What to Consider When Choosing Tray Ceilings

November 29, 2018

Tray ceilings can help you create an atmosphere in a room and can add a unique touch to your interior design. They can also help make a room seem larger and more spacious. Here’s what to consider when choosing tray ceilings:

What are Tray Ceilings?

Tray ceilings are one of the most common types of ceilings. They are often described as an upside-down tray on the ceiling and are also called recessed or inverted ceilings. A tray ceiling works from the outer edges of the toom. It features a recessed center that is higher than the perimeter of the ceiling, which makes the center of the room the highest part of the ceiling. This creates a leveled or stepped look for the ceiling.

This why tray ceilings are also referred to as inverted or recessed ceilings. Unlike coffered ceilings that feature several recessed sections in a grid pattern, tray ceilings have only one large recessed section. A tray ceiling can also make a room seem larger and more spacious. They can also be used to put emphasis on ornamental decorative objects within the room.

What to Consider When Choosing Tray Ceilings

When you choose tray ceilings for some of the rooms in your custom home design, there are several things to consider:

1. Location

Because they are a type of ceiling, you don’t get much of a choice in where a tray ceiling goes inside a room. But, you can decide which rooms in your home you would like to have tray ceilings. Getting creative with the ceiling is one of the luxury kitchen design ideas and tray ceilings can be a good option.

Although tray ceilings are a popular choice for master bedrooms, they can also be a great option for great rooms, kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and other bedrooms. Tray ceilings can even be used to help define spaces in an open concept floor plan.

2. Color

When you add a tray ceiling to the design of a room, you also add more surfaces that can be painted. Aside from the colors you choose for the room, you also get to choose which surfaces to paint certain colors or not. Painting all the horizontal surfaces one color and the vertical ones another can provide an interesting contrast. A tray ceiling creates some shadows by design, so you might be able to get away with painting it all the same color and still end up with a dynamic look.

You can also paint the entire tray the same color as the walls and then paint the recessed area of the ceiling a different color. Depending on the color palette you’re working with, this could work with a neutral color or a dramatic color for a unique look. You can also paint the walls, tray step, and ceiling different colors for a high-contrast look. There are a lot of options available when it comes to colors and painting surfaces. If it feels overwhelming, your custom home designer can help you work through the details and achieve a great look.

3. Trim

A tray ceiling also opens up opportunities to add more trim to a room and create an elegant look. Adding crown molding to the sides of your tray can be a luxurious and elegant accent. If you do decide to end up adding trim, crown molding or another type, you also then have the option to paint it as well. You can also get creative with moldings and add them to the center of your tray ceiling to create a textured pattern. These are all crown molding ideas that work well with several different styles.

4. Lighting

Another thing to consider about tray ceilings is the lighting. This type of ceiling can be a great option for lighting a room that doesn’t get a lot of natural light and there are several lighting options to choose from. Rope lighting, recessed lighting, pendant lighting, and chandeliers are popular lighting options that each provide a different look and feel to a room.


A chandelier is an ideal option for a recessed ceiling. A chandelier is often viewed as the epitome of luxury and elegance when it comes to lighting options and it can be a great addition to a room with a tray ceiling. The fact that the highest part of the ceiling is located in the center of the room allows for a larger, more decorative chandelier than would have otherwise been possible.

Pendant Lighting

Pendant lighting refers to a single light fixture that hangs from the ceiling. Pendant lighting gives you some flexibility in lighting and allows you to highlight certain parts of the room for a more dramatic effect.

They are often implemented in multiples and hung in a straight line suspended by a chain, metal rod, or cord. Pendant lights are common in kitchens and also look good with a tray ceiling. They can be used to further emphasize wall decorations or provide direct lighting to a particular area of the room.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed lights are oftentimes installed in the perimeter of the tray to provide light without overwhelming the room or needing any large apparatuses hanging from the ceiling. They can also be installed in the tray or in combination with other lighting choices to create the look and feel you want.

Rope Lighting

Rope lighting consists of a resin tube with various small lights and is one of the most popular features for homes with tray ceilings. The crown molding on the ceiling conceals the light fixtures, thus emphasizing the ceiling itself and giving a room a soft, romantic glow. It’s a great way to provide subtle lighting that tucks the equipment out of sight.

This type of lighting comes in various colors and is easy to purchase and install. While this form of lighting is not sufficient to brighten up a room for regular use, it is ideal for parties, evening events, or a romantic time with your significant other. Rope lighting can be installed on any tray ceiling and is commonly used in the bedroom, living room, dining room and even kitchen.

5. Other Decor Options

Aside from color, trim, and lighting, you can also get creative with other decor options. Mirrored tiles in the center of a tray ceiling reflect light and can add a glittering effect to the room. Stencils allow you to get even more creative with paint and apply intricate designs to the center or perimeter of your tray ceiling or around a ceiling light.

You can also work with your custom home builder to get creative on the design of the tray ceiling itself. Your tray ceiling can follow the general shape of the room or it can create a different shape on the ceiling for an interesting visual effect. If the ceiling is high enough, you could even go with a double tray ceiling to create an architectural focal point and add even more texture to the room.

Tray ceilings are just one of the ceiling design ideas to consider. There are a lot of considerations when designing and building a custom home; managing all the details can be overwhelming. Working with a custom home builder, especially one with a dedicated design/build process, can help you handle all the details. They’ll walk you through the process and keep your experience a positive one. If you’re ready to start the journey to your custom home, call Custom Home Group at 717-284-4090 and bring your dream home to life!