Inside Out (Australia)
Shannon Vos raises the roof with his rundown of ceiling options and what will, and won’t, work for you
Shannon looks up at the options for your room’s crowning glory – the ceiling
When it comes to ceilings, most of us stick our heads in the sand. Once we’re happy with the floor plan, we barely even look up. ‘Ceiling plans’ are a seldom addressed topic in most builds, but a ceiling is one of the biggest elements in any home – it has a huge bearing on what your home looks and feels like, as well as how it functions. Let’s have a look at the ceilings we love the most… and what they can bring to your home.
pitched ceilings & exposed beams
Exposing ceiling joists, trusses and rafters is usually only achieved with a pitched roof and ceiling. The costs can run big – but the results can be astonishing. Cathedral-style ceilings offffer huge amounts of airflow and a great opportunity for acoustic absorption, plus they can be a huge wow-factor in any space.
Paired with V-groove panels and timber, painted or even steel joists, this sort of ceiling has an airy feel and can really open up a room. Although a pitched ceiling will take more energy to heat, it can easily keep a room cooler in the warmer months, with increased area for airflow. Lighting a space such as this can be an absolute joy, too. With room for statement pendants, recessed ambient lighting and spotlights to focus on the architectural detail in the ceiling, your lighting options are only restricted by your creativity.
framed & coffered ceilings
Adding a level of detail to an otherwise plain plasterboard ceiling is an excellent way to zone your floor spaces, especially if you live with an open-plan aesthetic. Adding bulkheads, three-dimensional beading or mock beams will go a long way to creating character in any space, and the linear elements, if done right, can be a total knockout.
Coffered ceilings offer multiple recesses in the overhead surface, almost like a sunken panel repeated throughout a room in a grid or pattern. Usually adorned with decorative detail, this ceiling creates a classic look and builds an elegant and refined aesthetic. These ceilings trap heat and keep a space warmer for longer, too, and have outstanding acoustic properties as the recessed ceiling absorbs and lessens the amount of residual sound. Coffered ceilings can be made from almost anything – plaster, timber and glass are common choices – and the style has a broad history, from the Pantheon in Rome and Versailles in France to mid-century Californian architecture.
You will certainly pay a premium for such intricate detail, but when the look is paramount, this treatment will impress.
Creating character in any space becomes a whole lot easier with a timber-battened ceiling. Be it raw timber or painted, the linear element can look spectacular. Having this third dimension up above is a fantastic way to zone your floor spaces, and the increase in surface area will help dampen acoustics and reduce the chance of a room that’s prone to echoing. If you’re leaving the paintbrush out of it, think about black acoustic batts and a black fabric between closely bunched timber battens, as it will bring you a step further to an acoustically balanced space.
The use of timber in a room is generally great for retaining warmth, whether painted or bare, and a dimensional ceiling will hold more heat than a flat ceiling. Although it’s not a cheap option and is quite labour-intensive, a battened ceiling (raw timber would be my preference) can be a solid architectural investment in any home.
This is the easy, go-to option, and sometimes the only one for builds with height constraints. These ceilings are flat, lined in plasterboard and generally (too often!) painted in some form of white. Suspended with an aluminium frame or timber-battened, a flat ceiling is easy to insulate and is an effective way to keep a room warm.
Without a cornice treatment, ceilings can ‘crack’ away from a wall. A good builder can cater for a square-set ceiling if your heart is set on it, but cornices will avoid the problem. For a budget option, a 90mm ‘cove’ cornice is your best bet and works well at reflecting light down onto a wall. For period homes with a touch of character, Gyprock (gyprock.com.au) have a range of decorative cornice treatments. For a modern touch, ask your builder for a ‘P50 shadowline’ (pictured). This involves installing a metal bead that sets the ceiling offff the walls to give the impression it’s floating, and works in a contemporary room.
A lined ceiling replaces the plasterboard sheet with another product, usually in sheet form but sometimes as a tile or plank. These ceilings are chock-full of character and can be a huge feature in any space – they’re usually more expensive to build, but can help with acoustics and heat retention. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to finish any timber surface when it’s at ground level, as sealing timber upside down can be a huge (and messy) job.
Painted timber lining or panels (check out Easycraft at easycraft.com.au) will give a shiplap look and work a bit harder than a flat surface, keeping your home quieter and warmer. Timber veneer or dressed plywood sheeting delivers a warm aesthetic, visually and functionally, and builds a cosy feel within a space. A timber-lined ceiling is a beautiful feature but involves a labour-intensive process and is therefore a little more expensive. For the same look but in sheet form, check out the prefinished, architecturally stunning panels from Supawood (supawood.com.au) and Stack Panel (stackpanel.com.au) for that warm and original aesthetic that only timber can bring.
Decorative plaster panels can also add character and a certain charm to a space. Usually suited to period homes, these panels are pre-moulded and unpainted, and they still need to be installed by a plasterer. They don’t particularly do much for heat retention or sound absorption – but can produce the look you desire, especially if your heart is set on achieving a classic feel.