a ceiling. consisting of a flat ceiling around the perimeter of a room with recesses up into the ceiling space above. These steps usually follow and enforce the shape of the room. These ceilings can be dressed up with crown molding and/or cove lighting. You could also combine ceiling types by adding wood beams or coffers. Above is an example from that utilizes tray ceiling and paneling.


Mansard Ceilings

Mansard ceilings are based on the design of mansard roofs. They slope from the top of the wall at an angle to a flat ceiling surface above, usually following the slop of the roof above. This is a very traditional look but depending on the way you treat it, it can look contemporary. These ceilings are typically dressed up with moldings or painted. Clayton & Little Architects created this simple painted mansard roof.


Beamed Ceilings

Beamed ceilings are -traditionally- exposed structural wood beams. However, with its rise in popularity, faux wood beams have been added to all shapes and sizes of ceilings to give the look of a traditional beamed ceiling.


Cathedral Ceilings

Cathedral ceilings evoke the feeling of grandeur. They originated from cathedrals and -by definition- they are pointed or slanted and rise through one or more floors. These could be left empty, but to dress them up one could use wood beams, molding, or trusses as shown. With this look you can create Tuscany, farmhouse, or Gothic styles.


Coffered Ceilings

Coffered ceilings have raised or 'popped up' portions with molding surrounding the lowered frame. When the coffers are left as wood, this look is gorgeously deep and traditional.

If your home leans toward the contemporary side, painting the coffers white or a lighter color can make your home feel breezier and more modern. Lindye Galloway from HGTV created this lovely coastal beach house living space with this technique.


Barrel Vault Ceilings

Because of their shape, barrel vault ceilings are excellent for hallways and rectangular rooms and -due to its lack of sharp corners- they can soften the room. For extra effect wood paneling, paint, molding, and cove lighting could be added.


Domed Ceilings

Domed ceilings are stately and reminiscent of splendorous manors. They are also surprisingly versatile. They can be left simply painted, trimmed in wood, faux painted to form an illusion, or elaborately ornamented. However you choose to dress them, they are sure to be formal and impressive.


Groin Vault Ceilings

Groin vaults are definitely the most complicated in our list but the gorgeous effect is well worth the effort! They are a compound vault formed by the perpendicular intersection of two vaults, forming arched diagonal arrises called groins. Groin vaults can be left plain and painted as shown. The paint could also be textured, wood molding could be incorporated, or brick could be added for a beautiful rustic look.


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