Office ceilings are often thought of as merely functional but in commercial office refurbishments, that bit above your head is a blank canvas just waiting to be personalised. In this article, we discuss which style of ceiling is best for your office, reveal the different types of ceiling that can be installed and explain how the latest design trends don’t have to stop at the walls.

Which Type of Ceiling is Best for Offices?

While the traditional suspended office ceiling design, with those white waffle tiles and strip lights, has its place there are alternatives to explore. Where possible, the MPL team uses creative flair and cosmetic techniques to add an exciting, lofty edge to office ceilings. Of course, we balance aesthetics with functionality, acoustics and lighting when working on an office ceiling design, so every refurbishment box is ticked.

When creating an office ceiling design, we will evaluate the different aspects of your office. On our list will be the height of your office ceiling or building structure, the amount of natural light your office receives, any design theme, the location of the office within the wider building, the purposes of the office and what might need screening from view.

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Suspended Acoustic Ceilings

Suspended ceilings have been a stalwart of the office for decades as they are relatively quick to install and are kind on the budget. If you’ve never seen a suspended office ceiling being installed, it’s fascinating. A metal grid is affixed to the structure above and tiles sit neatly into the framework. The void between the structure above and the grid (the plenum) is the perfect place for heating ducts, air conditioning services, plumbing, wires and light fixings to sit.

Suspended ceilings are considered the best for office environments that require a high level of acoustic control, such as open plan spaces, call centres and coffee shops. The soft tiles available have excellent sound absorbing properties and it’s possible to specify coloured, textured or smooth tiles. This style office ceiling design was on our install list at the Leaders Romans Group’s hub in Salford.

Smooth Suspended Ceiling

The traditional tile-filled suspended ceiling doesn’t fit with every commercial office design, so many of our clients opt for a smooth office ceiling – also known as a drop ceiling. We can use plasterboard and precise skimming to create a flat surface, which is ideal if you’re trying to recreate a more residential, rather than commercial, aesthetic. Smooth suspended ceilings lend themselves to recessed spotlights, painting and even wallpapering.

Open Plenum Ceilings

Open plenum ceilings are something of a design statement but what exactly is an open plenum ceiling? The plenum is the void between the structure of the building and the ceiling but if you choose not to install a ceiling at all, the result is an open plenum ceiling. This means the heating ducts, air conditioning services, plumbing, wires and light fixings are all on show, which creates a very industrial ambience – as we created at Robinson Jackson’s Ebbsfleet office.

While open plenum ceilings are very on-trend, the specification of one needs careful consideration. When compared to closed ceilings, they offer poor acoustics and eco efficiency, and absorb light, rather than reflect it. In addition, their open nature isn’t always compatible with healthcare and hospitality settings.

Biophilic Office Ceiling Design

Office ceilings don’t have to be white or plain. MPL often starts with a suspended ceiling and incorporates a unique element for extra interest. The benefits of a biophilic office design are proven when it comes to health, wellbeing and productivity, and we often look up as a way of adding foliage.

Our suspended plant platforms are a fantastic way of adding flora to an office ceiling. Take a look at our office ceiling design package for Yoooserve in Reading. Several of the spaces feature suspended plant platforms, from which trailing plants hang. Although many of the plants included in this scheme are real, we used high-quality faux versions above head height to take the hassle out of watering.

LED Lighting Integration

An office ceiling is the natural place for lighting but there’s much more to illumination than tile or strip lights. The most versatility is enjoyed when a bespoke smooth suspended office ceiling design is specified. This allows for energy-saving LED spotlights and pendant lights to be added with ease. A suspended ceiling can also be more intricate to facilitate decorative LEDs.

For example, a smooth suspended office ceiling can be installed just shy of the room’s perimeter, with LED rope light inset to the cavity for a halo lighting effect. A smooth suspended office ceiling can also feature a recess in which LED rope lights can sit. Check out this office ceiling design at our project for Fairfield Estate Agents, which incorporates both the aforementioned LED features. LED lights can also add a futuristic edge to an office interior, as seen at our project for Lanes Infrastructure. Here a bespoke lighting installation appears across the reception ceiling and down the wall to create a geometric focal point.

The suspended drop ceiling at Atlas in Liverpool allowed bespoke lighting to be installed over the open-plan desk area. This comprised a recessed track lighting system, LED lights around the perimeter of the office, spotlights and LEDs in the ceiling-mounted wooden slats. This combination enables the client to customise the lighting’s position and intensity.

Statement Ceilings

An office ceiling doesn’t have to be boring. If your office is blessed with lots of natural light or you’re a store with a glass shop front, you can get away with bolder colours on the ceiling. Our work for The Acorn Group took us to Sidcup, where we spray painted the ceiling and its associated fittings black to create a luxe yet industrial backdrop. We also added extra overhead detail with a bespoke timber slat ceiling installation.

MPL installed a number of statement ceilings over at No. 5 The Heights in Weybridge. Partially open and partially closed ceilings were joined by decorative ceiling panels, suspended timber slats and smooth ceiling tiles for a very eclectic look.

Statement ceilings don’t have to be permanent either. It is possible to suspend lightweight materials to create temporary art installations – think perforated or fret-cut aluminium, or brightly-coloured acrylic shapes.

Sustainable Ceilings

If you want your office ceiling to be sustainable as well as structurally sound, you need to focus on the specification stage. Ceiling tiles and panels can be made from a high percentage of recycled materials, the wood used to create timber slats can be made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood and lights can run off LED bulbs. Suspended office ceilings can also be fitted with insulating tiles to reduce heat loss.

Integration of Technology

There is some exciting new technology that can be incorporated into office ceilings. When we design and specify office ceiling designs, MPL takes into account any heating/comfort cooling requirements, WiFi access points, projectors and ceiling-mounted screens, lighting (task, feature, overhead and ambient), fire safety and premises security. We can also incorporate any audio systems and work with new ‘digital ceiling’ solutions that are capable of monitoring occupancy rates and air quality, and tracking the flow of visitors.

Acoustic Clouds and Baffles

Acoustic clouds and baffles – usually suspended from the ceiling - can provide a sound-proofing solution for those who really want to expose the plenum space but need to dampen noise. Acoustic clouds can be made from 100% sheep’s wool and compressed, waste, wood fibre for a sustainable approach to noise absorption. Available in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, including waffle and 3D versions – acoustic clouds can actually enhance an office design. Office ceiling baffles act in a similar way to acoustic clouds but tend to be hung vertically rather than horizontally. Baffles are usually rectangular in shape but it is possible to specify designer ‘wave’ options.

When you’re next in your office, don’t forget to look up. The chances are you’re missing an opportunity to take your interior design and office performance to the next level. From plants to painting your office ceiling black, talk to MPL about how you can maximise an underrated area. We offer London office design services and commercial refurbishments across the entire UK – get in touch to start planning.