14 Amazing Tray Ceiling Ideas To Enhance Your Home’s Aesthetic

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Last updated: September 9, 2023

When most people think of ceilings, they imagine a flat, unassuming surface. But for those in the know, tray ceiling ideas can transform a mundane overhead space into an architectural masterpiece. If you’ve stumbled upon this article, chances are you’re one of the discerning few looking to infuse character and elegance into your living spaces.

  • Is your ceiling feeling bland or dated?
  • Struggling to find design inspiration for an upscale home renovation?
  • Wondering how to choose the right tray ceiling design that complements your home’s aesthetic?

Fear not. This guide promises to address these dilemmas and more.

With over a decade in the home design industry, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of tray ceilings. From cozy cottages to sprawling estates, the right design can elevate any space.

This article is for:

  • Homeowners looking to add value and aesthetic appeal
  • Interior designers seeking fresh inspiration
  • Contractors aiming to expand their portfolio with trending designs

Remember those moments when a particular design element in a room left you in awe? I’ve had plenty, and that’s the magic of a well-done tray ceiling. Together, let’s embark on this design journey, turning your ceiling into the room’s pièce de résistance.

Table of Contents

What are the Best Tray Ceiling Ideas

Tray ceilings are perfect for hiding plumbing, wiring, and duct vents. Yet, the appearance adds vertical height, making them the centerpiece by bringing your eyes upward.

The best ideas for tray ceilings combine function and beauty. Remodeling expert Thomas Buckborogh adds that all tray ceilings have a border with a raised center.


Add rope lights around the border and recessed lights in the center to illuminate parts of the room that a ceiling light cannot reach. You can add double or triple tray ceilings, but the height should be between 10 and 12 inches or higher to achieve the look.

Modern bedroom with tray ceiling and lakeview

In that instance, the tray ceilings are a decorative row of the same shape and size. It can also be a decorative row of differing geometric shapes and varying proportions.


This style can add rope lighting as an option, but the key difference is the color of the center ceiling. Ideas for painting tray ceilings include matching it to the wall color, choosing a brighter hue, or trying metallic colors.

You can also add wallpaper and geometrical patterns to the ceiling. An alternative to crafting geometric designs is adding stencil drawings in geometric shapes.

A must-have is the ceiling light fixture. Swap the flush mount for a light fixture that illuminates the room without creating black shadows.


The light fixture and tray ceilings are the focal points of elegant themes. Pendants and chandeliers are perfect ceiling light companions for tray ceilings.

Buckborough suggests adding crown molding to the tray ceiling to bring elegance to the room. It adds a layer of sophistication, definition, and emphasis to its shape.

Ideas for painting tray ceilings include a white border, white crown molding, and a bright top. Painting the molding and border brown instead of white is equally effective.

For the Living Room

The living room is a magnificent spot to make a first impression using tray ceiling ideas. The formal room needs something to catch curious family and guests’ attention, and a tray ceiling is a great conversation starter.

Dining room with tray ceiling

Painting the center with a dark and bold hue adds contrast and drama to a bright living room. It channels a calm, cozy, and intimate atmosphere.

Adding wallpaper resembling the sky or the night stars is another idea. A mural or stunning photograph is a third option.


There’s a 50/50 split in online forum discussions about the love for tray ceiling ideas. Yet, tray ceilings can garner more love when you alter shape, texture, color, and lighting.

Tray ceiling shapes can be a circle, square, oval, or diamond instead of a rectangle. You can also incorporate one in each room in the same shape for cohesiveness or different ones for variety.

Master bedroom with tray ceiling in luxury home

Fill the center of the ceiling with wood planks or exposed wood beams for a rustic look. Try textured materials like tile and mirrors for a dramatic look.

Paint ideas for tray ceilings include two-toned and striped borders. Finally, add cove lighting 18 inches from the tray ceiling.


Color is the difference between elegance and luxury. If painting the center a bright color makes it elegant, then painting it a dark, bold color makes it luxurious.

Plush luxury master bedroom with tray ceiling

White borders and molding with dark blue or purple ceilings create a luxurious look. Other dark shades of bright, bold colors are green, red, pink, and yellow.

You can also go for black borders and molding paired with neutral shades. Examples are black borders and molding with a white or beige center.


Buckborough says the average cost of tray ceiling installation for existing homes is between $1,000 and $1,500. He says the final total depends on room size, the location, and the type of tray ceiling, which can cost up to $3,000.

Affordable tray ceiling ideas are attaching them to home construction and going the DIY route. Custom home buyers can request this feature during the design stage.

Master bath and bedroom with tray ceiling

The DIY route focuses on buying inexpensive building materials and hiring an affordable contractor to install them. Look for a skilled contractor that fits your budget rather than settling for an inexperienced one because they are cheap.

DIY Tray Ceiling Ideas

Homes with eight-foot ceilings or higher can add a drop-down border for a custom tray ceiling. The DIYer must build a wood frame around it, apply fire-blocking material, add drywall, and paint it.

You can incorporate flat trim molding around them to make a faux tray ceiling. Complete the illusion by painting the center ceiling a different hue from the light-colored trim.

One of many painting ideas for tray ceilings is applying two colors. Paint the ceiling perimeter a light color and the center a darker color.

Tray Ceiling Ideas for Small Spaces

A recessed tray ceiling is a space-saver in small spaces with low ceilings. Conversely, high ceilings in small rooms can install a drop-down border so long as it isn’t massive and overwhelms the area.

Always add a tray ceiling in the longest direction. It’s also imperative to use the right shape.

Long shapes like a rectangle, diamond, and oval would make the most of the area. A square or circle can cover the space better in rooms with a square ceiling.

Ideas for Tray Ceilings: MY Closing Thoughts

There are too many ways to recreate a tray ceiling in your home to end up empty-handed. There are several styles and paint ideas for tray ceilings, plus ways to construct them in small spaces and through DIY.

A tray ceiling is a fun way to spice up the room. Bringing it into the decorating conversation is extra space to add creativity, character, and a personal touch to the area.

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