For the most part, the exposed beams we see on ceilings today are not structural–they're just decorative. In some cases, a structural beam does show and it can be a nice opportunity to give a nod to a natural material in the architecture, making the space feel warm, inviting, and comfortable. Sometimes, we opt to add additional decorative beams to balance out the structural beam. Any way you slice it, using ceiling beams in the design is an opportunity for a designer to flex their creative muscles and innovate something truly unique that complements the home.
Some spaces positively cry out for something extra on the ceiling. As a designer, my intention is always to create balance. Many times, if I introduce something into a space, I have to take something else away in order to maintain the balance. If you remember your algebra, it’s something like that–always working to achieve balance on both sides of the equation–but in visual form. There are times that we find that a space has loads of potential but it needs an added layer of character and because of the question of balance, the best place to add that layer is on the ceiling.
Though there are lots of options for ceiling treatments, I particularly love the organic look and feel of custom wood beams. There are endless ways of interpreting this look to suit just about any style, but what I love most is that they are incredibly effective at elevating homes to that next level aesthetically.
That’s not to say that we can just throw wood beams at every ceiling and call it good design. Like anything else, wood beams aren’t the right choice for every space. But when done well in the right context, using the right materials, with the right tones, and the right placement they can be hugely impactful. It can add depth, balance, and character, giving a nod to the historical and/or architectural reference of the home. Besides, they’re beautiful!
So let’s take a look at a few of the different types of custom wood ceilings and how they can elevate your home to the next level of luxury and style.
Choosing the right style of wood beams
When it comes to custom wood ceilings, there are two distinct looks that you can choose from – rustic or modern.
To achieve a more traditional aesthetic, rustic wood beams in rich colors with a rough-hewn texture would be the way to go as they provide a nod to historical architecture. Here in California, we see this often in classic mission-style homes. Typically, this look has dark-stained, rough-textured ceiling beams standing out starkly against creamy white plaster ceilings.
For a more modern aesthetic, you’ll want to go with lighter tones and more refined textures. So for example, we could reinterpret that traditional California mission style into something more modern simply by bringing in beams in a softer, lighter color palette and using beams with a smoother texture. By going that route, we bring a fresh take to the idea and give a nod to the historical reference without being as literal. We honor the past in the design while moving the style forward into something more timeless with a luxurious feel.
As you look at the examples here, it’s apparent that beams with more organic textures are appropriate for spaces with a more traditional, cozy style, whereas the more modern, refined spaces call for the clean lines of beams with smoother textures.
In terms of color, light-hued, ‘blonde’ woods are everywhere currently, and I personally have always adored them as a timeless option. While I’m inherently drawn to them, I select hues for the spaces I design on a case-by-case basis. How light or dark a ceiling beam treatment would be would ultimately depend on what was going on in the rest of the space.
Making sure a wood beam ceiling will work in your home
Take another look at each of the examples here and try to imagine them without their ceiling treatments.
Do they look too sterile? Like something’s missing? There’s too much visual weight below, isn’t there? That’s because without the ceiling beam treatments, the balance I talked about earlier is off and your attention is drawn only to what’s going on below. They need something on top to bring your attention upward to achieve a better visual balance.
The reverse can also happen. If the design below is very light in color or very minimal, a ceiling with dark wood beams can make the space look top-heavy. Or you can end up with a lack of balance all the way around in a space if there’s too much happening from floor to ceiling and wall to wall.
That’s why it’s always important to balance this aesthetic choice with what else is going on in the room below. By ensuring that the ceiling treatment works seamlessly with the existing décor, you’ll have a no-regrets design choice that elevates your home overall.
As I mentioned, one of the main reasons to add a wood beam treatment is to bring depth and character to a space. But in addition, custom wood ceilings also have the potential to make smaller spaces feel larger. With high ceilings always popular amongst luxury homeowners, this is an effect that many seek out in their homes. This is where a light-toned wood is most effective, as darker tones can feel oppressive overhead if the ceiling is lower. Conversely, however, if you’re looking to make a room with a tall ceiling feel cozier, wood beams in a deep, rich hue could do the trick.
And when it comes to all-white interiors, adding organic wood beams to the ceiling can work magic. Not only do they add a layer of character and style, but they also bring a sense of warmth and comfort to a space that otherwise may feel cold and sterile.
There’s no denying that custom wood ceiling treatments are an organic element that can work wonders for bringing an interior together while also providing a luxurious look and feel. Whether you prefer a rustic or modern look, there’s a way to interpret this element into something that will complement your home’s style. I’m a believer that when done properly in the right context, these treatments can elevate your space–and honestly, your entire home!–like nothing else!
If you think a custom wood beam ceiling treatment may just be the answer to a space in your home that feels like it needs something more and you live in the San Francisco or the Marin County, California area, reach out to me.