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8 Options for Custom Ceilings

By The PHD Team
Published September 24, 2021

Learn all about the variety of ceiling options to help decide what is right for your dream home. 


For your residence, the ceiling can set the style of your space.  It creates a sense of space, can help with resell value, and can help achieve the aesthetic you want in your home.  When working with your Architect on your new home, ceilings choices may impact the way the residence layout and roof are designed.  We’ve created this list guide to help you in the process and to make the best decision you can!

1. Conventional Ceiling

The most traditional ceiling in new construction is the Conventional Ceiling, which is the most cost-effective.  It is a flat seamless surface set at one height, typically between 9-12 feet, often finished with gypsum and painted.

If you choose conventional ceilings and feel it’s lacking, your architect/interior designer can add extra character to specific spaces.  While in the design process, reclaimed timber beams, lintels above doorways, or opting for a tongue and groove ceiling, which can be stained or painted can be integrated into your custom floor plan.

interior brick beam passion home harper

Another ceiling enhancement for a conventional ceiling is the installation of crown moulding away from the ceiling to create a shadow effect. This practice allows lighting to be installed above the crown casting a glow towards the ceiling. In bedrooms for small children, a soft lighting can be installed to act as a night light. Parents of children with autism have used this method to create light therapy allowing different colors to affect the mood of their adolescent. 

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crown molding on a ceiling

2. Coffered Ceiling

Recognizable by its grid of inverted panels, a coffered ceiling gives a luxurious aesthetic, sometimes a historical look, or may be designed to be modern chic. Since coffered ceilings take more skill than the traditional ceiling, they may run $2500-8000 depending on the amount of detail and/or design required.  The “dropped” down coffer can be either gypsum with crown trim or heavy timber beams.

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The images above and below show a residence that has coffered ceilings with stained tongue and groove ceilings accentuating the inverted panels.

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The images above and below depict a more modern feel to the coffered ceiling look.

3. Tray Ceiling

The tray ceiling is a raised central inset, approximately a foot higher, which often gives the appearance of a tray.  This ceiling is a multi-level, typically 2 or 3 levels, most commonly used in the bedrooms, dining, and living rooms.  The tray ceiling can create a spacious atmosphere, without the large price tag of raising the entire ceiling.  Installing may cost approximately $1000-5000 depending on the size of the design.  The tray ceiling is also the base for most coffered ceiling designs.

In residential renovations, this is a popular choice as it helps open the spaces where 8’ ceilings and low roof lines were the standard.  

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The photo above is an example of a 2-level tray ceiling (9’ ceiling height trayed up to a 10’ ceiling height), and the photo below is an example of a 3-level tray ceiling.

Tray ceilings can be used to define a space within an open floor plan living space.  The photos below is an example of highlighting the dining area.

passion home ray pardue dining 2
passion home ray pardue dining 1

Faux timber beams can add warmth and grandeur to your space when placed within a tray ceiling. 

The easy option to add a bit more character to the tray ceiling, is painting the tray with an accent color.

gold painted ceiling

Another variation of the tray ceiling is the Sloped Tray Ceiling shown in the photo below.

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4. Cathedral Ceiling

The most popular ceiling in new construction is the Cathedral ceiling, also known as a vaulted ceiling.  Normally, they mirror the roof structure, in an inverted “V” look, meeting at the ridge in the center.  They are often found in living rooms, dining rooms, master bedrooms and bathrooms.  By using specific materials, they can be used to achieve any of the following aesthetics, modern, modern farmhouse, rustic, and industrial. 

master bathroom passion home 115grandview
bedroom passion home 115grandview 1

Typically made using gypsum or tongue and groove materials.  Cathedral ceilings give a sense of airy spaciousness and may allow more natural bright light into the space. Cathedral ceilings can also be designed to use the roofing structure to save money but it may also reduce available insulation values if proper rafter sizing is not chosen. The most common application would be to run double ceiling structure (rafter and ceiling joist) allowing for full insulation or the ability to pass MEP items (I.E. Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing). Another important detail would be the center piece or “flat top” type cathedrals.

The costs may run from $1500-2500 for a small room, to $4500-10,000 for a large fully detailed or “v-grooved” cathedral ceiling.  It’s important to be aware that this ceiling type can mean an increase in heating and cooling expenses.  Small maintenance issues may arise when choosing the cathedral ceiling in terms of changing light bulbs, chandeliers or retrieving a stray helium balloon!   

The photo above shows a custom design for a no-frills cathedral ceiling for a modern clean aesthetic.

Cathedral ceilings can be embellished a variety of ways, with faux beams, reclaimed timber beams, and accent walls that bring attention to the ceiling. Interior Designers specialize in adding notes of character into your residential or commercial space. 

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The photo above displays the use of stained faux beams in a master bedroom.  Below is an example of using a stained tongue and groove accent wall to accentuate the cathedral ceiling lines. 

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The photo below shows a painted tongue and groove accent wall to complement the cathedral ceiling and pull in the farmhouse aesthetic the homeowners desired.

5. Shed Ceiling

Shed ceilings are single sloped, typically defined by the roof configuration.  Often used in modern homes or home renovations where attics were converted into living spaces.  Most common ceiling used for small bump outs on farmhouse style designs.

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6. “X” Box Ceiling

Similar in construction to the coffered ceiling style, the “X” box ceiling uses gypsum or timber beams to form an “X” in the space as shown in the foyer below.   

passion home 302 glasgow foyer

7. Barrel Ceiling

Barrel Ceilings create a soft ceiling transition as the wall forms an arch to the ceiling.  Ideal in creating special moments within your new residence, such as foyers to set a tone for the entrance or to highlight the space for your freestanding tub. 

Collaboration Design: April Guillory Designs

8. Exterior Ceilings

When choosing ceiling options for your porch or outdoor living space you may choose V-groove, Smooth Hardie, Luan, Luan with batten strips, and exterior grade gypsum.  

The important choice when it comes to the exterior ceiling is between Painting vs Staining. If you prefer the stained ceiling look, V-groove is the best design option.

exterior ceiling passion home harper
passion home ray pardue porch 1

The benefit of designing your outdoor space with an architect is they will help you design for the best layout and finish based on the future lot location and sun direction.

Below are two examples exterior tongue and groove cathedral ceilings, one painted and the other stained.

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An example of a sloped tray ceiling designed for their outdoor living space.

Collaboration Design: April Guillory Designs

Ceiling choices are important!  Whilst in the design phases with your Architect, bringing up these earlier on in the process can help the architect determine what is needed to accomplish your dream ceiling. This way your home and roof can be designed to include your ceiling choices.  We hope this guide helps you understand some of the ceiling options you have available to create your dream home for you and your family!