Kitchen remodels often exhibit real ingenuity in colour selection and the use of interesting cabinet, countertop and flooring materials. However, they often underestimate or ignore the importance of doing something interesting with a flat plasterboard ceiling. The space above a kitchen island offers a great place to begin adding spatial variety and drama to the kitchen through the use of a vaulted ceiling.
Classic Vaulted Ceiling
You can raise the area above your kitchen island by cutting out the ceiling area above the kitchen island and adding a traditional curved, vaulted ceiling with ribs. Your builder can cut the ribs out of 3/4- or 1-inch plywood, then finish the lower edge with wood, stainless steel or brushed chrome flat trim. Have your builder make the four curved faces of the vaulted ceiling from MDF (medium density fiberboard), which bends easily and takes paint well.
A Variant Vaulted Ceiling
Traditionally, vaulted ceilings have four continuously curving roof elements that join at a common high point, but you can make an interesting variant using flat faces instead. See Reference 2 for an illustration of a vaulted kitchen ceiling with flat faces. You could have the two longer faces angle upward and rise to a peak in conjunction with two shorter vertical faces (forming a space something like an army pup-tent). Alternatively, you could have all four faces angling upward and inward toward a line or point at the highest point of the vault.
A Vault With One Angled Face
You could also have three vertical faces rising upward from the section of ceiling cut out above the kitchen island, and have the fourth face angle upward to the upper end of the opposing vertical face. If the kitchen is either on the top floor or in a one-story house, you could substitute a clerestory window for one or more of the vertical faces. (A clerestory window is a high window at the upper end of a wall that extends to the intersection of wall and roof).
If your kitchen is on the top floor of the house, you can install a skylight at the top of four vertical sides rising from the cutout above the kitchen island. An opaque white moulded skylight will work well, or you could have a skylight made of tempered glass, either clear or frosted.
You can install an opaque skylight above your kitchen island even if there is an attic above it. If you have a 12 inch space between the top of the skylight and the attic ceiling, you can install a bank of dimmable lighting directed down at the skylight. About 200 watts of dimmable fluorescents will provide good work lighting for the island. For a small island, about 100 watts would suffice. If your budget allows it, you could install a bank of programmable LEDs; these small lights use little power, and you can set them to display virtually any colour. You could program them to sequence through changing colours you select, and at the rate you prefer, making them useful for holidays and parties.
A Vaulted Ceiling Penetrated by an Exhaust Duct
You could also create a four-panel straight-sided vaulted ceiling with the exhaust duct from the stove's ventilation hood running up through it. A glamorous stainless steel or brushed nickel exhaust hood might have a 12-inch stainless steel circular pipe running upward to penetrate the vault at its highest point. If the hood and duct would be an impediment in the kitchen, use a downdraft hob exhaust vent (a fan-driven exhaust system in the hob or adjacent to it), which sucks the air downward into an exhaust vent running under the floor and exiting at ground level.
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