Look Up - Ceiling Art

January 6, 2010 | 8 comments
A detail I'm noticing more lately (perhaps I'm just paying closer attention) is fretwork on ceilings. I've seen many interesting patterns in various styles of architecture, although this seems most common in English architecture. It's a welcome respite from the chunky coffers you see so often. These svelte, shallow wood (and sometimes plaster) details have an air of clean-lined sophistication and allow for a richer artistic expression when decorating the ceiling.

The version I'd most likely select for myself is this simple, yet bold, one from a home designed by Tracery Interiors and Dungan Nequette Architects. I pretty much love all things white in design, so I was immediately attracted to this room (and the house in general). The house's palette is predominantly neutral with white walls and dark floors. Elements such as paneling on the walls and the fretwork on the ceiling lend enough texture for the white to not seem cold. Remove those elements and the room would feel so much different.

I emailed Doug Davis from Tracery and he was gracious enough to fill me in on the details behind the design and to send me this "before decoration" photo. He and Jeff Dungan worked together to design a solution for the large expanse of ceiling in this grand scale room that they felt needed something to give it character. I'd say mission accomplished. The diamond pattern is certainly a standout feature of the room and does an excellent job of breaking up the ceiling's bulkiness.

Shown here is a beautiful kitchen featured in the July 2009 issue of House Beautiful. There's alot to admire in this kitchen including the quilted doors of the refrigerator and freezer, the French range and the range's hood. However, the ceiling detail really makes an impact. The way this fretwork is enclosed in deeper coffers has the effect of looking as if the pattern was stamped or embossed in the ceiling.

The ceiling in architect Keith Summerour's personal country home is particularly stunning. Keith's genius shines here where he managed to add glamor to a country home via details like the fretwork on the ceiling and steel windows and doors. To view more of this home, visit the August 2009 article about it in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles.

This close up photo gives a better glimpse of the pattern used on the ceiling. It reminds me of the unique paneled wall in the Mediterranean house I recently posted about.

Another Summerour example in a renovation executed by Benecki Fine Homes. This sedate example resembles traditional coffers, just shallower and sleeker. I have toured this home in person and it is actually on the market now. I recommend viewing the listing as there are a ton of interesting details in the home, as is always the case for Summerour designs.

Although this interior is much more traditional than I lean and not my style so to speak, I couldn't help but notice the Gothic fretwork pattern on the ceiling. Interior design by Todd Yoggy.

These four photos from the Dunnellen Hall estate in Greenwich, Connecticut illustrate the extensive use of fretwork on the ceilings in the home. There are some really interesting patterns there. Imagine these patterns used in a more transitional interior on a smaller scale. Amazing.

Here is a particularly ornate (and grand scale) example from the Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle.

Executed in a contemporary fashion (painted white would be my choice), fretwork can really be a statement making element of a home's design. I love that it gives designers and architects a tool to really apply from some creativity in a bold way.

I know I've seen contemporary fretwork implementations that I liked in other homes, but regrettably I didn't save them. If you know of any, please leave a comment or send me an email with where I can find them. I'd like to collect more photos for my inspiration files.


Ginger said...

Unbelievable. Those ceilings are stunning. It took me so long to read this post because I could not stop staring. Such amazing talent both designing and installing those beauties. Keep up the gorgeous posts.

Things That Inspire said...

Beautiful - I do agree, this is often in English architecture. I have seen some stunning examples in homes that Bunny Williams has decorated. I did a post last year called 'the third dimension in architecture and design', and had some other good examples - of particular note was a beautiful Gothic ceiling in a home in Newport Rhode Island.

Once again, we are on the same wavelength - I am preparing a post with a complementary theme!

christina @ greige said...

Just beautiful! I love the Prague Castle pictures- we were there years ago but I don't remember that.. I will have to go back just to see the details.

Anonymous said...

Sarah Richardson did a fretwork ceiling on Design, Inc. They client hated it going up and almost removed it before completion. At the end, it was her favorite part of the room.

Sarah Klassen said...

Beautiful! I love ceiling details such as these.

I don't remember where, perhaps Cote Sud magazine, but I recall seeing a herringbone ceiling that was to die for! It adds such character to the home.

Thank you for another inspiring post. I am so happy to have found your blog...

Clinton Smith said...


Blayne Macauley said...

Great post! I love summerour's ceiling details, and he often carries them over to some of the walls, which I absolutley adore. The last example you showed is stunning. I think my favorite is the kitchen example. In he first example. I would have liked it more if the pattern went all the way to the wall. I don't really like how it stops short. It makes the room feel a little off-center... but that might just be me. Wonderful post!

James said...

I realized after my post that I had overlooked a couple pictures from my inspiration files that I missed. I'll definitely be doing a follow-up post at some point in the future.

@Things That Inspire: I remember your post, but had forgotten you referenced so many ceilings in it. I enjoyed the post all over again.

@Sarah Klassen: I'd love to see that herringbone ceiling. I bet that was quite interesting. Almost as if you'd flipped the ceiling and floor.

@This Photographer's Life: The angle is misleading in the first picture. I'm sure the room is quite pleasing in person.

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