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What are Coffered Ceilings?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Coffered ceilings are made up of recessed, or hollow-centered, panels with decorative trim. The effect of a coffered ceiling is often waffle-like if the panels are square in shape. Many different straight-sided, or polygonal, shapes may be used for these ceilings, although squares are the most common. The use of coffered ceilings dates back to ancient Roman and Greek architecture when the panel technique created a lighter alternative to marble and stone ceilings. Today's style of coffered ceiling is likely to feature pendant or recessed lighting.

Recessed lights are set in below the surface of a panel or ceiling. Some coffered ceilings contain a round light in the center of each panel, while others have the decorative trim of the panels bordering a hanging or pendant lamp such as a chandelier. A ceiling fan is another option for the center of a coffered ceiling. There may be one repeating pattern of panels and trim across the entire ceiling, or different shapes and patterns around a light or fan. Coffered ceilings often work well in living rooms, dens, libraries and dining rooms although they could be used in bedrooms, kitchens and halls.

The use of coffered ceilings dates back to Roman architecture.
The use of coffered ceilings dates back to Roman architecture.

The great thing about a coffered ceiling is that its style can be adjusted to suit many different decors. For example, if square panels are used with plain-edged trim and everything is finished in one color, the look can be very modern and airy. When the panels are wood and the trim is elaborately carved, the appeal is more traditional and rich. If a rustic appearance is wanted, then a wood with knots or noticeable graining can be used to add warmth and character. Elaborately detailed white Victorian styled coffered ceilings may feature decorative plaster medallions to add elegance.

There are two basic methods of coffered ceiling construction. One is custom designing and building the ceiling for each particular home and room. The other option is to buy a do-it-yourself kit. Coffered ceiling kits contain a system of pre-fabricated, modular pieces that fit together.

Coffered ceilings may look complex, yet they are considered fairly easy to construct since no actual beams are used. Ceiling beams support the structure of a building. The main consideration when creating a coffered ceiling is to ensure symmetry or uniformity in the panels so that they are evenly distributed in a pleasing pattern.

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    • The use of coffered ceilings dates back to Roman architecture.
      The use of coffered ceilings dates back to Roman architecture.