5 Creative Ceilings: Which to Choose For Your Home?

  • 01 of 06

    Exposed Beam Ceilings:  Early 20th Century Urban Look

    Exposed Beam Ceiling In Kitchen
    Exposed Beam Ceiling In Kitchen. Getty / Rob Melnychuk

    Often called the 5th wall, the ceiling mostly goes ignored during home remodeling.  Usually, this flat drywall ceiling gets painted with matte white paint, and that's that.

    Embellishments might include crown molding or a medallion around a ceiling light.

    At the most, it might get painted darker than the walls or some fun, goofy color, such as yellow, orange, or purple.

    But how about entirely rethinking the ceiling?  Not just a different color, but a different type of ceiling?  Here are 5 ceilings you might want to consider for your own home.

    Exposed Beam Ceiling


    A ceiling that is left uncovered, thus exposing the main support beams, joists for the floor above, and the bottom of the floorboards above.


    For an urban, industrial early 20th century look.  Alternately, a tony Martha Stewart country home look.


    This can be done retroactively by pulling down the existing ceiling covering.  But you may find unpleasant surprises, like electrical wires and plumbing pipes that run through the joists.  If those can be re-routed, you may still need to deal with the nails jutting out from the floor above.  All of these things are manageable, though not easy.

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  • 02 of 06

    Partial Drop Ceilings:  Creating Borders Without Walls

    Partial Drop Ceiling
    Partial Drop Ceiling. Getty / Ivan Hunter


    A section of ceiling that drops lower than the main ceiling.


    Partial drops give your house a distinctly modern feeling.

    You may want to add a partial drop to hide recessed lighting.  Or you may wish to define a space, such as a living room or kitchen, that has been placed within a larger space.  Visually, this reduces the need for walls.  Or partial drops can be purely design elements that break up big expanses of ceiling in large spaces.


    This can be a retroactive.  Your "second ceiling" can be constructed of drywall or wood and suspended on stanchions.

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  • 03 of 06

    Coffered Ceilings:  For an Old World, European Style

    Multiple Coffer Ceiling In Bedroom
    Multiple Coffer Ceiling In Bedroom. Getty / Eric Hernandez


    Ceiling divided into smaller squares or rectangles.  Individual panels appear to "sink" upward.  Often, the beams that divide these sunken panels are painted a color that contrasts with the sunken part or are unpainted wood.


    A coffered ceiling gives a room an elegant Old World look.  Use sparingly; it's not to be used in every room of the house.


    Modern coffered ceilings don't actually sink upward; it's all an illusion.  Kits abound, such as the Tilton System, that allow you to create a coffered ceiling on top of your existing flat drywall ceiling.  Systems such as Tilton's are pricey but look like the real thing.  

    Coffered ceiling panels are far cheaper and work in conjunction with drop ceiling gridworks.  They don't look very good at all, mainly because the sunken portions are not deep.  Also, the size of each sunken coffer is dictated by the square or rectangle in the gridwork.  No one will be fooled into thinking that this is a real coffered ceiling.


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  • 04 of 06

    Tray Ceilings:  More Space, Less Vault

    Tray Ceiling In Bedroom
    Tray Ceiling In Bedroom. Getty / Ke Yu


    The tray ceiling is like the coffered ceiling, except it's just one coffer.  Ninety-percent of the ceiling appears to "sink" upward, with the 10% perimeter section apparently remaining at ordinary ceiling height.


    Provides a cozy feeling and allows for lighting to be hidden along the perimeter section.  If you like the feeling of airiness provided by vaulted ceilings, but hate the vaulted look and 1980s associations, tray ceilings are a great alternative.


    You're not building more space upward; the room already has that vertical space.  So, it's not giving you more ceiling height.  Rather, you are building a lower perimeter section.

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  • 05 of 06

    Vaulted Ceilings:  More Space, More Room To Breathe

    Vaulted Ceiling
    Vaulted Ceiling. Getty / zorani


    A staple of 1980s homes, vaulted ceilings have passed out of fashion and are slowly gaining in popularity again--despite their energy-wasting qualities.


    You want a greater feeling of space and airiness.  


    Must be built into the home's original design; difficult to build retroactively.  One solution:  if you intend to build an addition, specify that the ceiling be vaulted.

    The vaulted ceiling is often termed an "energy vampire" because in heated homes, the heat first must build up in the higher region of the ceiling before it can work its way downward.  

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  • 06 of 06

    Traditional Flat Drywall Ceiling

    Traditional Flat Drywall Ceiling
    Traditional Flat Drywall Ceiling. Getty / Oktay Ortakcioglu


    The simplest ceiling possible:  a flat, unembellished ceiling constructed of drywall.


    You want the cheapest ceiling possible.  Also, you want your ceiling to visually recede.  A flat drywall ceiling painted with white ceiling paint mostly goes unnoticed, with other parts of the room gaining prominence.


    Sheets of 4' x 8' or 4' x 12' drywall attached directly to the joists above.  Seams between the sheets are filled with drywall compound and sanded down flat.  Edges of ceiling meet seamlessly with the walls.