How to Add Character to Basic Architecture: Ceiling Paneling
We are back today, with part two in our “How to Add Character” series. Last time we tackled the walls and showed you quite a few different ways to instantly bring a bit of character to your home through some simple updates and today we are moving up to the ceiling. We get that not every home comes with vaulted, beamed, or coffered ceilings, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a look that you can get for your own home. And we also understand that not everyone is in the market for a 100-year-old fixer-upper that is filled with innate charm. Sometimes a new build or tract home makes the most sense for not only your family but your lifestyle, but just because it is new doesn’t mean it needs to be devoid of charm, character, and appeal so today we are bringing you a few of our favorite ways to add all of that (and more) to your home through your ceilings.
We’ll cover most of the many options, with links to the best DIYs out there, and links to purchase the supplies to ‘get the look’ if applicable. We are hoping this can be a resource to anyone, with any style of house, because applying molding, beams, paneling, or woodwork to your ceiling can instantly transform it from being basic to interesting. Investing in upgrading the architectural elements in your home is always a good place to put your money and a great return of investment if you ever choose to sell. And as I mentioned in the last post, as someone whose job it often is to focus on the “stuff” in a room, I will tell you that if you take some time to elevate the architecture of the room itself, then you don’t need as much “stuff” to make it beautiful. So, let’s get into it:
While this one definitely is not the easiest of the examples below, this is one that instantly is going to bring A LOT of charm and character to your home. Coffered ceilings have been around since basically the beginning of time so it is one that you know will always be timeless and it also is a great one to potentially use in your home if you need to hide structural work behind it. IE if you have a basement that has ductwork, exposed pipes or wiring then this option can not only hide the stuff that you don’t need or want to see but it can add a lot of charm to what’s going on above your head.
Although we typically would leave this one to the pros or a contractor. Shannon Acheson of AKA DESIGN pulled a really good DIY version of it together over on her site, and the transformation is pretty incredible. Her area was approx. 8′ x 12′ and cost under $500. Before the ceiling was very simple with that recessed panel in the middle but now it serves as an incredible focal point for the room and elevates everything else going on there. This is a prime example of how if you bring in the character through these “built-in” elements you won’t have to fill the room with as much “stuff” to make it feel special.
The supplies for this one are pretty simple and straightforward: some sort of 4″x8″ board to create the boxes and then molding to finish it out. Or if that option seems a bit overwhelming for you, there are companies like #3 that offer the pieces already built and ready to install on the ceiling. You would just need to patch the install holes and paint after.
Very similar in concept to the “strip moulding” that we discussed in the first post that you would apply to your walls. Strip moulding for your ceiling is a very simple and easy way to add some definition and depth to your ceilings. You can customize the size, shape, style, and motif which gives you a lot of options to really make it feel intentional and custom in your space.
This Old House pulled together a pretty easy to follow DIY on a dining room ceiling and although the tutorial is for a “coffered ceiling” the application they did doesn’t have a ton of depth to the coffers which is why we are using it to showcase how you can apply the same process to your ceiling if you want to use strip molding. You also don’t have to use trim molding like they did and could keep it more simple or modern with just straight edge molding applied to the ceiling.
Here are a few of the options to get you started, #1 would be for a very slim profile like you see in a few of the examples above and #2 and #3 could be used to get the look of the DIY above.
The concept of applied moulding is very similar to that of strip moulding although typically this type has some sort of curve to it versus the straight edge and corners of strip molding. These could be a continuation of strip moulding you apply to your walls to really give the entire room a completed look or you could just apply it to your ceiling. Either way, it is a pretty easy and more formal way to bring some character to your space.
We couldn’t find a good DIY of this for the ceiling (not to say that there isn’t any out there) but the concept and process of this DIY by The Created Home could be copied to apply the mouldings to your ceilings.
With this one, you can buy just the strips of moulding which come in a multitude of options, or you can buy fully finished boxes or corners from a few of the companies like you see in #2 and #3. These do lean a bit more formal so make sure to go with something that will work well with the style and character of your house. IE #3 might not be the best option if you live in a brand new modern home.
Painted Wood Paneling:
When we moved into our first house we got very lucky in the fact that the ceilings throughout had wood paneling on them already. It was stained a very, very dark brown but the look and the character was there and we loved it (minus the color) so we gave it a coat of white paint and it instantly felt like a totally different space while still retaining the character it originally had. If your home doesn’t already have this then it is something really easy to add and as you can see from the examples creates such a cozy and warm look.
The Handmade Home pulled together this DIY where she applied wood panels to her ceiling and it adds so much character to the space. The room is approx. 20’x30′ and cost around $800. Although these were just simple straight edge strips you could also apply the concept with v-groove if you are into that look more (which we will get into later in the post).
We’ve seen a few different DIY’s with different product and the results are often similar so if you plan to paint then it doesn’t really matter which material you go for although #1 will save you a bit of time as that is already primed white and could quickly be painted with a coat of white. If you are looking for larger sized planks or a variety of sizes then #3 works as you can cut that down to the exact width that you want.
Beams and Paneling:
To be totally transparent the above picture shows our family room with beams and paneling which came with the house (although we painted it white) but it is such an approachable DIY that can really elevate the ceilings of a room (no pun intended). Similar to some of the other examples, this treatment doesn’t work for every style of home but if you do have a room that works with this vibe then it is such a good solution for the ceiling.
Jenna Sue Design already had the plank ceilings so she installed beams on top, which added an additional layer of texture and character and came in at only around $200 for her room. But if your ceilings are just drywall then you can combine this DIY with the Paneling DIY to get the entire beam and paneling look.
There are a few options with this one. You can build out the beams like in the DIY above using #1, or you could opt for something like #2 or #3 which is prebuilt and easy to install up on the ceilings to give you the full look.
We have a few different areas in our current home that has beadboard on the walls and this is the same concept just applied to the ceilings. I wouldn’t recommend this one for a mid-century or modern style house but if you are looking for a more rustic, country, or english vibe then it is a great option for you.
Nina Hendrick Design Co. used premade beadboard panels for her ceiling and then filled in any gaps or screw holes and for just over $50 it makes the space feel totally different.
#1 can work if you are trying to be as affordable as possible although I haven’t seen this one up close so not sure if it will just look like you put wallpaper on the ceiling. #2 is a full wall panel which works well depending on the size of your ceiling, you just need to be careful with butting up the edges if you have a large ceiling and #3 is planks which can work well for small areas where you wouldn’t want to cut down a large panel or if you have a big area and need to stagger quite a few planks in order to fill the ceiling space.
V-groove is very similar to beadboard except where the planks line up you have a slight ‘v’ etched into the edges versus a decorative “bead”. Oh, and v-groove is v-cool. Ok… no more jokes. V-groove paneling works really well in both more formal and more modern styles which makes it a great one for a lot of different spaces.
Jenna Sue Design DIY tongue and groove paneling for her ceilings and although the process is a bit more laborious with the individual planks the end result is worth the labor as it looks custom and like it has been there since the house was built. Her space was around 420 square feet and the materials came in at $1,184.
#1 is the same type of plank that is used in the DIY above, #2 is the same plank as #1 although is pre-painted which will save you a lot of time when you go to finish it. And #3 is a full panel that can be screwed into the ceiling so that you don’t have to deal with installing multiple planks.
Ceiling Light Medallion:
Moving on to the treatments for those of you that don’t want to completely redo your ceilings but still want a little something to make the room feel a bit more special. Ceiling light medallions are one of our favorite and to be totally honest is one of THE easiest and quickest ways to give some character to your ceilings. It doesn’t work for every style of home but when it is done right it can really make a room. In case you need further proof, please admire Julianne Moores home above – complete with ceiling medallion.
My friend Justina Blakeney did a really easy to follow DIY with Popsugar which walks you through the entire process but it is pretty straightforward. Remove your existing hanging fixture, paint the medallion, pop it into place and reinstall the light. It can really be done in just an hour or so. And the cost of supplies and time needed are very low.
There is such a huge selection of medallions that the ones below are just the tip of the iceberg but we pulled a more simple version with #1 and #2 is a bit more decorative to get you started. If you aren’t electrically savvy then #3 is for you as you don’t even have to take down your existing fixture and instead can install this one and then patch and paint.
Last but certainly not least we have crown molding which many of you may already have in your homes but if you don’t is a great way to make your ceilings feel a bit more special. When it comes to crown mouldings there are A LOT to choose from and you can get as simple or as detailed as you want but for our purposes, we are going to highlight the more modern version as well as the more traditional versions.
A good example of modern crown can be seen in Orlando’s old condo where he kept it very simple and refined as the spaces leaned more modern but this little extra layer added a lot to each room.
If your space leans more traditional then you can get as decorative as you want with the crown moulding, even in some cases combining a few different styles to layer them together into a finished product. Which is what you will see a lot of in the examples.
The DIY for both would relatively be the same no matter if you go modern or traditional and my friends at Young House Love did a great step by step for how to do it yourself if you are feeling adventurous. This one is a bit tricky what with the corners and making sure you line it all up and measure correctly, so if you don’t trust yourself then leave it to the handyman to install although the labor shouldn’t run too much.
#1 is a great option for those of you that live in a modern house and #2 can combine with straight pieces so all the guesswork of having to deal with corners is taken care of for you. If you are feeling like you can take on the cutting and measuring then grab yourself #3 which will help with that and then you can use #4-#6.
1. 8-7/16″x 78″ Primed Crown Moulding | 2. 2″x 2″ Crown Moulding Corner | 3. Kreg KMA2800 Crown-Pro Tool | 4. 3-5/8″ x 96″ Unfinished Pine | 5. 96″ Wood Primed Finger-Jointed | 6. 2-1/4″ x 96″ Primed Pine Finger-Jointed
Essentially with all of these, you are adding a simple tonal texture to your ceilings. Texture adds character and while some of these wouldn’t work in every style of home like we discussed above, there are versions that could work in yours. You can play with the width, pattern, and orientation to make each of these feel truly custom in your space. If you are a ‘save time, spend money’ person then you can easily hire a handyman for this (you don’t need an expensive contractor), but if you are a ‘save money, spend time’ person, then hopefully these DIY options and links have helped. I am sure you have some questions on some of these so if you do have any leave them below and if there are some other ways to add character or DIY’s that showcase how to pull said ways off then be sure to link them up below so that people can use this as a resource moving forward. We aren’t experts in this field but hope that this roundup will help you to grasp how easy it can be to add a bit of character to your own space.