Beam Me Up: Exposed Rafter Ceilings

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Design and Image: Jeffrey Alan Marks, “Jeffrey Alan Marks: The Meaning of Home by Jeffrey Alan Marks”, Rizzoli New York, 2013

I know what you’re thinking. You’re wondering if they put the wrong name on the author line of this post, aren’t you? How that little image of the person who wrote this could possibly be Dave Hime when the first room being shown is so… traditional. I understand your confusion—that’s not the kind of interior design I’m typically drawn to, but this first room is a great example of the kind of thing most people picture in their minds when they read the phrase “exposed rafters.”

All About the Workmanship

The reason why the idea of exposed rafters conjures up such traditional imagery is hidden in the phrase itself—exposing the rafters shows off the structural detail of what’s holding up the roof above the room in which the rafters are exposed. So it’s not a new trend, not something invented by the latest hot designer with a television show.

Part of the Story of the Space

Open Rafters New York Times

Design: Natalya Kashper Image: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

But just because rafters have always been structurally necessary to hold up the roof, doesn’t mean that exposed rafter ceilings can’t be a modern element in your space. Lofts like the one shown here are all about telling the story of how the space was used before it became residential, and tearing out any ceiling covering to show off what is essentially the underside of the floor above is a great way to add to that story.

Included in the Styling

Open Rafters Barcelona

Image: Jordi Miralles on Shoot Studios

Styling your ceiling becomes even more important when you’re showing off the rafters. As we’ve already seen, you can contrast the beams in a darker color than the roof or leave the whole structure natural. You can also paint the full ceiling and all of its components, like the ceiling shown here.

Added Visual Interest 

Open Rafters Look Callaway Architects

Design and Image: Callaway Architects

And if you don’t feel confident about removing the sheetrock from your ceiling to expose what’s beyond—who knows what you may find there—you can always create the effect of exposed rafters by artfully adding a few elements.

Are exposed rafter ceilings your style?

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Dave Hime, founder/curator of JapaneseTrash.com, has been an interior design addict for as long as he can remember. In 2005, he bought a house-in-progress and missed several opportunities to have an influence on his own home decor–leaving him wanting more. With design heroes such as Blake Dollahite (ruraltheory.com) and Robert & Cortney Novogratz (thenovogratz.com), Dave began seeking out online resources that would exemplify the interior design practices he's most drawn to: using color, texture and simple materials well. Bringing all of this together, along with his specific focus on providing interior design inspiration from a man's point of view, is Dave's mission: masculine design.