This Page Shows You Five Examples of Crown Moldings on Vaulted Ceilings

crown molding for cathedral 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.

room painted red with white moldings

This is still one of my all-time favorite rooms that I designed installed and painted moldings in.

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?

room painted red with white moldings

The ceiling vaults could have been painted any number of complimentary colors, not just this lovely coral color

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.

bathroom wallpaper on ceiling

This flying crown is made from two simple, inexpensive moldings.

Below  The ceiling before moldings and wallpaper.

guest bathroom wallpaper and moldings

Looking up at the top of the “elevator shaft.”

wall paper on ceiling

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

moldigns for large 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.

diy crown molding

A home office high ceiling that’s difficult to decorate.

diy how to instal crown molding in home office

I don’t have the heart to show you the blood-red color the painters put above this crown.

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.

great room with dining room before and after

A dining room/great room combination in need of definition.

great room with vaulted ceiling

Wrapping the crown around the pillars I though was a nice touch.

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 Build a Corbel Return

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.]