Living Room Tray Ceiling Ideas: 20 Inspiring Designs

Hey there, friends! It’s Amanda, your favorite interior design enthusiast, here to chat about one of my all-time favorite architectural details – the tray ceiling.

I know many of you are familiar with the bare, flat ceiling. It gets the job done, but let’s be honest – it can be a little blah. This is where the magic of a tray ceiling comes in. With its decorative edges and inset paneling, a tray ceiling adds visual interest and an illusion of height. I’m obsessed!

A tray ceiling could be the perfect solution for giving your living room a stylish facelift. Let’s explore everything you need about rockin’ a tray ceiling in your home.

What is a Tray Ceiling Anyway?

For those new to design lingo, a tray ceiling (also called a recessed or coffered ceiling) is a ceiling that has been decorated with an inset rectangular panel. The outer edges of the ceiling are typically trimmed with decorative moldings that “frame” the inner panel.

living room tray ceiling

Tray ceilings have been used in high-end homes for centuries, but these days, they are popular in all living spaces. And it’s no surprise – a tray ceiling can make any room feel grander and more polished.

When well-executed, the effect is stunning. However, successful implementation is critical to any design project. So, let’s look at how to make a tray ceiling sing.

Planning Your Tray Ceiling Design

The fun part is choosing how to style your snazzy new ceiling. But before picking out finishes, it’s essential to look at the structure and architecture required to support a tray ceiling.

Make a Statement with Colorful Tray Ceiling Paint Ideas

Here are some of the critical considerations for planning out your design:

  • Placement – Will the tray ceiling span the entire room or just a portion? Centered or offset? Make sure to evaluate the room’s dimensions.
  • Dimensions – How deep should the inset panel be? The deeper the tray, the more dramatic the effect. But make sure to leave sufficient remaining ceiling height.
  • Framing – Wood or molding is best for a custom look. Work with a contractor to ensure proper support.
  • Lighting – Recessed lighting around the tray perimeter highlights the design. Make sure to incorporate electrical planning.
  • Function – Will the space above the tray be accessible or closed? Are HVAC adjustments needed? Discuss functionality with your contractor.
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Once you’ve worked through the logistics, the fun of styling can begin! Let’s look at some fantastic ways to decorate your new tray ceiling showstopper…

Style Ideas for Your Tray Ceiling

When it comes to tray ceiling design options, the possibilities are endless! Here are just a few of my favorite looks to inspire you:

Transform Your Tray Ceiling With Wallpaper

Modern and Minimalist

There’s something so chic about a crisp, contemporary tray ceiling. Keep it clean by opting for subtle, neutral tones on the inset panel and surround. Use crisp, architectural molding and indirect lighting for a museum-worthy look.

This approach works perfectly with sleek, modern furnishings and finishes. I especially love how it complements minimalist decor. Try finishing the walls in a stark white or dove gray- monochromatic perfection!

Wood-Paneled Charm

Are you looking for a lodge-chic vibe? Wood paneling on your tray ceiling is the way to go. I suggest a deep brown stain or gray wash to keep it luxe.

For trim, you can use wood molding to match the panels or opt for crisp white trim for contrast. Add a stone fireplace and plush leather furnishings, and you’ll be transported straight to the slopes!

Add definition and interest to your living room tray ceiling with crown molding

Romantic and Ornate

Whether your style is traditional or glam, a decorative, ornate tray ceiling design can impart serious sophistication. We’re talking detailed plaster relief work, rich wood detailing, elaborate crown molding – go ahead, live your fancy fantasies!

Opt for a sunset-inspired color scheme using rich jewel tones like ruby red, amber gold, and violet. Layer on plenty of damask-print pillows, fringed lamps, and gilded-frame artwork. Stunning.

Rustic Farmhouse

Try a rustic wood tray ceiling if your tastes run more down home. Unfinished wood planks add warmth and texture. Incorporate wood reclaimed from old barns or fencing for an extra special touch.

Keep furnishings simple. A cozy linen sofa, metal and wood coffee table, and antique floor lamp are all you need. Add a jute area rug, worn leather accents, and vintage signs for the perfect farmhouse living room.

Should tray ceilings be painted

Customizing Your Tray Ceiling

Beyond the basic structure, don’t be afraid to add some personalized flair to make your tray ceiling unique. Here are some easy customization ideas:

  • Add molding inside the tray for a more intricate, layered look.
  • Incorporate architectural elements like columns or curved details.
  • Integrate functional fixtures like fans, lights, or built-in speakers.
  • Paint a mural or attractive design inside the tray.
  • Install mirrors or old windows inside the tray for depth.
  • Add textural elements like beadboard, shiplap, or tile.
  • Incorporate visual interests like exposed beams or floating shelves.
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The options are endless! Work with your contractor to see which customizations work with your space.

Finishing Touches: Materials, Color & Texture

The materials, colors, and textures you choose will impact the overall vibe of your tray ceiling design. Here are some of my tried-and-true tips:

Materials – Drywall is a budget-friendly staple that can be finished in endless ways. For added durability, use wood, concrete, or metal. The material palette you choose will inform the overall aesthetic.

How do you turn a flat ceiling into a tray ceiling

Color – For inspiration, look to your living room’s color scheme. Contrasting colors in the same family work well. Deeper, warm neutrals make the ceiling recede, while lighter hues make it pop. Paint the tray a different color from the walls for definition.

Texture – The surface provides visual interest from smooth plaster to exposed brick. Some materials, like shiplap and tile, have inherent texture. You can also get creative with faux techniques, millwork, or beamed details.

Don’t stress too much about balancing all these elements. Developing the overall concept first helps tie them together seamlessly.

Lighting Your New Masterpiece

Your dazzling new tray ceiling deserves some killer lighting. Well-placed fixtures can make all the difference.

Aim for a layered lighting plan that combines:

  • Ambient lighting – Use recessed can lights around the tray perimeter to illuminate the whole room gently.
  • Accent lighting – Install directional recessed lighting inside the tray to highlight architectural details.
  • Task lighting – Add mounted fixtures like sconces by seating areas for reading illumination.
  • Dramatic lighting – A big central chandelier or pendant light provides a striking focal point.

Install dimmers to control the mood and balance bright and shadowed spaces as needed.

double tray ceiling

Decorating Your Space

Once construction is done, it’s time for the best part – decorating! A tray ceiling expands your decor options. Here are some great ways to feature your new ceiling:

  • Draw the eye upward with a giant statement mirror or art piece inside the tray.
  • Layer hanging elements like pendant lights, plants, or mobiles at varying heights.
  • Add molding-mounted sconces around the tray perimeter for soft illumination.
  • Hang a two-tiered chandelier from the center for drama.
  • Display collections of framed photos or plates neatly on the ledge of the inset panel.
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When decorating below, opt for open and minimal furnishings so the ceiling can take center stage.

Bringing Your Dream Tray Ceiling to Life

As you can see, the design options are endless when planning out your perfect tray ceiling! Start by thinking about the look you’re going for, from stately and ornate to rustic and cozy.

Enlist the help of qualified pros to ensure your design is structurally sound. And don’t be afraid to customize the details to your unique style.

The result will be a living room that feels straight out of your favorite interior design magazine! I hope some of my ideas have inspired you. Comment below with any thoughts or questions about the tray ceiling, and let’s chat about the design.


There you have it, friends – everything you need to know to create a jaw-dropping tray ceiling in your home! With the right combination of planning, design, and style, you can craft a living room that’s truly Pinterest-worthy.

I loved exploring this hot interior design trend and all the fantastic ways you can customize a tray ceiling to match your aesthetic. Whether modern, rustic, ornate, or minimalist – there’s an option for every style.

A tray ceiling can completely transform your living room with its architectural interest and expanded decor space. I hope you’re inspired to look at your home with a fresh perspective and maybe get creative.

As always, I’m here to chat more about design anytime! Reach out with your fantastic tray ceiling plans or other decor dilemmas. Let’s make your home uniquely you.