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Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling Can Be Easier Than You Think!

Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling Can Be Easier Than You Think!


By Stewart Allen Morgan, Senior Designer White River Hardwoods

Most buildings have a fairly regular, rectilinear floorplan with square or rectangular rooms. Not only is this better for furniture layout, but it is also a result of standardized building materials used today.

Some projects though, are built with extremely irregular layouts. When trying to bring order to a space such as this, especially with historically based designs focused on symmetry and regularity (such as the White House, Mount Vernon, Monticello, etc.), this can become a challenge.

In this project, the ceiling of every major room was panelled around an ornate central medallion. When panelling a ceiling, the general idea is for the panel edge to follow fairly closely to the wall. One room had an octagonal shape, one rectangular, and then there was this room.


The floorplan of this Master Bedroom included two circulation areas that projected from the main space at 45° angles with the wall of the bathroom pushing into the room. On the other end, a corner of the room was cut off at another 45° angle. And in the middle of one of the long walls, a chimney pushed the fireplace into the space.

Several attempts at creating rectangular panels were made, including putting in a beam or soffit to divide the angled circulation spaces from the rest of the ceiling. But ultimately, the decision was made to pull away from the irregular wall layout and work from the center of the ceiling outward—creating symmetry out of asymmetry. This produced a sort of medallion and panel hybrid—an elaborated and exaggerated medallion.

Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling

Above: Attempts at a rectilinear design leading up to an ellipse within a rectangle (at right).

A rectangular panel in the center might have worked had it not been for the angled wall that cut off the corner of the room. But with all of the jutting in and angles, it was determined that an elliptical shape brought order and harmony to the ceiling best.

Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling

Above: Style Made Easy--CPM900

As a starting point, another medallion that was designed for a square room was copied into the Master Bedroom ceiling plan (see our Style Made Easy Catalog design CPM900), on axis with the fireplace, centered between it and the opposing wall. A similar texture and leafy, lacy appearance were desired for both rooms, so the task became modifying the existing design to fit this space.

Because this room was a bedroom, it needed to be slightly less extravagant and more calming than the Baroque and Rococo inspired design of the rest of the house. For that reason, Neoclassical detailing was used as a guide instead.

  • To tone down the flamboyancy of the original medallion design, the central plaster medallion, DSY26115 and our CRV5071 rose festoons were removed.
  • The plaster medallion was replaced by MED1632, a smaller elliptical plaster medallion which appears more textural than figural like the previous one.
  • The medallion was mounted to plywood which was cut to the same elliptical shape 10” larger in either direction. A resin Traditional lipping panel mould finished the plywood edge. This combination gave the medallion the illusion of being larger and more substantial.
  • Next, cartouches CRV6087 and CRV6089 were placed at each cardinal and ordinal direction around the central medallion to act as a local focal point for other carvings to surround.
  • Rosettes and scroll carvings were grouped around the cartouches to unify them, creating a ring of ornament.
  • On the long axis of the room, scrolls and our CRV6078 drops, added to the ring, elongated the ornamentation and formed points to draw the eye towards the ends.
  • An ellipse composed of our PM8557 rope with pearls panel mould, and a simple tracery moulding encircled the entire composition.
  • Lastly, each cardinal direction was punctuated with KEY6065, an acanthus key, as well as drops and scrolls to reach toward the center, connect at the sides, and imply connectivity at the ends.
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling

Above: CPM900 with additional carvings and layout of elliptical moulding.

Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling

Above: Plaster DSY26115 replaced and CRV5071 removed.

The rest of the ceiling between this elaborated medallion and the perimeter crown was left as an empty field to balance the exuberance of the medallion panel. This also helped draw attention away from the irregularity of the perimeter. The result was a stunning focal point for the ceiling which related to, but was not dictated by the shape of the room.

If you’re faced with an irregular ceiling or wall shape, ask yourself: do I need to follow what’s there, or can I disregard it? If not completely disregard, how can I free my design from the complications of the existing while still acknowledging it? And, how can I draw attention away from, rather than towards the irregularity? The solution can be more simple than one might think! A problematic area can become the most unique, character-defining element of a space.

Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
Ornamenting an Irregular Ceiling
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