Guide to Tray Ceilings


A tray ceiling is also known as an inverted or recessed ceiling. It can be made of almost any material. It usually has a center section or inlay that sits above the rest of the ceiling, adding an effect to a flat surface space. It also has a raised area which is a great spot for unique lighting options.

This type of ceiling works best in large rooms with high ceilings because it can prevent a room from looking cavernous by creating visual depth. But it can also work well in small spaces with low ceilings, making it appear bigger.

If you’re planning to install tray ceilings into your home, we are here to let you know about its advantages and different design techniques to help you decide if it is really the best type of ceiling for your home.

Advantages of Tray Ceilings

A tray ceiling can bring a dramatic architectural look and an aesthetic appeal to any room. Aside from that, it also has other benefits and here are some of them.

  • Beautiful Height: When your home has average walls, it can still appear quite tall with tray ceilings. It’s because the central area of the ceiling gives the room an additional depth, creating a strong height impact in your room. It will make it look like you have a tall area to work with. You can even hang a big chandelier in the middle of the ceiling’s central area to give the space a luxury height appeal.
  • Enhanced Volume: Tray ceilings can also make a room appear larger. Therefore, if you have a small room and you want to create an illusion of a large space, then a tray ceiling is perfect for you. It will offer you more space in less area.
  • Theme Flexibility: Tray ceilings will allow you to go with any color schemes you want. The most common is the light and dark color combinations where the border of the ceiling has dark shades while the flat area has light shades. You can also choose some murals for the flat area and decorative borders. Tray ceilings will give you the freedom of choosing paint colors, borders, and even the lighting that you will add to make a room look more appealing.
  • Functional: Aside from the beautiful design and space a tray ceiling can give to a room, it can also be functional at the same time. It’s because it can be used to house other mechanical elements such as plumbing and wiring in its drop-down border. This makes it a great option in homes where it’s not possible to route these elements through the walls.

Tray Ceiling Designs

White tray ceiling in small new construction house

Tray ceilings can be constructed in many ways and shapes. Its shape often follows the contour of the room. Most rooms are square or rectangular that’s why most tray ceilings are also in the same shapes. However, there are no hard and fast design rules when it comes to tray ceilings. In fact, they can be constructed in circular, oval, and other shapes you want.

Since customization is the key in home décor, a lot of homeowners found different ideas on how to dress up their tray ceilings. Here are some of the most common designs.

  • Textural Additions: Adding textures to tray ceilings can give a room a lot of appeals. For example, if you want a homey feel, you can add some rustic elements such as a stained tongue or groove wooden tray.
  • Double Tray Ceiling: If you have a very high ceiling, a tiered double tray will be able to draw the eyes upward to a single focal point. This is a great tray ceiling design for homes with a Spanish-style Colonial architecture. But it can be used in modern homes as well depending on paint choices.
  • Adding Lighting as a Focal Point: Tray ceilings naturally lead the eye upwards, therefore, it makes them a great spot for large chandeliers and other decorative lights. If you will be installing a tray ceiling in your bedroom, it can provide a home for ceiling fans and for additional lighting.
  • Murals and Stencils: Aside from adding some lighting, another way to make a tray ceiling standout is to use its interior as a canvas. You can choose from stenciled designs that have inviting colors, striped slopes, or elaborate murals. It is an adventurous way to show-off your beautiful tray ceiling.

  • Color Contrast:  Painting the recessed area of the tray ceiling a different color than the rest of the ceiling can create a striking visual contrast. This technique can highlight the architectural feature and add depth to the room.
  • Decorative Molding:  Adding crown molding or other decorative trim to the edges of the tray can introduce an element of sophistication and elegance. This detail is particularly effective in traditional or classic interiors.
  • Faux Finishes:  For a more dramatic effect, consider applying a faux finish, such as marbling or wood grain, to the tray ceiling. This can create a stunning focal point and add character to the space.

Installation Considerations

Before deciding on a tray ceiling, it’s essential to consider the structural implications and costs associated with this feature. Consult with a professional to ensure your home can support the added weight and complexity of the design. Additionally, think about the overall style of your home and how a tray ceiling will complement your existing décor.

A tray ceiling can look simple or ornate depending on your preference and as well as the style of the room you will be installing them in. It is a type of ceiling that can add an exquisite note of architectural interest to a room’s décor.

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