How to Make a Tray Ceiling a Beautiful Focal Point

August 9, 2023

Hi! I'm Nicole

Fearless DIY. Sharing building project tutorials and interior design tips. Let’s build something beautiful together. For more projects, design tips and behind the scenes, follow me @designtobuild.nicole

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Are you a fan of tray ceilings? I have to be honest, I am not. So, in the midst of this master bedroom makeover, I knew my number one goal was to make sure the tray ceiling blended in with the rest of the ceiling. The last thing I wanted to do was draw the eye to it. Kinda funny, because now it’s the focal point of this room. And I absolutely love it!!

tray ceiling with black carsiding and stained beams

How do You Make a Tray Ceiling a Beautiful Focal Point

Here’s a quick look at the before of the tray ceiling…At this point, my burning question was: how to make a tray ceiling look better.

master bedroom in middle of remodel

I went back and forth on what to do with this type of ceiling. Do I give it visual interest or was it a good idea to make it blend in with the rest of the room? When considering making it a focal point, I tossed around these ideas for a tray design:

  • DIY a coffered ceiling
  • Paint it a different color than the wall color
  • Add wood trim around the drop-down border
  • Paint it a darker color-Make it an accent color in the room

I knew all of these tray ceiling ideas would really make it pop. But I still wasn’t sure that was the route I wanted to go. Maybe drawing the eye away from it as much as possible was the better way to go?

I love the look of adding carsiding to ceilings. Maybe throw in a couple beams. Yes! I’m going to make this architectural design that I’ve never liked, stand out! But I’ll make it beautiful! With the vision in hand, I was ready to go to work!


My first step….I started off by adding all of the carsiding to the ceiling. In case you’re wondering what carsiding is…it’s tongue and groove boards that easily click together. Installing carsiding is super easy.

How to Install Carsiding

First, you have a couple decisions to make…

  • Which way do you want your carsiding boards to run? I chose for mine to run in the same direction as my flooring. I also knew I wanted my boards to run parallel with the longer length of the room. This is a great way to make the room feel bigger.
  • What length of boards do you want to use? Choosing to make it seamless and therefore taking it the entire length of the ceiling is a great look, however, much easier if you have extra hands. Those boards are heavy and awkward. For my project, I knew I would be adding beams, so I wasn’t concerned with the seams.

But hold up, we’re not ready to attach the carsiding just yet.

First find your studs, if you’re planning on adding beams. You won’t be able to find them once all of your carsiding is up, so now is the time to mark the studs using painter’s tape or a pencil on the WALL–not the ceiling! Remember, you’re covering that up. 🙂

Now you’re ready to actually attach the carsiding. You’ll want to find the center of the ceiling. Line up the first board and attach using a nailgun….

car siding on ceiling

From here it’s easy…Just work your way across the ceiling, securing the tongue into the groove. I use a mallet to gently tap the boards together. This avoids damage to your carsiding. You’ll want to use a nail gun to fasten your boards to the ceiling.

Tip:  Drive your nails in at an angle. This provides a firmer grip.

Want the full tutorial on how I add carsiding (also called planks) to my ceilings?   Here’s the link. 

Girl standing on ladder attaching carsiding with a nailgun

Now that you’ve gotten a few boards attached, chances are good that the last board will not fit perfectly. You can do one of two things:

  • a.) measure the width of the board you need and rip it using a table saw, circular saw or jigsaw. OR
  • b.) attach trim pieces (1×2 or 1×4) around the border of your ceiling.

I took the easy route and went with option b. 🙂 So, when I came to the end of the ceiling, I moved over to the other side of my center section board. And then worked my way to the other end of the ceiling….

Carsiding in tray ceiling

You’ll notice my boards do not meet in the middle perfectly. Originally, I thought I would be adding a beam there, so it wouldn’t really matter. However, this plan changed halfway through the project, as is the case with most DIY ventures.

So, I had to come up with a different plan for this spacing. I ended up using the same width of trim pieces I used for the perimeter of the tray ceiling and ran that trim piece down the center of the ceiling. It turned out very well and made this mistake go away. 🙂

Now you see it….

carsiding with a large seam in the middle

Now you don’t…

Carsiding with trim going down the middle

With the same color paint as the carsiding, this trim piece will blend right in and won’t stand out at all.

Now that the carsiding is finished, we’re ready for the beams. I struggled with the decision of 2 or 3 beams. Rule of thumb says to work in odd numbers, however, I felt like more than two beams would feel crowded. Therefore, I went with my gut and attached two beams.

This post will give you even more about how to plank a ceiling.

How to Build and Attach Ceiling Beams

Again, as with the carsiding, you need to make a couple decisions first….

  • Which way do you want your beams to run? I feel like perpendicular with the carsiding looks the best, but really nothing says you have to do it that way.
  • How wide do you want your beams? I chose 8″ wide.

One more thing, depending on the type of tray ceiling you have, there’s a good chance tube lighting borders the drop down.

In most cases, a trim piece hides these accent lights. You can either get rid of this and put up new trim or keep it.

I chose to get rid of mine and added new trim that would match the overall design better. If you choose to get rid of the old trim, now is the time to do that.

Now you’re ready to attach your beams. First, you’re going to want to determine where you want your beams to go and mark that spot.

Knowing the width of your beam, mark the center of where your beam will go.

For example, my beams were 8 inches wide, so I marked on the wall where I wanted the center of the beam to line up. Now I know that the middle of my first board will be centered with that marking.

Let’s attach our first board. I used a 1x8x10, cut it to the length I needed, and attached it to the ceiling using my nail gun.

To ensure that it will stay in place, I drove a nail every 6 inches along both edges of the board. Remember to line it up as instructed in the paragraph above. Then go ahead and attach your first board for your 2nd (and 3rd, if applicable) beam.

Carsiding in tray ceiling with beams anchor board attached

Next, we’re going to head outside and build our beams.

Cut three 1×8 boards the same length you cut your board already attached above. Do this for each beam and then sand, if you’re planning on staining your beams.

Sanding gets rid of the yellow color-tone pine naturally has. This ensures that your stain goes on the right color….

half sanded board to show contrast of not sanded part

Now you’re ready to build two more sides of your beam. We’re not going to add the last board until we get the beam in place and attached on the ceiling. Using your nail gun, attach your two boards together like this….

Half of a faux beam for tray ceiling

Both of my beams are now ready to go up and look like this…

two faux beams

Attach your partially built beam to your first board already attached to ceiling, using your nail gun.  I will say, this was a two man job…

Carsiding tray ceiling with faux beam

Add your last board, using your nail gun, and you now have a beam!!

tray ceiling with carsiding and faux beams

Pretty simple!!

At this point, I was ready to add my trim around the perimeter where the rope lighting trim was before. I used 1×4’s for this step. But another option would be to add crown molding.

Tray ceiling showing where trim is

We opted to take down the ceiling fan and added a new light. I was already in love!

Carsiding tray ceiling with faux beam and new basket light

I found it easiest to stain the beams first. This step alone was already giving the room a cozy feel…

Carsiding tray ceiling with faux beams

And then paint the carsiding. I wanted a moody, dark color and chose Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black. I like that it matches my carsiding ceiling in my master bathroom….

Black carsiding ceiling with faux beam

I’m so happy I went with the deeper color, black ceilings for this space. The Varathane Golden Oak beams really pop against the black.

But, the best decision I made was changing my mind on tray ceilings. For a space that I wanted to do nothing but blend in, that did not happen! For this room, the tray ceiling is definitely the focal point!! And I love it!!

(Affiliate Link Included)

Carsiding tray ceiling with faux beams and basket light

Be sure to check back for more progress on the master bedroom. Still to come:

(UPDATE: All of these changes are finished, if you want to go check them out.)

I’m all about a minimalist look and a neutral palette. While the design element of this space, screams “Look at me!” it still has a clean look that I absolutely love.

Tray Ceiling: FAQ’s

What is a tray ceiling?

A tray ceiling is also known as an inverted or recessed ceiling. It is a type of architectural feature that adds depth and visual interest to a room.

It consists of a raised central portion that is higher than the surrounding edges, creating a recessed or tray-like appearance. The center of the ceiling is typically elevated, forming a flat or curved surface, while the perimeter slopes downward towards the walls.

Think of it as a framed piece of art on the ceiling. Just as a frame adds depth and distinction to a painting, a tray ceiling adds architectural depth and character to a room’s upper space.

How can I make smaller rooms with a tray ceiling appear larger?

Painting the walls and ceiling a light color will reflect the natural light and give the room a feeling of spaciousness.

Are tray ceilings still in style?

Yes! While design trends tend to change over time, tray ceilings have maintained their appeal due to their ability to enhance the overall aesthetics of a room.

They provide an opportunity to incorporate creative lighting fixtures, decorative molding, or different paint colors. They’re a great way to add your personal style into your space.

DIY a wood planked ceiling with stained beams and wood planks. Master bedroom

Do you have a tray ceiling you’re looking to change up? Maybe in your dining room? Living room? Are you thinking of ways to make it pop or are you wanting it to disappear? Hopefully, this post has encouraged you with some different ways to make it pop!

glass sliding barn door in master bedroom

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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Until next time,

Happy Building, Friend!!

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