Derived from the French word “box” coffered ceilings are ceilings that have been constructed with, typically, multiple, rectilinear, recessed panels that are usually ornately decorated with motifs, pendants, and trim. Coffer (or coffering) is a sunken panel in the shape of a rectangle, octagon, or square in the ceiling or soffit. It is a series of beams and cross-beams lying on them with flat panel fillings. Though most coffered ceilings look like the work of a master craftsman, they’re actually cleverly disguised suspended ceiling systems.
You typically find coffered ceilings in upper-end homes and estates, usually in living rooms, home libraries, home theaters, elaborate home offices, and dens. You’re also apt to find coffered ceilings in commercial buildings and law offices. Coffers are a great way to break-up a large ceiling and add architectural elements and texture.
Rich in design, a coffered ceiling takes a would-be plain room and dresses it up with details. What you end up with is a stately statement. Besides the beauty a coffered ceiling brings to a room, it also brings noise control and reduces echo by absorbing sound.
The great thing about coffered ceilings is the ability to custom tailor the project to your taste. The type of wood, moldings, beams, embellishments, paints, and stains used all allow you a customized piece of art when your ceiling is complete. Depending on how elaborate you get with ornamental molding or how streamlined you get with smooth simplicity – it’s your baby with your special touches. This is a project where you can go rough and rustic or glossy and varnished – sky is the limit.
Materials & Cost
Good choices of wood to use for your project are poplar, maple, red oak, and cherry. Poplar is the least expensive while cherry is at the higher end of the scale. Style varies with the size and depth of the coffer, or panel. You can choose 2” deep for a shallow coffer, or 4” for a deep coffer.
Depending on the wood you choose, the style of panel, and how elaborate you get, a coffered ceiling will run anywhere from $14 to $30 per square foot.
Faux Ceiling Beams
If natural wood is too pricey you may want to consider fiberboard and plywood, or suspended coffered ceiling systems with interlocking parts.
If a tight budget is keeping you from your dream ceiling, you can reduce the cost of materials without sacrificing elegance by designing a coffered ceiling with stained beams and painted drywall coffer panels vs. wood panels.
There are various software tools available to help you plan your coffered ceiling design. Or, you can hire a professional contractor who will help you with the design and assist you in the installation.
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