What Is a Recessed Ceiling?

B. Turner

A recessed ceiling is a type of home ceiling design used to add elegance and style to a room. In this type of design, the center of the ceiling appears to be recessed above the perimeter of the ceiling by anywhere from a few inches to a foot or more. Builders use perimeter soffits and different types of trim molding to create this recessed appearance. The soffits and trim serve as a frame around the recessed portion of the structure, which adds visual depth to the room. This type of ceiling may also be known as a tray ceiling in some regions.

A recessed ceiling, also known as a tray ceiling, is designed to add elegance and style to a room.
A recessed ceiling, also known as a tray ceiling, is designed to add elegance and style to a room.

Traditional recessed ceiling structures require careful planning prior to construction. The home's piping and ductwork are routed to to the perimeter of the room so they will be covered by the soffits. This allows the builder to maximize the height of the recessed area. Lumber is used to construct square or rectangular boxes at the joint where the walls meet the ceiling, forming the soffits. The soffits are then covered with drywall or sheet wood and finished with paint or stain.

Once the soffits have been formed, builders use crown molding and other trim to finish off the recessed ceiling. The crown molding is typically placed between the soffits and the recessed portion of the ceiling, which draws attention to the design while adding depth. These ceilings are often designed with traditional crown molding around the perimeter to match the elegant look of the design.

Some designs may be constructed on a smaller scale, generally without the use of trim or molding. Instead, a smaller recessed area is created within a standard ceiling and used to frame recessed light fixtures. This adds architectural detail to a room without changing the overall style as much as a full recessed ceiling.

To create a recessed ceiling during remodeling, many builders rely on pre-fabricated kits. These kits include molded metal frames that can be fastened to the ceiling around the perimeter of the room. They combine the look of soffits and molding to create the appearance of a traditional recessed or tray ceiling.

The paint and color scheme can also have a dramatic impact on the appearance of a room. By painting the molding and trim a different color from the ceiling or soffits, homeowners can add even greater depth. This can help make low ceilings appear taller, and make a room appear larger than it really is. Others add tin ceiling tiles into the recessed portion of the ceiling to create a classic, yet stylish ceiling design. Many people also use these ceilings to highlight an antique chandelier at the center of the recessed ceiling.

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