Use beams to create a visual break. Whether structural or decorative, beams add an architectural element to any room. In this living room, with a vaulted ceiling, the dark-stained beams are reminiscent of those you might find in an European manor. They help create a cozier environment, without distracting from the beauty of a high vaulted ceiling.
This more subtle version incorporates a white painted-wood ceiling with gently arched beams. The curve of the beams seems to envelope the bed, creating an elegant sanctuary in this well-appointed bedroom.
Beams are perfectly acceptable even in a more contemporary space. I imagine this beam is more structural in nature, but the way in which it is wrapped in an espresso-stained wood mirroring the island below, makes it feel perfectly at home in the contemporary kitchen. Notice how the touches of dark stained wood throughout the kitchen — toe kick, island, beam, cabinet crown molding — tie the room together.
Add texture. The wood on this ceiling creates visual appeal and draws attention to its height. The natural color of the pine ceiling adds warmth and texture to what would otherwise be just a large flat surface. The high clerestory windows also break up the expansive volume of the room.
A tray ceiling provides other design options. A soffit is used on the perimeter of this dining room to maintain a more intimate feeling. The recessed tray part of the ceiling gives us another opportunity to bring in a design element. In this case, a beautifully treated gold ceiling adds a warm glow to the room. The dark perimeter ceiling provides a frame and defines the space.
Build a false ceiling. Okay, this is a little obvious, but why not just build a false ceiling to bring it down to a more reasonable level? In this contemporary kitchen, a dark-stained false ceiling is used to define the part of the house in which the kitchen resides. The tall window wall and high ceilings in the rest of the space help counter the lowered ceiling, making it feel perfectly in balance.
In a variation of the previous design, this box-beamed ceiling covers the kitchen area and brings the ceiling visually down slightly. If you're going to go this route, it's important to give the ceiling treatment some sort of design purpose. Here, the beams have a slight traditional feel, matching the feeling of the rest of the kitchen.
Get creative with a ceiling structure. This geometric structure above the kitchen area serves a dual purpose. It provides a way to bring the mechanicals (lighting, venting, etc.) down to exactly where they're needed. It also adds an architectural element in what otherwise would be a large white box of a space. The dark painted lower plane of the ceiling mirrors the dark countertop, creating a beautifully balanced contemporary kitchen.
Another creative ceiling structure creates a canopy over the bed. The backlighting and recessed perimeter lighting highlights the architectural structures.