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LifestyleHome and Garden

Creating a tray ceiling

Add interest to a tray ceiling with paint

Add interest to a tray ceiling with paint or dramatic lighting. Photo Credit: Fotolia

Tray ceilings started to appear in the 1980s and quickly became commonplace in the 1990s. Ceilings now have become a focal point for many rooms, featuring beams, insets and lighted molding. If you have a simple tray ceiling, all you need is a weekend and some imagination to create a ceiling that inspires you to look up.


Adding some interest to the ceiling can perk up the whole bedroom. If you want a clean, uncluttered or contemporary style, paint the ceiling inset of your tray a few shades darker than the ceiling color, or the same shade as the wall color. If your tray ceiling is all white, painting it with a corresponding wall color will help unify the ceiling so it's not a white hole.

If your bedroom is more traditional, try your hand at installing crown molding. Because you're only doing a small space, splurge on some deeper molding. Or, hire an electrician to install recessed lights in the four corners of the ceiling or add a plug so you can place rope lights inside some crown molding installed about seven inches down from the corners. This really dresses up a tray ceiling and creates a wonderful ambience in the room with soft lighting.

When a bedroom has a more contemporary style, give the ceiling some real punch by installing stained slats to fit inside the tray. This looks best when the slats are stained to match the furniture. Install stained runner boards inside the tray and affix them to the wall or ceiling. Then, nail stained slats so they're evenly spaced over the entire tray and flush with the opening and surrounding ceiling. The result will be a sophisticated look that took more time than money to create.


If you have tray ceilings in your living or dining room, add picture frame molding around a light fixture and install wallpaper within the molding to create interest inside the inset.

If you're especially handy, painting a faux scene inside the molding adds a special touch.

Tray ceilings in living areas also are good spots for accent color. Too scared to put color on the walls? Then paint the inset of the tray ceiling. Pick an accent shade from your furnishings.


Do you have a 1980s fluorescent light box? If yours is recessed, you're in luck. And, if you're tired of feeling like you're cooking in an office, you can update your kitchen in a single day, provided the ceiling is sheet rocked and finished out. Remove the fixture, then paint the inset to match the ceiling. Install molding in the corners inside the inset and decorate the top of the inset with a coordinating color.

Lastly, in the center of the inset, install a pendant light fixture or small chandelier for a trendy update.

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