Look up: What you see above can have a dramatic impact on the feeling of a space. A vaulted ceiling can make a tiny entryway feel cavernous, and a tray ceiling can lend glamour to an otherwise cookie-cutter bedroom. The first step to adding some of that oomph to your own home is getting to know the names of different styles of ceilings. Can you tell the difference between cathedral and vaulted ceilings? How about cove versus tray? There are numerous variations on ceiling design, each offering its own type of visual interest.
As its name implies, this style of room ceiling takes its inspiration from ornate houses of worship. The design features symmetrical sloping sides that connect in the middle of the room, mimicking the pitch of the roof and transcending more than one story. Like its cousin the vaulted ceiling, cathedral ceilings take advantage of height to make a floor plan feel extra spacious.
Like cathedral ceilings, vaulted ceilings add dramatic height to a room with steep, sloping sides that connect at a point. But unlike its predecessor, the vaulted style isn't symmetrical and doesn't always follow the pitch of the roof. It's worth noting that vaulted ceilings aren't always the most energy efficient in the winter when warm air rises to the top, but installing aerated skylights with temperature sensors can help cool the environment in summer.
A dome ceiling is exactly what it sounds like — a rounded indention in the surface that resembles the inside of the top half of a sphere. The style is modeled after ancient state buildings and temples like the Roman Pantheon, and may be perfectly symmetrical (the classic look) or elongated in an oval shape (a modern take). Builders construct dome ceilings by framing out a circle or oval that's flush with the flat part of the ceiling, then adding vertical, equally spaced pieces of curved wood to create the spherical shape.
Walls that curve inward at the point where they meet the ceiling create a cove or arched effect, a rounded design prominent in 18th century Parisian or Rococo architecture. Carpenters frame out cove ceilings by adding equally spaced pieces of curved plywood around the perimeter of the ceiling. Homeowners can add cove ceilings to existing rooms with cove moldings or other kits. Unlike the similar dome style of ceiling, the cove's uppermost surface area remains flat and parallel to the floor.
In this style, a pattern of recessed squares, called coffers or coffered panels, adds texture and dimension to the ceiling. A grid suspended beneath the ceiling's support beams serves as the skeleton for the pattern and offers a guide for where to place each panel. Coffers may be deep or shallow, depending on the desired effect, and can be installed during a new build or retroactively added.
This style typically adds a rustic touch to a room, and is often combined with other types of room ceilings such as cathedral and vaulted designs. The look is created by leaving support beams uncovered or "exposed" rather than concealing them with plywood and plaster. Adding faux support beams to an existing cathedral or vaulted ceiling offers a similar effect.
A more subtle alternative to cathedral or vaulted ceilings, tray ceilings are called that because they resemble the look of an upside down tray. The anchoring focal point of a tray ceiling, also called an inverted or recessed ceiling, is rectangular center that is typically several inches higher than the rest of the surface. Homeowners often choose to accentuate the look of the tray by painting the deepest indentation and the trim around it different colors.
- Home Designers Software: Creating a Cathedral Ceiling
- Drummond House Plans: Cathedral or Vaulted Ceiling?
- Archways and Ceilings: Cove Ceilings
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Coving
- Oregon Live: Architectural Details Cove or Crown Molding?
- Armstrong Ceilings: Coffered Ceiling
- Merriam Webster: Dome
- Merriam-Webster: Tray Ceiling
Maria is a seasoned writer with 10+ years in magazine publishing. She has written for House Beautiful, HGTV Gardens, Interior Design, R Home and Country Living, among other publications.