If you don't give your ceilings a lot of thought, you may want to reconsider that. Though you may not really notice a typical ceiling, a statement ceiling can transform a room and create a focal point. Though there are many ways to update your ceiling, a coffered ceiling is a classic way to create a chic, elegant space—and contrary to popular belief, they can work in nearly any room or any style of home.
What Is a Coffered Ceiling?
Coffered ceilings are overhead architectural features consisting of rectangular, square, or octagonal grids in three-dimensional sunken or recessed panels.
According to designer Rashmi Patel, a coffered ceiling is traditionally known as a series of hollow or sunken panels in the ceiling, and they can be in square, rectangular, or octagonal shapes. Though you may see them more frequently in traditional or classic-style homes, there are various types of coffered ceilings—and a few rules to keep in mind no matter what kind you have.
Meet the Expert
Read on for our favorite ways to style a coffered ceiling no matter what type of home you have.
Consider the Lighting
Getting the lighting right is key to styling a wonderful coffered ceiling. Patel recommends a large chandelier in the middle of the room. "This will accent not only the ceiling, but the entire room," she says.
When you have a coffered ceiling, you want a light that can hold its own against the strong details in the ceiling.
Try a Tray Ceiling
Though not exactly the same thing as a coffered ceiling, a tray ceiling can create a similar statement to a true coffered ceiling in a room. A tray ceiling consists of a single recessed space instead of multiple segments.
"In some cases, especially when the room is not a perfectly regular shape, it can be advantageous to combine the two details," designer Reena Sotropa says.
Try a Traditional Color Palette
Though a coffered ceiling can work with any color palette and nearly any decor style, we love pairing it with a chic, classic color palette filled with warm neutrals and soft colors such as purple, mauve, or navy.
Because a coffered ceiling makes such a strong statement, you may want to keep the colors throughout the room more muted and toned down.
Give Any Room a Facelift
If you are looking for a way to add a little bit of interest to a typical space, a coffered ceiling can help facilitate that, according to Patel. "Coffered ceilings provide height to the room and gives the room a 'facelift,'" she says. Keep the paneling and the beams white for a subtle texture that works in any room.
Paint it Black
Here, a dining room features a wonderful coffered ceiling painted black to match the plate rail. The rich black paint color adds a sense of depth and makes the room appear larger and taller. Paired with floral wallpaper, the space is unique, eye-catching, and elegant.
Consider the Height of Your Ceiling
Before you consider adding a coffered ceiling to your space, make sure you have enough room for it. "The height of the ceiling is a very important aspect when considering any ceiling detail that drops down," Sotropa says.
Though the rule of thumb is 9" or higher with a maximum drop of 1", there are exceptions. "Dropping a low ceiling can be the best choice to conceal architectural eyesores such as structural beams, pipes, or ductwork," she suggests.
A DIY coffered ceiling can be a great way to conceal a typical drop ceiling in a basement where you need to access plumbing or pipes but want to elevate the look.
Break Up an Open Concept
As open concept homes become more and more popular, the coffered ceiling is making a big comeback.
"Coffered ceilings can be a really great way to visually subdivide an open concept space," Sotropa says. "It is very common to design a kitchen, dining, and living room function into one large open concept area."
Delineate Two Spaces
When you have an open concept, your rooms can sometimes blend together. Not only can a coffered ceiling help to delineate a living room and a dining room, for example, but "the changes in the otherwise flat plane of the ceiling can also help to absorb sound, providing a measure of acoustical dampening in a large open space," explains Sotropa.
Keep the Lighting Simple
Though a hanging pendant light or chandelier works well in a coffered ceiling, you don't want to go overboard. Opt for just one fixture or simple recessed LED lighting that opens up the room without creating too many competing visual elements.
Try it in a Modern Home
According to Sotropa, you shouldn't consider a coffered ceiling a look reserved for traditional, stately homes.
"While coffered ceilings are most frequently thought of as a traditional architectural detail, they can be incorporated into modern environments too," she says. "A clean coffered detail with mitered beams and no decorative molding can add instant luxury and interest to an otherwise clean, spare space."
Use Wood Beams
Combine a traditional look with a more rustic one by laying exposed wood on top of the coffered ceiling. This offers the same depth that a coffered ceiling does with a little more of a modern, Scandi twist.
Consider It in a Media Room
Not only will an elegant coffered ceiling transform a media room, but it can be very useful too. Sotropa says that an "added perk" of the change in the ceiling plane is that it can absorb sound and provide some acoustical dampening in a large space. This is perfect in a den or media room off of another frequently used space.
Hire it Out
Though a coffered ceiling can be a wise investment and can add value to your home, you should consider hiring it out instead of DIYing.
"Budget is a very important consideration," Sotropa says. "Drywall coffers are likely the most cost-effective in terms of materials, but this minimalistic detail requires an experienced drywall finisher to execute."
Don't Overpower the Space
By now you realize just how much a coffered ceiling can add to your space. Because of that, Patel says you shouldn't go crazy with the rest of your room's details.
"My approach is always have one accent wall or ceiling—that way, when someone walks in, your eyes aren't overcrowded by the multiple accents in the room," she says. "I also recommend keeping the décor simple, clean-lined, and neutral with a pop of color."
Plan the Look Well
Before you add a tray ceiling or a coffered ceiling, make sure to plan out the rest of the room. Furniture that is too minimal may feel small and overwhelmed by a very high tray or coffered ceiling. The best approach is to make sure you pick the right details that will play along with your ceiling without competing.