There is no doubt that the white plaster ceilings which most people have are terribly boring. I grew up in houses with dark wood beams on vaulted ceilings in the living room, and so for myself I made a mental note to one day install wood beams on my ceiling. They just add so much character and charm to the room. It adds a sense of dimension to an otherwise flat surface, as well as balances the ceiling with the visual weight of what's going on on the floor.
In the old days, ceilings weren't always so one-dimensional. Early Greeks and Romans used lime stucco for ceilings, on which low, medium and high reliefs were applied. Fifteenth century Italians preferred plaster and in the 19th and 20th century, stamped tin ceilings were all the rage.
If we really think about it, the ceiling is just another 'wall,' that must not be overlooked when considering the total design of a room. There is a lot of linear space and volume out there, which means a lot of room to interpret and extend the design and ambiance going on down below.
Here are some of the most popular alternative ceiling treatments.
Historically, tin ceilings were introduced to North America as an affordable alternative to the exquisite plasterwork used in European homes. Tin ceilings are now widely available in a variety of styles and designs. They come in pre-finished and ready to paint varieties.
Above: Sample of Americana tin ceiling panel from The Tin Man (www.thetinman.com)
Coffer ceilings add grace and elegance to traditional and contemporary settings.
This treatment is great for contemporary and modern settings. In some designs, light can be added to the coved part of this ceiling for another interesting dimension.
This is the easiest to do. DIYers can instantly update their ceilings with just a can of paint. If you are more adventurous, you can paint stripes or have an artist faux paint a mural.
Adds a rustic and Old World feel.
Here are photos I've taken of some great ceilings in familiar places.
This gorgeous drop ceiling treatment goes with the sleek modern vibe at Aria Hotel in Las Vegas.
Tourist never fail to jaw-drop as they look up at the Murano handblown glass flower-festooned ceiling of the lobby at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Classic Palladian design: Coffers and skylight cap the dome of the rotunda at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
Scandinavian design: Painted hardwood ceiling at Vikingsholm Castle in South Lake Tahoe.
Arts and Crafts/Mission style: Beams at the Union Station in Los Angeles.
Neo-Rococo style: Delicate plaster ceilings at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.