History, pros and cons and inspiring examples

by | Dec 9, 2020 | Home decor Ideas | 0 comments

Vaulted ceilings is known, formally and informally, under many names in modern design (such as cathedral ceilings, raised ceilings, high ceilings, to name a few). However, the concept behind vaulted ceilings dates back hundreds of years. Let’s take a closer look at vaulted ceilings – their definition, history, pros and cons and some inspiring design implementations.

Vaulted ceilingsLook in the gallery


Vault = a curved shape extruded in the third dimension used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. For the sake of argument, this article refers to vaulted ceilings as any ceiling that is higher than the standard 8′-10 ‘ceiling height (curved aspect not necessary).

Bedroom with vaulted ceiling and large windowsLook in the gallery

Short story:

Vaulted ceilings began only as an architectural choice in cathedrals or basilicas centuries ago. Due to the capacity of the vaulted ceiling to visually and immaterially make a room larger. They could be considered an optical illusion of some kind … but one with profound impact throughout architectural history (architectural development and reflections on the vaulted ceiling located at Columbia University).

Domes were the first popular vaulted ceiling optionLook in the gallery

Domes were the first popular vaulted ceiling setting – imagine a hollow sphere halved. Built at times before history was even history, domes are constructed of mud, stone, wood, brick, concrete, metal, glass and even plastic. The barrel vault (aka wagon vault and tunnel vault) originates from the dome and is the simplest form of vault – a semicircle stretched into a continuous arc. Next came the groin vault, where two barrel vaults cross each other, creating a true ellipse intersection known as a groin.

Vaulted ceilings date from the Middle AgesLook in the gallery

The rib vault originated in the Middle Ages, when builders first set up diagonal ribs and then built the vaulted ceilings on these. And the fan vault is a fancy, filled version of the rib vault, where the lower part of the arch forms the smallest part of an open fan and the upper part extends outwards like an open fan. (See Encyclopedia Britannica for more information on vaulted ceilings.)


Bigger, airier and Grander Look & Feel.

Vaulted ceilings, also known as cathedral ceilingsLook in the gallery

Vaulted ceilings (also known as cathedral ceilings) are beneficial in their ability to create an airy feeling in the room and make it look and feel bigger than it is physically.

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More natural light.

More natural light with vaulted ceilingsLook in the gallery

Raised ceilings are often accompanied by more or higher windows … which of course leads to an influx of natural light into the room. Since natural light is typically the end of the great lighting, it is a definite advantage to attribute vaulted ceilings to having more of it. (You may want to consider double glazing the surrounding glass to reduce the energy requirement for heating / cooling.

Exposed beams add character.

Exposed beams add drawn to the spaceLook in the gallery

Exposed beams add characterLook in the gallery

Ceiling beams are warm right now (and have appealed to many for a long time), and vaulted ceilings are a great way to expose and emphasize these beams. This adds character and charm to the space … without a hint of claustrophobia.

Practical use of the ceiling “Dead” Space.

Convenient for atticsLook in the gallery

Don’t get me wrong – ceilings can be useful and practical storage space. However, they can also be a dead place where nothing ever goes in and nothing ever comes out. For the latter, vaulted ceilings utilize this otherwise wasted space and make it much more beautiful for the occupants. That’s an incredible bonus.

Increased visual interest.

Increased visual interestLook in the gallery

Let’s face it, white ceilings in 8-degree construction are just not that interesting. A vaulted ceiling is different, unique and possibly the best in the whole room. (Or if it’s not the best feature, it’s a critical background player.) Vaulted ceilings add space to the room’s design and appeal.

Starting point for hot air.

Master bathroom with vaulted ceiling and skylightLook in the gallery

When designed strategically, vaulted ceilings can provide a much-needed ventilation area for unwanted hot air. This is especially beneficial in a bathroom where drying out as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth is a must. As a bonus to this feature, extra natural light is always in season!

High potential for rustic appeal.

High potential with a rustic designLook in the gallery

Vaulted ceilings covered with wooden planks provide a space with great rustic charm. Due to their location (up high), the ceiling is one of the first things an eye notices. Take advantage of this fact by covering your vaulted ceilings in natural wood heat for the ultimate in modern rustic design. {found on hfdarchitects}.

Brick Fireplace house design with high ceilingsLook in the gallery

(Note: The photos used in the “Disadvantages” section of this article are not intended to be negative examples. They are still beautiful, inspiring images of vaulted ceilings.)

Disadvantages of vaulted ceilings

Less cozy.

Stuning living room with vaulted ceilingLook in the gallery

However, with their inherent ability to make a room feel airy and more expansive, vaulted ceilings are not good at evoking a cozy, intimate feeling. In a bedroom, for example. A vaulted ceiling may not be the best choice if you are looking for something more cozy in the architectural design of the room. {found on wallmark}.

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Harder daily maintenance.

Harder daily maintenanceLook in the gallery

Dusting a ceiling fan or replacing a bulb in an 8 ‘ceiling is no big deal – pull up a stool or chair and do it and you’re done. But vaulted ceilings require a little more. Some vaulted ceilings are so high that even the replacement of a bulb requires professionals. Consider this fact before jumping into the vaulted ceiling world with both feet.

Increased energy consumption.

Vaulted ceilings Increased energy consumptionLook in the gallery

On days that are cold (or hot in summer), the larger spaces created by vaulted ceilings require more energy for heating (or cooling). This drop in energy efficiency can be considered a waste and unnecessarily expensive because no one really “uses” the extra air up there.

Difficult, perhaps impossible to retrofit.

White kitchen with vaulted ceilingLook in the gallery

Lovely vaulted ceilingsLook in the gallery

One disadvantage of wanting vaulted ceilings when your house was not built with them is that it can be very challenging, invasive or perhaps even impossible to retrofit them to your room. It is one of the rare architectural features that is generally best designed and integrated in the early stages of building.

Australian architecture studio FIGR house with vaulted ceilingLook in the gallery

Australian architecture studio FIGR house with vaulted ceiling doorLook in the gallery

Australian architecture studio FIGR house with vaulted ceiling living areaLook in the gallery

As promised, here are several examples of interiors that have vaulted ceilings and specifically benefit from them in cool and interesting ways. One is a house located in Melbourne that got a new and modern extension built by studio FIGR. The addition has a sloping roof, and inside it has a vaulted ceiling, which helps a lot in making the living rooms feel open and airy. Without it, this interior would certainly be quite ordinary and lacked character.

Arched Windows And Vaulted Ceilings Interior DesignLook in the gallery

Arched Windows And Vaulted Ceilings Interior Design viewLook in the gallery

Arched Windows And Vaulted Ceilings Interior Design hallwayLook in the gallery

Arched Windows And Vaulted Ceilings Interior Design sofa seatingLook in the gallery

A vaulted ceiling may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an apartment, but it is certainly an option. A beautiful example in this case is the penthouse designed by dSPACE Studio. It is part of a luxury building in Chicago, Illinois, and it has such a beautiful and glamorous interior thanks to all the arched windows and the smooth vaulted ceilings that seamlessly transitions to walls.

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Valbaek Brorup Architects summer house in DenmarkLook in the gallery

Valbaek Brorup Architects summer house in Denmark interiorLook in the gallery

You can probably guess what type of ceiling this cottage has by just looking at it from the outside. This is a holiday home located in Denmark and designed by Valbæk Brørup Architects. It has a curved roof made of corrugated cardboard that gives it a distinctive character that differs from the more typical sloping roof cabins. Inside, the vaulted ceilings dominate the decor and create a very warm and inviting atmosphere.

Austria wine maker Design studio DestilatLook in the gallery

Austria wine maker Design studio Destilat vaulted ceilingLook in the gallery

Vaulted ceilings also look great in larger buildings, like this winery in Austria. Clemens Strobl winery consists of two stable-like structures with gable roofs connected by a strip of glass. ? One of them has been restored by the design studio Destilat, and the new interior has an underrated design that makes it possible to focus on the actual winemaking process and not the building itself. Nevertheless, the vaulted ceilings add a refined and magnificent ambiance to the rooms.

Cabin on a rocky edgeLook in the gallery

Cabin on a rocky edge forestLook in the gallery

Cabin on a rocky edge interiorLook in the gallery

This beautiful house clad in charred cedar sits in a remote location from Connecticut next to a large rock that has sat there for hundreds of thousands of years. The black exterior and sloping roof give the house a simple and familiar look and help it blend in better with its natural surroundings, while the vaulted ceilings, white walls and large windows on the inside create a bright and fresh atmosphere and emphasize the magnificent ceilings mountain views. This is a project from studio Desai Chia Architecture.

Beautiful lake house was designed by Alexander Design GroupLook in the gallery

Beautiful lake house was designed by Alexander Design Group open space kitchenLook in the gallery

Beautiful lake house was designed by Alexander Design Group living vaulted ceilingLook in the gallery

With a beautiful mix of rustic and modern elements, this Minnesota house has great lake views, lots of space around it as well as a large and very inviting interior. Features such as vaulted ceilings and exposed wooden beams add to the interest of the room and draw the eye upwards, while an eclectic selection of furniture creates a warm and cozy environment and adds character and style to each room in a unique way. This is a project created by studio Alexander Design Group in collaboration with Denali Custom Homes.

Austin Texas House by Aamodt PlumbLook in the gallery

Austin Texas House by Aamodt Plumb interiorLook in the gallery

Austin Texas House by Aamodt Plumb facadeLook in the gallery

When we faced the challenge of building this house in just 12 months, the architects and designers of the Aamodt / Plumb studio went for a simple and sustainable approach. They made sure that sections of the house could be made outside the site while the foundation work was being done, and they kept the exterior quite plain and focused more on the interior and its relationship to the surroundings. For the social areas, they went with a wide vaulted ceiling, not very high, but still able to add lots of character to the space.

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