Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Groin vault ceilings: then and now

Who doesn't love a groin vault ceiling? 

In the past few years, they have been seen more frequently in newer construction, mainly used in entrance areas, halls and dining rooms. (For an in depth definition of groin vault ceilings, see here.)
 Groin vault ceilings are readily seen in Europe, especially Italy, where the Romans were the first to construct this type of ceiling. We were entranced by their beauty during our trips to Italy.

This series of vaults is in Modena, Italy. The colors and aging are to die for!

In Siena, Italy, this trio of groin vault ceilings is part of the Loggia della Mercanzia, which stands directly behind the Piazza del Campo. Entrances to the Piazza del Campo are on each side of the building. It was constructed in the early 1400s. Two of the ceilings are a beautiful example of the grottesca style of painting. The details are incredible on the ribs, the plaster work and in the painting. 

Here is another groin vault ceiling in Siena with a totally different feel to it.

This is an unpainted example in Arezzo, Italy. Still graceful and beautiful.

Another loggia with "plain" groin vault ceilings in Modena:

The condition of this series of ceilings in Modena is starting to deteriorateAgain, yet another style of painting...

The Palazzo del Vecchio in Florence, a must-see for any visitor, features my favorite grottesca painting throughout the whole entrance area. 

A wide range of pigment colors can be seen. The cobalt blues and reds- gorgeous! 

This ceiling is in the Petit Palais in Avignon, France. The Petit Palais connects to the Palais de Papes, built in the 14th and 15th centuries as an alternate place of residence for the Pope.

Photo by Henri Del Olmo in Maisons Cote Sud

Let's look at groin vault ceilings built relatively recently. This is the
entry to the courtyard of the famous LA Villa d'Este, built in 1928 to recall the Italian villas of the Renaissance. The courtyard apartment of the West Hollywood Maison au Naturel store owner, Dan Marty, is on the left. The plaster walls and groin vaults here are great examples of the beauty of plaster mixed with pigments. 

Photo by Victoria Pearson in House Beautiful

Gina Wolfrum, a decorative painter in Ohio, is known for her gorgeous ceilings. Visit her website, Elegant Finishes by Gina, to drool over her work.

Krista Vind, another very talented decorative painter in Florida, excels at unusual finishes with the latest materials. You'll be impressed when you visit her website, Ufauxrea. This ceiling finish is a combination of metallics.


Mia Pratt, of Old Pratt Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona, gave this groin vault ceiling a Wow finish! The silver leaf design on top of the chocolate brown is a fantastic combination.


Last, but not least, yours truly designed and plastered /painted this groin vault ceiling. For the full story, visit here.

Would you add a groin vault ceiling to your new construction?


  1. Love this post. Beautiful images. We have done work with a builder on several homes and most recently his personal home. He did a groin vault ceiling in the gallery hallway that connects one end of the house to the other. It is wonderful. I'm going to send him a link to this post. He will really enjoy it.

  2. What a great post; gorgeous inspiration. I would definitely put a groin vault ceiling in a new project up in Sonoma County...elegant, timeless and stunning.



  3. its a rare treat to get to work on this architectural feature. so many great possibilities! nice post, thanks for sharing your images!

  4. Love the vaulted ceilings. You have shown gorgeous examples...wonderful images!

  5. Gorgeous photographs. I love the long hallways with lanterns hanging down. Very beautiful!

  6. Just an amazing architectural detail! Love the photos...

  7. Lynn, you flatter me... thank you. Just returned from Italy, brain is on overload.

    Loved this post.

  8. I meant Ann...! Sorry - my bad.