stunning kitchen room design with large bar style island and coffered ceiling

Coffered Ceiling Ideas To Add Character To Your Home

Christa Ross6-Minute Read
July 08, 2021

Looking for something that will make a statement and add value to your home? Transform your ceiling into an elegant, timeless, aesthetically pleasing display with a coffered ceiling.

A coffered ceiling is a classic architectural design that brings out depth and dimension to an otherwise plain ceiling. Coffered ceilings are eye-catching, give the illusion of spaciousness, absorb excess sound and potentially boost a home’s resale value.

Here’s what to know about installing coffered ceilings and why styling them in your home is something you may want to consider.

What Is A Coffered Ceiling?

A coffered ceiling is an architectural design developed in Rome several centuries ago, consisting of sunken panels in the shape of polygons, rectangles and even circular patterns.

Coffered ceilings are also referred to as sunken ceilings. They are made with panels attached to a suspended drop grid which brings out depth, dimension and architectural interest. Coffers (the recessed part of coffered ceilings) can be made in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit any ceiling.

These ceilings are more common in commercial spaces but have become increasingly popular in residential designs, especially in larger rooms. Though coffered ceilings originated with Renaissance and Baroque architecture, modern innovations make it simple to introduce the look into most homes regardless of style.

Coffered Vs. Waffle Vs. Tray Ceiling

Coffered ceilings are easily confused with waffle and tray ceilings due to their similarities.

Waffle ceilings are a subset of coffered ceilings. The beams in waffle ceilings cross each other, creating a repeating arrangement that closely resembles the surface of a waffle.

A tray ceiling – also known as an inverted or recessed ceiling – resembles a large upside-down tray set into a ceiling. The center section is situated several inches or feet higher than the perimeter, drawing the eye upward, highlighting a single mounted area that copies the room’s shape. Tray ceilings add visual interest and create a three-dimensional effect.

Coffered Ceiling Design Ideas

Homeowners can dress up their living space by incorporating coffered ceilings in their homes. These ceilings have a variety of design styles such as boxed, polygonal, diagonal, grid, etc. A homeowner should choose which design works best for their home based on the look they are trying to achieve.

Boxed

large square shapes on the ceiling

A boxed ceiling is a classic coffered ceiling design. This design element features hollow beams affixed to the ceiling to create a repeating box pattern. Box beam ceilings are a great addition in living rooms and kitchens. Many choose to pair one to two hanging lights or recessed lighting with their boxed ceiling to really take things to the next level.

Polygon

Polygonal coffered ceilings usually feature a large shape in the center of the room with straight beams or coffers reaching out to the edges of the room. The center shape can be an octagon, hexagon, or any other polygonal shape. The polygonal shape in the center can give rooms a futuristic look.

Diagonal

To create further interest in your ceiling design, turn the coffers 90 degrees to create a diagonal effect resembling diamonds.

Grid

white and black gridded ceiling

Grid ceilings are suspended from or dropped from an existing ceiling or support system. A grid ceiling is a false ceiling in the sense that it is not part of a permanent support structure such as floor joists or a cement floor/ceiling. Grid ceilings are sometimes called T-bar ceilings because "T-bars" form the grid that holds the ceiling panels in place.

Coffered Ceiling Installation

Coffered ceiling installation requires advanced carpentry and architectural skills; therefore, a homeowner should hire a professional if they aren’t familiar with this kind of work. The complexity of this type of ceiling could be challenging but it is not impossible to do it yourself.

How To Build A Coffered Ceiling On Your Own

Constructing coffers on your own may seem like a daunting task, but we’ll show you how even a beginner DIYer can achieve a low-profile coffer design.

  • Measure the room: Measure your ceiling space and draw it to scale on a piece of paper. Using your rough sketch as a guide, draw your coffered ceiling.
  • Draw a grid plan: Using a level and a pencil draw the basic grid plan on the ceiling.
  • Mark ceiling joist: Use a stud finder to locate the ceiling joists. Mark both ends of each joist where it meets the sidewalls. Using a ⅛-inch drill bit in your drill/driver and make test holes near the walls – they’ll be covered by the beams – to verify joist locations and make sure you catch their centers.
  • Make support brackets: Use the lines you drew on the ceiling and secure the ceiling supports using construction adhesive and 5-inch screws. This will help you place the beams where you want them so you can screw the beams without having to also hold up the weight of the beam.
  • Secure brackets: Screw the support brackets in place.
  • Attach the side trim: Once ceiling supports are secured, cut the side trim to fit the outside of the ceiling supports. This will form the coffered boxes.
  • Attach the face trim: For the face trim, cut the first piece to fit the longest span possible. Apply construction adhesive to the bottoms of the side trim in this span and use the 3rd Hand Support Tool to keep the face trim in place (vertically) while you use trigger clamps to secure it horizontally. Once in place, use a finish nail gun to secure the face trim to the side trim. You can work your way down the span doing this (unless you have a ton of trigger clamps). Do the same process on all the parallel sections of your coffers so that the seams will be consistent throughout. Once the parallel sections are done, move to the adjacent sections and do the same process. These will be easier to secure to the ceiling since the face trim pieces are shorter than your longer spans.
  • Install the crown molding: In each coffer, install crown molding using a finish nail gun This can be challenging due to the large number of cuts, so make sure you allow yourself enough time to get the job done right.
  • Caulk and fill holes: Fill nail holes with wood filler. Filling the holes with wood filler and sanding will gives you a permanent flat finish so that you won’t be able to tell there was a hole at all. Now, seal all seams using a high-quality caulk to prevent cracks in the long run.
  • Paint: The last step is to paint. Choose your paint color to match the look you are going for.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of A Coffered Ceiling

As mentioned previously, coffered ceilings are very attractive additions to any living space, however, they aren’t without drawbacks. Like many other architectural elements, coffered ceilings are not the perfect fit for every space. Before deciding to add a coffered ceiling to your home you should consider the following benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits

  • Absorbs sound and prevents noise from being heard: Coffered ceilings can be good for acoustics, sound transference, echoing and noise.
  • Creates an attractive appearance, including the illusion of a higher ceiling: With a coffered ceiling you can create a dramatic appearance and the illusion of grandeur space.
  • Brings value to the home: Coffered ceilings can add to your home's value and make your home more attractive to potential buyers. Most professionals seem to agree that a well-done coffered ceiling can be a significant value-adding project.
  • Mold- and mildew-resistant: One characteristic that makes coffered ceiling tiles a preferred option is that they have resistance to mold and mildew. Their lightweight construction makes them easy to clean and maintenance-free.

Drawbacks

  • Can be expensive: Coffered ceiling installation requires advanced carpentry skills and structural work. You can expect professional installation costs to be at least $25 per square foot. The detail in the design, as well as the type of material you choose, will affect the final cost as well.
  • Creates the perception of making a low ceiling look lower: Although coffered ceilings draw the eye upward, the beams extend downward taking up some overhead space. Given this construction, coffered ceilings work best in rooms with high ceilings.
  • Creates an unpredictable ceiling and may require additional support to prevent it from falling: Most coffered ceilings in residential homes are not part of a home’s structural system that supports weight. Majority of coffered ceilings are purely decorative, constructed entirely from hollow faux beams. Some coffers, depending on how large and deeply recessed, may require additional ceiling support (since even faux beams may add too much weight to a ceiling).

The Bottom Line

Coffered ceilings are a great way to improve the look of your home and bring more value to it. Although these ceilings give the illusion of spaciousness, absorb excess sound, and are resistant to mold and mildew, the installation process can be very costly, and they will not work on low ceilings. Before choosing to make a coffered ceiling the newest addition to your home, read more about different types of ceilings so you can make the best choice for your living area.

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Christa Ross

Christa Ross is a versatile student journalist with a passion for storytelling, blogging, digital media, feature writing, and reporting. Currently a Junior at Savannah State University, Ross enjoys traveling, serving in the GA Air National Guard, and spending time with her family.