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5 Tray Ceiling Ideas to Level Up Any Room Aesthetic

When it comes to adding character to your house, look up! Do any of your rooms have a tray ceiling?

A tray ceiling—also known as a recessed ceiling or inverted ceiling—literally looks like an upside-down rectangular tray. Defined by a drop-down center ledge that is anywhere from several inches to several feet higher than the perimeter of the room, a tray ceiling is an architectural masterpiece that looks alluring and gives the illusion of higher ceilings.

Some may argue that tray ceilings are outdated. Not the case! When it comes to tray ceiling ideas to refresh the aesthetic, the sky's the limit. From fun lighting fixtures to eye-catching tin tiles, here are 5 updates to make your tray ceiling a *top* feature in your home. 

1. Play Up Dimension with Paint

Adding a splash of color to a tray ceiling is an easy and impactful way to draw attention to a tray ceiling. You can leave the drop-down ledge sides alone and paint just the tray (the flat surface of the ceiling) in a dark shade to define the shape and add a cozy feel . . . or a light color like white or cream to let the architectural details speak for themselves. Another angle: paint just the 3D border for a layered pop!

2. Upgrade Flat Tray Texture with Tin Tile

Our favorite choice for tray ceiling ideas: tin tile goes the extra mile when installed on the highest, flat tray portion of an inverted ceiling. Tin tile adds color, shine, and embossed pattern to a bare space . . . accentuating the historical character of a tray ceiling, while also modernizing it. With contemporary to old-world styles, American Tin Ceiling tiles are a natural fit for all tray ceilings.

What Would a Tin Tile Ceiling Look Like In Your Space? Try Our Visualizer Tool

3. Illuminate the Ledge Shape with Lighting

Light up the sky-high feel of your tray ceilings with (you guessed it) lighting fixtures. Try anything from cove lighting to LED rope lighting around the border of a tray ceiling ledge to add a soft romantic glow—or draw the eye up to the sunken ceiling and then down to a dazzling pendant light hanging in the middle. Whether streamlined or extravagant, lighting illuminates the beautiful depth of any tray ceiling.

4. Build Up Rustic Appeal with Wood

Who said wood is only for floors? The addition of real or faux wood beams or planks to a tray ceiling will add rustic-refined warmth to any bedroom or living room (and not just in cabins!). For a contemporary-coastal aesthetic, try shiplap for textured interest. Or if you want an industrial-mod feel, use a full wood panel in the tray, and accent with exposed metal beams over the top.

5. Uphold Vintage Style with Wallpaper

Yes, granny-chic style is a cool trend for young and old alike. This aesthetic includes peel-and-stick or traditional wallpaper coming back into homes. If you have a tray ceiling, why not wallpaper the flat tray surface to add a retro-mod pop? From metallic-textured to vintage-chic florals, there’s a wallpaper pattern fit for any room’s personality. Bonus points for adding an antique chandelier drop in the middle!


No matter the shape or size of a room, recessed ceilings provide a 3D depth and style that makes a focal statement. Take advantage of this feature’s natural beauty—and add a few enhancements to make it your own. 

Whether from this list above or different designs you have in mind, there are countless tray ceiling ideas worth trying. And don’t forget to consider tin tile ceilings as a stunning option, too.

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