For years designers have known to consider all aspects of the spaces they're designing. For novice designers one of the largest surfaces in the space is often forgotten about...the ceiling.
Over the last 20 years ceilings have been made into overly detailed, gilded and faux tortoise'd confections. Unless you live at the Vatican you shouldn't try to make it into the Sistine Chapel...it just won't work… One of my favorite materials on a ceiling is wood, whether heavy beams, thin "strapping," or just a plain plank ceiling.

Europeans have used wood successfully for years, Americans however, think that a plain wooden ceiling looks unfinished or just too plain, so they want to zhuzh it up and make it a focal point...not a good idea unless you have 20 foot ceilings and live in a Palladian Villa...

Historically the wooden ceiling was literally the floor above, eventually they became more decorated and evolved into much more elegant surfaces.

(Designer: Nancy Lancaster)
Below are examples of well done wooden ceilings
Keep in mind none of the beams or wood in any of rooms is structural, it's all for design purposes.


(Designer: Thomas Pheasant)
This beautiful tracery ceiling is amazingly simple and subtle, and the matte finish enhances the beautiful background detail, keeping it subtle.

(Designer: Marietta Himes Gomez)
The use of plank wood below the baseboard on the steps and on the ceiling is so simple and yet so sophisticated.

This beautiful cozy rustic hallways feels as if you're walking through a very old country house. The use of recycled unfinished timbers provide instant patina.


(Designer: Marietta Himes Gomez)
This quasi-Gambrel roof is sheathed in plank wood with strapwork over it making it look like an old barn. The matte paint also makes it look more aged.

This modern "mission style" home has the beams painted "espresso." Accented with bright white walls and graphite colored floors this chic space nods to tradition. Notice the beams keep this room from looking cold and museum like.
(Designer: E.G.Dines)
This beautiful, sleek V-joint tongue-and-groove ceiling adds texture and reflects light to the space with the high gloss paint.

(Designer: Chris Connell)
This gorgeous red cedar V-joint narrow board tongue-and-groove ceiling looks very contemporary and clean. It's the one opportunity to add texture and warmth to a room with marble floors and all glass walls.

This beautiful living room in Belgium has recycled planks on the ceiling with recycled beams spanning the room creating a very welcoming, old-world feeling.

(Designer: Kathryn Ireland)
These very simple surface-mounted "hand-hewn" style beams definitely add some architecture to this otherwise white box of a room. They also coordinate the furniture with the ceiling by adding the similar toned color.

This is a good example of easy "tracery."
This ceiling is the original flat wallboard with "ogee" crown moulding applied back-to-back to to create a tracery looking pattern. It's made more interesting by using the pale green between the white molding.

This style ceiling is called a "tray" ceiling (upside-down tray). The material used is 1" x 8" V-joint tongue-and-groove. Always a good clean look and easy to install.

To me, this room above is not done well.
The beautiful panel-style built-ins, French doors and highly polished floors should not have rough-hewn barn beams. This room should have a simple strap work or "boxed and finished" beams like the room below:


This updated design lives within a traditional envelope.
The addition of the strapwork ceiling (over sheetrock) gives this room a "center," some sense of symmetry as it's a very asymmetrical room with doors, halls, and odd bits and pieces making it feel more like a hallway than a dining room.

These beautiful stenciled beams in this dining room looks so elegant. Notice that the room is kept subtle otherwise, no fancy wallpaper or pushy curtains.

This plain plank ceiling of unfinished cypress boards looks great in this contemporary room.

This casual dining room feels earthy and organic with the simple painted wooden plank ceiling.

(Designer: India Hicks)
This beachy casual dining room has walls and ceiling of 8" V-joint tongue-and-groove painted solid, satin finish white. The beams are to break up the plain white box effect.

This stunning dining room, sooo sophisticated and yet so simple. The ceiling is simple 1"x 6" planks with 1" x 8" strapping applied over.

This pecky cypress tracery ceiling is typical of many of the Mediterranean style homes in Palm Beach. They're beautiful when the ceilings are high, but oppressive and heavy when they aren't.

This "coffered" ceiling above is soooo ridiculous - the recesses are so deep it looks like a subway tunnel; it makes the ceiling of this beautifully scaled room look like you should duck your head. Below is what the above room should have
(maybe with matte paint instead…jus' sayin')


(House Beautiful)
Pecky cypress planks applied to the ceiling definitely make this kitchen cozier and less boring.

This rustic European style kitchen has a bleached plank ceiling with natural recycled beams which looks quite pretty and appropriate.

This beautiful English style kitchen has painted boxed beams which give the room some architectural interest and order.

(Designer: Victoria Hagan)
This very American kitchen has beadboard ceiling and walls painted semi-gloss white which looks fresh and timeless.

Honey, a spaceship's just landed in our breakfast room, can you hurry home, I'm afraid it'll mess up my new swags... Someone thought this ceiling was a good idea?? Really??


Cozy and comfortable with the added texture of the whitewashed plank tray ceiling.

This V-joint, tongue-and-groove walnut ceiling adds a natural and cozying effect to this contemporary bedroom.

This European country style bedroom has had the ceiling lifted and made into a "tray" using wallboard and 1" x 4" strapping at frequent intervals. Whereas the ceiling below which is also all wallboard has wooden moldings applied to it in a very smart looking "picture frame" style, and is highlighted with three shades of white!

Cindy Crawfords Malibu bedroom has a wallboard ceiling with 1" x 3" strapping to represent the roof rafters, it's a smart and inexpensive effect.
(I'm sure this furniture didnt come from "Rooms to Go" either....rut roh…)

The very "Hancock Park" style home has a ceiling of "clear"(no knots) boards. I love the authentic way the horizontal boards are installed, which is the actual effect you'd have if that was the real roof and clay tiles were nailed onto them from above, outside.


LOVE this rustic yet elegant bathroom. The wooden walls are great but that ceiling is what makes the room awesome. I just wanna load up in that tub on a snowy day...

Above is in a home I did which had a three-storey master bathroom. This is a very "Hamptons" shingle style home so I chose the beadboard panelling for the ceilings and in the cupola which reflects all the light into the room below.

This V-joint tongue-and-groove ceiling is awesome, every inch of every surface has been thought out and carefully executed so one doesn't overshadow the other.

Oscar de la Renta's bathroom in the Dominican!
Beadboard walls and ceiling, so simply chic and old fashioned without looking like Little House on the prairie.


(Designer: Hamilton Design)
This contemporary screen porch uses raw cedar to create a woody environment to relax in, it feels sooo warm and soothing opposed to painted wood.

This modest octagonal porch has a small tray ceiling using V-joint tongue-and-groove which adds texture, its not as "typical" as beadboard would look. The ceiling color is an old-fashioned southern color for an outside porch - to mimic the sky.

This Moroccan cabana feels so awesome, like u wanna pile up in it with all the latest decorating magazines and suck on a big mint iced-tea all day! They've used traditional solid tree-trunks for beams and then filled in between with plaster. It looks great, very rustic, cozy and fun.

You can do it, I'm here to help!