Ceilings—which conceal the underside of the roof/rafters or the floor of the story above it—are one of the most important structural features in the home along with the walls and floor. They are also one of the most overlooked elements. There are various types of ceiling designs, but some are best suited for a specific height or architectural style. The height, shape, style, and color of the ceiling can affect the overall look and mood of the room.
Types of Ceiling Designs
Most homes have regular or flat ceilings. The ceilings are between 8’ and 10’ high and are flat. There are no architectural points of interest. A textured finish (plaster, popcorn, swirl, etc.) can add visual appeal.
Drop ceilings—also known as suspended or fake ceilings—are commonly seen in basements. They are more about function than fashion. A metal grid is suspended from the ceiling, then decorative tiles are inserted. Drop ceilings are used to conceal pipes and hardware. They can also hide damage to the original ceiling. Drop ceilings will lower the height of the existing ceiling by about 6 inches.
“Tall ceiling” is more of an umbrella term that describes several different types of ceiling designs. To classify as a tall ceiling, the ceiling must be more than 10’ high. Typically, tall ceilings are two or more stories high. Tall ceilings can be flat or they can incorporate another ceiling type.
“Vaulted ceilings” is another umbrella term, meaning any type of elevated ceiling design that is not flat.
Cathedral ceiling designs angle upwards and meet at an apex that runs the length of the ceiling. The center point of the ceiling is higher than the walls—with 15’ heights at the peak being typical. Cathedral ceiling designs are symmetrical with each side being similar in length.
Cathedral ceiling designs create an optical illusion that the room is larger than it really is. This produces an airy feel and allows for more windows and skylights. The downside of cathedral ceilings is that they can be difficult to clean and are less money efficient because it costs more money to heat or cool the room.
Beamed ceiling designs have exposed beams to create a rustic, traditional look. The beams can either be natural wood or faux wood. To get an industrial look, use metal beams. You can use your personal preference for the number of beams. Beams can be used on either flat or vaulted ceilings. The one downside is that, if beams are installed on a low ceiling, it will make the room feel cramped.
Tray ceiling designs—which can only be used on flat ceilings—feature an inverted, tray-like appearance. The area around the walls is lower than the middle section. This creates the depth and perception of a taller ceiling. The indent of the tray ceiling can be slight or deep—the most common is 6 inches. Tray ceilings can also be done in inverted steps to create a staircase appearance. These types of ceiling designs can be use in large or small rooms, and they are great for unique lighting options.
Coffered ceiling designs are a combination of a beamed ceiling design with crown molding. The beams are laid out to form multiple recessed sections in the shape of squares or rectangles. Crown molding is then applied to the beams to create a visual effect. Coffered ceilings can only be used on flat ceilings and can be expensive, but they can make a flat ceiling interesting and cover any flaws.
A shed ceiling design angles from a low wall to a high wall. The angle can be steep or subtle. When the exterior wall is the higher wall, it opens the walls for more windows. The downside of a shed ceiling is that, depending on how low the short side comes, it can be an inconvenience for taller people and furniture.
Cove ceiling designs elevate gradually from lower at opposite walls and transitions into the ceiling at a wide angle. The angled sides meet at a flat ceiling that is usually 10’ or more. This can be done in several ways: with straight lines, inverted steps, or curves. Cove ceilings often seen in attics or under the stairs.
A barrel vault ceiling design has an upward arch that runs the length of the room and it resembles a barrel that has been cut in half. This type of ceiling opens and softens the room by eliminating the sharp angles where the walls meet the ceiling.
A dome is a spherical ceiling design that rises like a dome to create an illusion of expanded light and space. Domes typically feature skylights, elaborate lighting fixtures, or mosaics.
A groin vault design is made up of partial domes and arches. It is made up of two barrel vaults that intersect at a 90 degree angle to create four convex ribs that rise from the corners. The ribs provide visual interest and strengthen the ceiling. A cloister vault is similar except that the ribs/arches come from the middle of the walls and are concave.