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10 ways to create luxury home oomph. Part 5: sloping ceiling

What does your dream home look like? Chances are that if it is a contemporary house you are after some wow effect. But there are dozens of ways to do it. In this series of posts I will try to cover 10 ways that really make a modern house stand out.

Sloping ceiling – what do you do about it and why does it work in some case and does not work in other ones?

Why is sloping ceiling important?

It is one of the largest surfaces in the room. It is probably the biggest because on the floor you normally have furniture. When a ceiling slopes it naturally attracts attention because of the change. Our eye picks it up and the brain registers. This is why it has a big potential in design.  How this potential is realised can make or break the design as we will see further.

Now that we know why it is important let’s look at what role it can play in the design.

First, the ceiling can be the prima donna on the stage or it can be a singer in the choir. Either can be great but what conditions allow it to be the main character in the drama?  The drama is the key word here. The drama will require some strong contrast, conflict. It will evoke strong feelings. For example, in this Finnish church drama is unfolding right in front of you as you walk down the passage.

Kuokkala Church by Lassila Hirvilammi Architects

Kuokkala Church by Lassila Hirvilammi Architects

In this case the conflict is built around height – at the sides the ceiling is low and mundane and in the middle it soars to immense height. The ornament emphasizes the difference changing from small to large.

Can this tension be achieved in a house?  Yes it can. But in a house we seldom can have even a two storey atrium, let alone many meters more. Still, we can create a strong contrast through a high pitched ceiling.

In Australia, however, this type of roof is less common and even not recommended or allowed due to local climate.  For this reason in Australian houses sloping ceiling is more likely to be one of the musical instruments in the trio where other two are floor and walls. Or it is part of a larger band where is can create rhythm and pulse or harmonic foundation.

The materials of the ceiling will set the mood while the geometry will convey the role.  For example, a symmetrically sloping cathedral ceiling “sounds” differently from an asymmetrical raking ceiling.

timber clad sloping ceiling

Bernardo Bader Architects Location: Vorarlberg, Austria

Expressed rafters will create rhythm. The size of the rafters will matter a lot for whether you prefer drums or chimes.

sloping ceiling rafters

House by Klopf Architecture

exposed ceiling rafters

Image via Designboom.com courtesy of förstberg arkitektur och formgivning (FAF)


Ceiling can be clad in timber, in which case it will be the first violin as in the example below.

timber cathedral ceiling

Seaview House designed by Jackson Clements Burrows


timber cathedral ceiling

Bromont Residence by Blouin Tardif Architecture Environnement,

If the ceiling is smooth plasterboard in an all-white room then it blends in with all the rest and harmonises everything. It allows other elements of the design to come to the foreground.

white sloping ceiling

ZeroEnergy Passiv House Retreat

If the room is rather elongated the sloping ceiling will be more prominent. It will be constantly vying for your attention. It is only logical that in rooms like this the ceiling has to be really well considered and its potential realised in full. Otherwise it could be a flop – you could feel that the room proportions are not quite right, the ceiling it hanging too low and the whole impression is one of a very confined space.

sloping ceiling narrow room

School classroom by Bof Architekten

In this example the ceiling is resolved as two planes. The combination of materials not only manages acoustical properties of the room but also allows to set the mood.

By Jorge Hrdina Architects

In this design the ceiling slopes in an unusual direction. The shelf also adds draws the eye upwards and towards the clerestory windows.

As you can see sloping ceiling is quite a character that can have a very strong voice. Whether this voice sounds in unison with the rest of the orchestra or creates cacophony is something a good designer should consider.

Most of the images are found on Pinterest.