Don't overlook ceilings when remodeling

Last April, Denise and Andrew Chastain decided to remodel their daughter’s bedroom over the garage.

For help, the Dunwoody couple turned to Paul Springer and Hatteras Construction, which had overseen major updates in 2010 to the main floor of the family’s home.

The bedroom project included new hardwood floors, a walk-in closet and an enlarged bathroom with a frameless shower door. The flat ceiling was raised and a trey ceiling created. And, on Springer’s suggestion, wood matching the honey-colored hardwood floors was added to the ceiling.

“I never would have thought of using the wood there,” said Denise. “But it turned out beautiful and is a nice touch.”

Ceilings are often overlooked in a remodeling project. But they are as important in the overall room design as walls and the flooring.

In fact, ceilings have never been so hot, said Maxine Lauer at Michigan-based Sphere Trending, a consulting firm that tracks consumer and design trends.

“As homeowners become more aware of the powerful effect that a beautiful ceiling can have on the look of a room, they are putting more emphasis on it,” said Lauer in a speech last April at the 2012 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

Houses often end up with white, featureless ceilings, but you can use various ceiling shapes and treatments to define and a divide a room – and add architectural interest. James Michael Howard Interiors of Atlanta and Jacksonville and Dunwoody-based Hatteras Construction offer these tips and ideas.

Before you begin

- A room has six planes: four walls, a floor and a ceiling. “Depending on what is in the room, you have to decide what you want to emphasize,” said Jim Howard of James Michael Howard Interiors. “People usually emphasize the floor. But it is often the least important. Ceilings and walls have more importance because it where the eye lands. But all planes should be considered.”

- As a room widens and lengthens, the more the ceiling should push up mathematically and proportionately.

- Consider style, décor and use of room.

- In homes with standard eight-foot-high ceilings, there are ways to update the space and add interest and warmth, said Springer.

Ceiling options

- Beam. Often made of wood, exposed beams are laid across a conventional ceiling to add dimension to a room. Beams, whether structural or decorative, can make a high ceiling feel lower or help with transitions when a new room is added. Beams create patterns of light and shadow. They also visually break up a large space, making a room feel more interesting and inviting

- Cathedral. Provides a high sloping line to the top of the house. The result is a high, pointed ceiling that creates an airy and roomy space beneath it. Some cathedral ceilings feature exposed beams, a design accent that creates rows of elongated rectangles along the length of the ceiling.

- Coffered. Contains a grid of panels between boxed beams. Constructed with hardwood or faux beams, coffers can be trimmed out with moldings and painted. White, rectangular shaped coffers are probably the most popular style. But different shapes and colors can add interest along with arranging coffers on an off-kilter grid.

- Cove. Features a rounded, concave surface used in arched doorways or halls. Often found in other rooms in Spanish-style houses.

- Dropped. Lower in height, dropped ceilings are used to give a room a modern look.

- Tray (also trey). Generally a square or rectangular architectural feature that is inverted or recessed into the ceiling. A trey ceiling can create the illusion of a taller ceiling, said Springer. Paint color, lighting and crown molding can accentuate tray ceilings.

- Vaulted. Open and airy like the cathedral style, vaulted ceilings roll upward into a half-barrel shape. A variation on the vaulted ceiling may be referred to as arched, domed or barrel.

Ceiling accents

- Bead board. A type of paneling that adds a Craftsman-style or beach feeling to a room. But it works with any style in any room, including hall and porch ceilings. It also masks flaws or cracks in ceilings or other less-than-perfect surfaces.

- Crown molding. Where walls and ceiling meet, crown molding is the most commonly placed trim. Both decorative and functional, it is available in numerous materials and finishes for casual or formal décor.

- Height. Varying the ceiling height defines areas of separate function, such as a kitchen area in a family room. It can also vary the psychological impact and appeal of different parts of your room. By slightly lowering small portions of a ceiling (with coffers or soffits, for instance), an eight-foot-high ceiling can be made to feel higher.

- Lighting. Improves and modernizes a room. Recessed lights, for example, break up an otherwise plain ceiling. Other lights can draw the eye up, adding a feeling of height.

- Paint & color. Affects the perception of height. As a general rule, ceilings that are painted lighter than the walls feel higher. But a darker color can evoke intimacy and create a space that is dramatic and elegant. In small rooms, many people paint the ceilings white to achieve a sense of spaciousness. But painting the walls and ceiling the same color can make the space appear larger because there is less contrast.

- Skylights. Add warmth and natural light to a space and help it feel bigger. Once rather unattractive, skylights have come a long way.

- Wood. Adds a sense of height, visual appeal and texture to an otherwise flat, drywall ceiling. Wood flooring, painted or lacquered wood and weathered wood. One of Springer's favorite ceilings features cypress tongue and groove, which is a good complement to natural stone flooring or masonry.

- Other options. Tea paper, tin tiles and wall paper.