Everything You Need to Know About Coffered Ceilings

coffered ceiling in living room

Whitehall Interiors

If you want to give the ceilings in your home a new life or are in the process of constructing a space from scratch, you may have come across coffered ceilings in your research. Here, we're walking you through the ins and outs of coffered ceilings—where to install them, how much they cost, and some of their benefits—should you wish to embrace this look in your own home. Below, experts weigh in with key pointers and considerations about coffered ceilings.

What Is a Coffered Ceiling?

Even if you don't know coffered ceilings by name, you've most likely come across one before.

"When I think of a coffered ceiling, the quintessential example is the dome of the Pantheon, but for many modern applications, the ceiling is much less ornate," says Robert Lubas of BLT Architects.

What exactly is a coffered ceiling? As Orlando Rodriguez of Whitehall Interiors says, "The word coffer in architectural vernacular simply means indentation or sunken area. Therefore, a coffered ceiling is a series of indentations that create an elaborate three-dimensional ceiling."

Coffered ceilings feature sunken panels and are commonly made of wood or plaster. "A coffered ceiling is a design that creates a beautiful effect that not only adds architectural detail to your home but also ultimately creates depth and visual interest around a room’s fifth wall," says Erika Soza-Mejia of Concept 2 Design.

In addition to featuring an aesthetically pleasing design, coffered ceilings offer a number of other benefits.

"They add the illusion of height to a room due to their flat panels and projected molding," says Paige Garland of Paige Garland Interiors. Additionally, Garland adds, coffered ceilings can help conceal noise.

coffered ceiling in bedroom

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Coffered Ceiling Considerations

You will want to consider budget when choosing whether to incorporate a coffered ceiling into your home.

"Coffered ceilings typically range from costly to very expensive, depending on the detailing being utilized," Rodriguez shares. "The deeper and heavier the coffered ceiling, the more structural reinforcements should be a consideration."

Looking to take a simpler approach? Adorned beams will do the trick and be less costly, Rodriguez says. The more complex your ceiling is, the more you can expect to pay.

"A coffered ceiling with indentations that requires structural modifications to account for the weight and intrusion in between the wood joists, for example, falls on the very expensive side of the price scale," Rodriguez says.

Use the square footage of your room to calculate the approximate cost of installation.

"For an overall basic design and materials you should expect to pay around $30 per square foot for the installation of your custom ceiling," says Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development.

When looking into coffered ceilings, keep in mind that they are sometimes confused with waffle ceilings, but experts note that there is a difference between these two styles.

"The main distinction of a waffle ceiling is that the pattern is typically a square pattern and in a certain scale, so that the pattern resembles an actual waffle," Rodriguez says, noting that generally waffle ceilings are made from beams. "The depth of the beam itself provides the illusion of an indentation."

coffered ceiling in living room

Whitehall Interiors

  • Add architectural intrigue to rooms

  • Can shine in a wide range of spaces

  • Help reduce noise in a space

  • Generally cost several thousands of dollars to install

  • Not ideal for hallways

  • Best in rooms with high ceilings

Where to Install a Coffered Ceiling

Determining where to install a coffered ceiling? You'll have a number of room options to choose from.

"Rooms where a more formal appearance is desired are good candidates for a coffered ceiling," Lubas says. "They provide an allusion to classical architecture and create a stately appearance."

So by all means, go ahead and install one in your living room, dining room, or family room. Keep in mind that the higher the ceilings in a room, the better candidate it is for a coffered ceilings.

"Because the coffered ceiling requires more depth than a flat ceiling, they are best in rooms with taller ceilings," Lubas notes.

Curious about installing one in your hallway? Rodriguez shares some insight.

"Connecting spaces typically should not have a coffered ceiling, but if a corridor is leading to an important space in the home and ceiling height can be sacrificed, this may be an opportunity for a coffered ceiling as well," he says.

  • How much does it cost to get a coffered ceiling?

    The cost of installing a coffered ceiling all depends on the size of your space and the materials you choose, as well as how complex of an approach you take.

  • What is the difference between a coffered ceiling and a waffle ceiling?

    A waffle ceiling is a type of coffered ceiling but features a waffle pattern and is often made from beams.

  • What rooms should have a coffered ceiling?

    Coffered ceilings are often installed in a home's main living areas, such as a living room, dining room, or den, and also are used in primary bedrooms. Sometimes, you will come across coffered ceilings in hallways too.