Exposed Beams

From rustic country to modern metallic, we’ve been seeing exposed beams around lately. We reached out to St. Louis design professionals to find out if these exposed beams are just making an appearance or if they’re here to stay.

Edited by Moe Godat

Photography courtesy of Anne Matheis


"Who doesn't love the look of exposed beams? It is a classic that will always be in fashion. Even modern and contemporary spaces can embrace keeping the beams exposed. But don't throw caution to the wind and add them to just any ceiling; they have to complement the surrounding décor. If you are adding them as a decorative element, the room needs enough height to pull the look off." CJ Knapp, Yours By Design.

"Exposed beams have been around throughout the centuries. Beams were originally a structural necessity and thus give reason to why they have been around for so long. However, as trends come and go, the emphasis and style of the exposed beam has varied. From extremely formal and decorative, to simple box beams, to rustic hand-hewn beams; these are all seen throughout various eras. Nearly all of the beams seen now are faux, and that is due to the changes in how homes are built. But we still see them appearing in our designs. When applicable, they can give a room character, and what is often a blank ceiling becomes something reminiscent of the past, providing depth, texture, shadows and interest." Keith Gegg, Gegg Design & Cabinetry.

"Exposed wood beams have been a design element for centuries. Wood elements and finishes are an excellent catalyst for bringing nature indoors. With the reemergence of green living, the use of reclaimed and repurposed materials has become very popular. Whether they are structural or simply achieving an aesthetic, they complement any space or style. The use of wood beams as well as many organic materials is a classic that will remain." Diane Mantovani Fogerty, Savvy Surrounding Style.

"Exposed ceiling beams are a classic architectural feature that has been used for ages. They can definitely add a great amount of visual interest to a space, but it’s important that they be used as a decorative element where it’s appropriate for the scale and style of the room. Be mindful of your ceiling height when deciding whether to use decorative beams, and they should pair well with your design aesthetic. For example, rustic beams work best in a farmhouse or Scandinavian-style space where wood beams with a smoother finish, or even metal beams, work better in a more transitional or contemporary space. Another versatile option is white drywalled beams with crown molding. The dimension that beams can add to a space, if done well, can be breathtaking!" Julie Cullman, Anne Marie Design Studio.

"Exposed ceiling beams will always be a classic design element. From rustic to contemporary and everything in between, exposed beams can provide a sense of openness, making a space seem larger. Like a statement piece of furniture, exposed beams add interest and create an inviting ambiance that is undeniable. While some people think of exposed beams as a trend, this look can withstand the test of time. Beams will never cause your space to look outdated. Simply stripping, staining or painting exposed beams can refresh a space when changing décor, maintaining the warmth and charm that makes them such a desirable design element. A word of caution, however: adding beams to a space can be tricky. With the availability of fake beams in big box stores, it can be tempting to dig right in to a weekend beam project. Lack of proper scale and attention to detail can disrupt the overall “look” you desire. Make sure the quality of beam materials matches the quality of the space’s design elements. If done properly, exposed ceiling beams can make the most of almost any space." Lara Pennington, Directions In Design.

"They’re a classic; we have had exposed beams since the beginning of time. How they are treated, finished and the style may change over time. How they are finished can give off a completely different mood to a space. Rustic beams give that farmhouse feel, while steel beams feel like a modern industrial loft. There are so many ways to use exposed beams to create interest." Dana King, Next Project Studio.

"Dwellings with exposed beams have been around throughout history, so I would call them a classic. To keep them up to date and fit many types of décor, they can be painted or covered with different materials. Beams work best on high or vaulted ceilings. If they are on an eight-foot or lower ceiling, it is best to paint the beams the color of the ceiling." Linda K. Kusmer, Total Interior Designs Inc.