8 creative ceiling ideas to consider

Don’t forget about your ceiling – think of it as the fifth wall in your house. If you’re keen to ditch the drywall, here are eight creative ceiling ideas to consider


1 Moulded Ceilings

Plaster mouldings are the ultimate in timeless elegance and can be custom made to your requirements. Most companies that specialise in decorative plaster ceilings fabricate a custom mould then finish the plaster mouldings on site.

  • Pros: Easy and quick to install. Plaster mouldings will not shrink, expand or warp. They are non-toxic, hypo-allergenic, environmentally friendly, insulating, durable and fireproof.
  • Cons: Plaster is slightly soluble in water so it is not suitable for wet areas. Skilled labour is required for precise application, therefore the cost of applying a decorative plaster ceiling is high.
  • Cost: Carrara Ceilings’ moulded plaster cornices range in price from $10-$27 a metre. Basic patterned plaster ceilings start at $130 per square metre. Decorative centres range in price from $40-$130.
  • Try: Moulded ceilings by Carrara Ceilings, Wellington,

Our expert says:

“To give a room a feeling of opulence and grandeur this is the way to go. It won’t suit every home as it is very ornate and era-specific.”


2 Coloured Ceilings

White ceilings are classic and safe, and are typically used to make rooms appear as bright and high-ceilinged as possible. By applying colour or wallpaper to the ceiling you can completely change the feel and mood of a room.

  • Pros: A simple way to add drama and sophistication to a room. Paint is easy to apply and cost effective.
  • Cons: Where a room has a focal point, such as a fireplace, ceilings are best kept simple and white. Wallpaper will bring texture and pattern to a room but can be expensive to purchase and install (or remove if you change your mind).
  • Cost: Paint costs around $90 for four litres or $140 for 10 litres, plus tinting charges. Wallpaper will vary widely in price depending on the design and style you choose. Wallpaper-hanging is an additional cost, too.
  • Try: Wallpapers from The Paper Room, or Aspiring Walls, Ask your paint supplier which tint-able paints are suitable for ceilings.

Our expert says:

“A brightly painted or wallpapered ceiling that contrasts with the walls creates a strong and graphic statement”


3 Pressed-Metal Ceilings

Tin ceilings were first introduced in the 19th century as an affordable alternative to the ornamental plasterwork used in the Victorian era. Durable, lightweight and fireproof, metal ceilings still maintain their appeal as a functional, attractive and cost-effective design element.

  • Pros: Although still widely known as ‘pressed tin’, today’s products are made from aluminium. Aluminium is corrosion-resistant and durable. It can be left raw or painted to suit any decor. Myriad design options are available. Installation is easy – simply trim to size and glue, nail or rivet into place.
  • Cons: Metal ceilings work best in rooms with a high stud because the ornamentation tends to visually lower the ceiling. Offers little sound insulation. If left raw, they can absorb light.
  • Cost: Metal panels, 900mm x 1800mm, cost around $160 each, plus labour.
  • Try: Pressed-metal ceilings from Ico Traders in Christchurch,

Our expert says:

“This is a gorgeous traditional look for older houses, but can also create an eclectic look in new homes. When painted in the same colour as the walls, it gives great texture to a room without closing it in.”


4 Coffered Ceilings

In architecture, a ‘coffer’ refers to a sunken panel in a ceiling, dome or vaulted ceiling.

  • Pros: Detailed and decorative, it adds dimension and character to a plain room. Can disguise architectural engineering. Enhances acoustics in home theatres.
  • Cons: Time-consuming to build and install. Expensive. Poor sound insulation.
  • Cost: The cost to build and install varies depending on the type of wood used and the size of the room, but a rough guide would be $250 per square metre, plus labour.
  • Try: East Coast Suspended Ceilings in Napier,

Our expert says:

“This is a great option for an older-style home. It gives an ordinary room impact and creates an opulent look and feel. Add interest by applying contrasting colours or keep it white to provide texture without overpowering the space.”


5 Beam Ceilings

A beam ceiling is one which features exposed joists and beams. There are many reasons why architects of both modern and traditional-style homes are choosing to keep ceiling beams exposed. Aside from the aesthetics, the open ceilings help create a large, ‘breathable’ space – plus the extra ceiling height will make your home feel bigger and brighter.

  • Pros: Exposed framing is an authentic expression of the means of construction, plus it gives a room added warmth, texture and detail. Beams provide a natural place to hide light fixtures and they improve the acoustics of any space.
  • Cons: High ceilings can make a room feel less intimate. There is less room for insulation, which means greater heating and cooling costs. Intricate-looking ceilings can overpower small rooms. Materials and workmanship must be of a high quality so a beam ceiling can be expensive.
  • Cost: If you don’t have the real thing but like the look, Muros produces lightweight faux wood beams in six colour tones, sized to suit any style. Prices are per square metre and vary according to panel shape, design and specification.
  • Try: Muros, Auckland,

Our expert says:

“This can be a great way to reinvigorate an ordinary room. When the beams are painted the same colour as the walls it gives a sense of space and height. It looks great mixed with bagged-brick walls (bricks are roughly smoothed over before being painted) and large pendant lights.”


6 Tongue and Groove/Wood-Panelled Ceilings

Wood panelling is manufactured in solid natural wood, wood veneers and MDF. Solid wood ceilings can be installed as tongue-and-groove panels or as planks, both of which can be stained or sealed in your choice of colour.

  • Pros: Wood panels add a wonderful feeling of warmth and also provide excellent sound insulation.
  • Cons: Without adequate protection wooden ceilings are not fire resistant. Wood panels are susceptible to changes in humidity and temperature and can bow, fracture or warp.
  • Cost: Solid timber is between $75.95 and $249 per square metre (the price depends on the type of wood and finish). Laminate, bamboo and most engineered wood will be cheaper than solid timber.
  • Try: VidaSpace, Auckland,

Our expert says:

“These are making a comeback and are being used to give texture and interest to any style of home. Traditionally found in villas, they are now going into new-builds to add character.”

7 Stretch Ceilings

A stretch ceiling is a ceiling system that consists of two basic components: a concealed aluminium framework and a lightweight PVC membrane (fully recyclable) which is stretched over the frame.

  • Pros: They have a perfect finish which completely covers up any defects in the original ceiling. Quick, clean installation – no painting required, no drying time, no dirt, dust or rubble. Sustainable. Comes in a wide range of colours and finishes.
  • Cons: Expensive. Reduces ceiling height by a minimum of 3cm. The membrane can be easily damaged, pierced or deformed.
  • Cost: Extenzo roofing starts from $150 per square metre for the standard colour and finishes. Bespoke designs are extra.
  • Try: Stretch ceilings by Extenzo, Auckland,

Our expert says:

“Although this style of ceiling has been around for 30 years, I personally haven’t had the opportunity to use it. The concept intrigues me, but as it is a very ‘niche’ product I’m not sure how well it translates to the residential market.”

8 Grooved Fibre Cement Sheets

These grooved sheets made from tough fibre cement are designed to line interior walls and ceilings and give the look of tongue-and-groove panelling. They are great for creating a subtle coastal or traditional vibe or simply bringing in a touch of texture.

  • Pros: Pre-sanded for easy painting or staining. Fast, straightforward installation and easy to cut. Hard-wearing. Resistant to damage from moisture or fire.
  • Cons: Reasonably heavy to install – at least a two-person job. Needs to be fixed in place with screws. Requires painting (prime cut edges first).
  • Cost: HardieGroove costs approximately $126 per 2400mm x 1200mm sheet, $142 per 2700mm x 1200mm sheet.
  • Try: HardieGroove, available from any building supplier.

Our expert says:

“For a touch of coastal or retro cool, these can be put up in a jiffy and painted in white – or in a fabulous contrasting colour if you want to make an impact in an entryway, bedroom or hall.”

Words by: Annick Larkin. Interior design expert: Philly Lyus. Photography by: Maree Homer, Justin Alexander, Helen Bankers, Eve Wilson, Armelle Habib/

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