This Page Shows You Five Examples of Crown Moldings on Vaulted Ceilings
[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]
Making My Case for Flying Crown Moldings
It was the worst crown molding installation I’d ever seen.
And in a neighborhood that counted Eminem, Kid Rock and the guy that invented the bar code on its tax rolls, making the molding carnage seem that much more absurd. It looked like scrap lumber hammered in place by unsupervised, sugared-up ten-year olds. Carpentry more befitting a tree house than a million-dollar showplace.
“We normally build decks,” the carpenter said, as he led me through the garage and into the great room of the house next to the one I was working on. As we walked I glanced down at the decrepit table saw they were using, and thought to myself that I’d better prepare my best, Jeepers-that-looks-swell! face, because this isn’t going to be pretty.
The carpenter stopped in the middle of the great room and cast a dramatic, self-congratulatory gaze over his crew’s workmanship. I simply stood in shocked disbelief. “They’re actually going to pay you for this?” is what I wanted to say, but instead muttered some diversionary but honest praise about the difficulty of the installation, and away from the craftsmanship itself.
It truly was a difficult installation. These deck builders managed to install a three-piece crown molding, in their own special way, in a cavernous great room with a very high, complex vaulted ceiling.
There are many finish carpenters who’d shy away from a job like that, tell the customer they couldn’t fit it in their schedule. But these guys actually finished the job, and without sending anyone to the hospital because of the hobbled together ladders and planks they used to access the difficult ceiling, or, more surprisingly, because of that wretched, finger-chomping table saw in the garage.
The point I want to make is this: Even if the deck builders did a fantastic job, the end result would still look messy. That’s because crown molding does not belong on the chaotic angles of vaulted ceilings.
Most homes are a combination of traditional and contemporary design elements. People want open floor plans and lofty spaces above them, the response from builders being great rooms, foyers and halls with vaulted ceilings.
But crown molding is a traditional, horizontal architectural detail, and so should not be forced on the contemporary portion of the home. Crown molding, however meticulously installed and finished on a vaulted ceiling, looks broken, disorganized and confused as it follows the ceiling’s ever-changing direction of peaks and valleys.
Install a Flying Crown Molding Instead
Find a consistent height in your room with the vaulted ceiling — say, 8′ to 9′ high, or follow the lowest point in the ceiling — and simply run your crown molding horizontally around the room.
You are in effect splitting the room’s vertical space in two, creating a more defined and intimate living space below the crown, and yet allowing you to emphasize the lofty, vaulted space above the crown.
That’s all there is to it. And it really looks fantastic.
By the way, “flying crown” is not a proper architectural term, it’s one I made up to describe this kind of molding installation.
Flying Crown Molding Examples
Example 1: Parlor
This is a sensible room with vaulted ceilings because the vaults are at least symmetrical. I installed the flying crown 12′ up, just below where the ceiling begins to pitch up. The room apex is 14′ high.
Below Turn around and you see the other end of the room. See how well-defined and intimate the living space below the flying crown is?
Example 2: Guest Bathroom
In the same home is a guest bathroom with twelve-foot high ceilings. I’ve already written that sitting in that bathroom was like sitting in an elevator shaft. But installing some large, defining moldings — included a flying crown — and then finished with patterned wallpapers, sufficiently quenched the elevator shaft effect.
Below The ceiling before moldings and wallpaper.
Flying Crowns Make Decorating Large Walls Easier
I’ve seen many people vexed over how to decorate rooms with vast expanses of wall. A common response is to hang some gigantic, expensive multi-media art object to fill the space.
For a few hundred bucks you can install a flying crown molding and then decorate the walls below the crown like you normally would, with normal sized decorating items.
In fact, you don’t even need to install a full flying crown, you can install a simple architrave instead. An architrave as room divider requires all you do is install a single yet wide piece of molding horizontally around the room. This is what I did below.
Example 3: Use an Architrave Molding to Divide a Great Room
Example 4: Flying Crown in Home Office
This office is in one of those homes whose ceilings are a riot of compound angles running off in every direction. The only way to bring some kind of architectural order to this room and the great room (Example 5) just outside its doors, is with a flying crown molding.
Example 5: Flying Crown Molding in Great Room
When your great room looks like a giant wedge, what do you do? You install a flying crown molding to restore architectural order.
If I still haven’t convinced you to install a flying crown instead of jacking it around the vaults of a ceiling, then consider this — it’s a lot more complicated to install crown on those compound angles than it is to install a flying crown.
But if you insist, you should know there are angle-finders you can buy that will help you cut those complex miters perfectly.
A flying crown molding is less expensive to install because you’ll use less material, and that leaves you with money for your next molding project.
Whichever way you choose, good luck installing your crown!
Related Crown Molding Posts
CROWN MOLDING-107: Another Flying Crown Molding Idea
Four Ways to Terminate a Crown Molding
How to Return a Crown Molding to the Wall
How to Terminate a Flying Crown Molding With a Finial Return
Why I Don’t Install One-Piece Crown Moldings
Three-Piece Crown Molding: Three Common Mistakes
Great Room Molding Ideas for Marijke and Joel
Crown Molding & Corner Blocks: Do This Not That
[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]
Wow, this is really great. I love it. We have a high ceiling (2 story) in our living room and I am having a terrible time decorating. We need to do this…only thing is – the stairs to upstairs is also open to this room. How do you tie in the stairway?
Marijke: If you email me a few pictures of your stairs/great room maybe we can come up with a few ideas together.
Follow-up post: Great Room Molding Ideas for Marijke and Joel.
Installing crown molding on vaulted ceilings is not hard if you have the proper tools and some basic math knowledge. With a compound miter saw and a nice angle finder you can create transition pieces for the corners out of two smaller pieces. If people want crown they should get it and not be swayed because of some other person’s person opinion on how it looks.
You’re right, Josh, an angle finder will help you install crown right on up the vaulted ceiling — I said as much in the post.
And of course, people are free to choose if they want to force crown molding up in the wrong direction or not — it’s done every day by professional trim carpenters.
But here at The Joy of Moldings we try to follow what is a more historically correct use for crown molding.
I think you just solved my problem. We bought a house and the previous owners put crown molding on the vaulted ceiling – and we just couldn’t figure out why it didn’t look right….I agree with your post – I think we are going to take it down and install in as you suggest!
That’s really nice to hear, Carol. It’s such a simple, inexpensive solution for rooms with cathedral ceilings — not to mention it’s been done this way for the last 2,500 years of western architecture. Let us know how your project turns out, we’d love to know. Good luck.
This is amazing! Finally, there’s hope for my giant walls after all! I have two tall rooms that are fairly open to each other and are in desperate need of some flying crown molding. I definitely need to snap some pictures and pick your gifted brain.
Bring it on Sara!
Got my answer about crown with vaulted ceilings. However, I have a vaulted end wall with an arched window above the door that will interrupt the crown molding. Any ideas how to install crown in that situation?
Allie, email me a picture of that problem spot and maybe we can come up with something.
Hi, looked at these images and they look great. I want to add crown moulding to our great room, which has a vaulted ceiling. I have spent the last couple if days trying to figure out the angles, but your designs make sense. My only concern about the flying crown relates to the size of the room. The house itself is not very big, so I’m concerned about the look. The size of the room is 15 x 30 and the ceiling vaults from 8′ to 12′ at its highest point. Your thoughts…
If you have not seen this post What Molding Do I Use for a Flying Crown Molding? then check it out. It might help.
That flying crown molding pattern will fit your room just fine. You can substitue the ogee crown for a cove or anything else that catches your fancy. The absolute best thing to do though is to build a few models of the crown molding patterns you like. Then tack them to the wall and live with them for a few days until you’re sure which one is your favorite.
If your flying crown can be viewed from above, then I suggest you top it off with a flat-stock cornice like CROWN MOLDING-103.
Let us know how things turn out!
Thanks for the information and the link. I discovered this site yesterday and I have already learned so much. So informative, thank you.
To install the flying crown (“flying crown” sounds like it should be an action hero with super powers!)I know I have to select a mounting height of about 8 or 9 feet. What do I do if 8′ ceiling begins to vault at the same place where I would place the flying crown? I saw a similar example in the image which you describe as your all-time favorite rooms that you designed, installed, and painted moldings in. I can’t quite figure out how to place the cornice piece at that junction.
AJ, Send me some pictures of the room you want to install the flying crown in so I can help you out better.
I made up the term “flying crown” because it sort of kind of reminded me of a “flying buttress.” Sort of.