Wood beams can add striking visual appeal to a living room. Rustic wood beams on the ceiling create a cozy, cabin-like aesthetic. While hardwood beams were structurally necessary in old timber-framed homes, adding wood beams in newer living rooms is purely decorative. Faux wood beams offer a lightweight, more affordable option to replicate the look without heavy installation. Whether your style is farmhouse, industrial, or bohemian, wood beams can provide the natural focal point your living room craves.
In this complete guide to styling wood beams, we’ll cover everything from choosing real versus faux beams to positioning and decor. Read on for pro tips that will have you ready to install living room beams to give your space that extra design dimension.
Different Types of Wood Beams
Before deciding on adding wood accents to your living room, consider the different beam options available. Choosing real hardwood versus faux wood beams comes down to weighing factors like budget, installation, and your goals for the finished look.
Real Wood Beams
Real wood beams are constructed from large planks of solid oak, pine, cedar, or other hardwoods. In older homes, wood beams span from wall to wall to provide structural reinforcement. For decorative purposes in modern living rooms, smaller solid wood beams or reclaimed barn beams are installed on the ceiling. The aged, natural look of real wood adds authenticity. However, real wood beams have downsides to factor in as well.
- Provide genuine, rustic character
- Can be left exposed for a structural look
- Made of durable natural materials
- Expensive material and installation costs
- Require expertise to install properly
- Can sag, warp, or become damaged over time
Faux Wood Beams
For a lighter, easier-to-install wood beam look, faux wood beams are an ideal choice for living rooms. Faux wood beams are constructed from molded polyurethane, PVC foam, or other lightweight materials. The molded designs recreate the visual effect of real wood’s knots, grains, and grooves. Faux wood beams offer greater flexibility in both style and installation. Let’s look at the main benefits of choosing faux over real wood beams:
- Lightweight and easy to DIY install
- Affordable alternative to real wood
- Mimic the look of real beams
- Come pre-primed and ready to paint
- Lack natural wood imperfections
- Not as durable as real wood
- Can still block light like real beams
Top options for faux wood beams include:
- PVC – Lightweight yet realistic wood grain patterns. Offered at various price points.
- Polyurethane – Intricately molded designs that mimic details of authentic beams.
- Foam – Affordable, simple foam beams that can be painted or stained.
Determining If Your Living Room Is a Good Fit
Before taking on a wood beam project, assess if your living room is well-suited for the addition. Beams can completely transform a space, but need to be sensitively incorporated based on room size and ceiling height. Consider the following factors to decide if beams will complement your existing layout.
A common concern is whether wood beams will overwhelm a small living room, or get lost in a larger one. When it comes to size, consider these guidelines:
- In small rooms, go for narrow beams spaced further apart to open up the ceiling.
- Wider beams can make a bold statement in larger living rooms.
- Measure to make sure beams are proportional – they shouldn’t exceed 1/3 of the ceiling.
- Factor in how lower ceilings with beams can feel more compressed.
Ceiling Height and Placement
Ideal ceiling height for wood beams is 8 ft. or higher. Anything under 7 ft. may feel too low with beams. For ceiling placement:
- Central ceiling installation creates a cohesive look.
- Beams running horizontally help elongate a room.
- Place off-center to one side for an asymmetrical layout.
- Align over a sitting area to define a conversation nook.
Complementing Your Existing Decor
One great advantage of wood beams is their versatility to match all different interior design styles. Whether your living room decor is rustic, modern, or farmhouse, beams can enhance the aesthetic. Here are tips for making wood beams work with some popular decor styles.
It’s no surprise that wood beams feel right at home in rustic living rooms. To make the most of the cozy cabin vibe:
- Pair reclaimed barn beams with stone fireplaces and iron chandeliers.
- Incorporate natural textures like jute rugs, leather and hide throws.
- Add vintage elements like trunks, antler mounts, and woven baskets.
For a charming cottage look, wood beams can provide the perfect farmhouse touch when combined with details like:
- Pendant lighting for a cozier feel under the beams.
- Plaid upholstery and burlap pillows to soften the wood.
- Rustic wood coffee tables and whitewashed floorboards.
- Vintage signs, botanical prints, and galvanized metal accents.
Modern and Transitional Rooms
While wood beams seem like a natural fit for rustic spaces, they can also provide an unexpected material contrast in sleek, contemporary rooms. Consider these tips:
- Leave beams exposed rather than whitewashing for an industrial edge.
- Swap sconces for modern pendant lights.
- Incorporate natural elements like wood, leather, and linen accents.
- Add color and polish with bright throw pillows and lush area rugs.
Installation and Maintenance
Once you’ve decided wood beams are the right fit for your living room, it’s time to tackle the installation. Depending on whether you opt for real or faux beams, you’ll need to factor in considerations like complexity, cost, and upkeep.
Hiring a Contractor vs. DIY Install
Some key points regarding installation:
- Real wood beams require professional installation for structural safety.
- Faux beams can easily be installed as a DIY project.
- For DIY faux beams, spackle and paint are needed to blend with ceiling.
- Hiring a contractor is best for real beams and more complex faux beam projects.
Preventing Damage and Discoloration
To keep wood beams looking their best:
- Avoid direct heat and sunlight exposure to prevent drying out.
- Apply wood polish regularly to protect from dirt and grime buildup.
- Address any minor cracks or damage ASAP to maintain structural integrity.
- Consider sealing real beams to reduce absorbing moisture and warping.
One of the great things about wood beams is how versatile they are design-wise. Whether going for a cozy cottage vibe or modern industrial feel, beams add character. From layout to decor, here are some creative ways to style your living room beams.
Living Room Layout Ideas
First, think about how you want the beams oriented in the overall room layout:
- Over the seating area to define a conversation nook.
- Horizontally above the main sitting area.
- Over the fireplace as a rustic mantel alternative.
- Vertically on one accent wall instead of the ceiling.
- Divide open concept rooms by running perpendicular beams to zone spaces.
Styling and Decorating Tips
Next, factor in how to decorate and style the beams themselves:
- Stain beams in a lighter whitewashed hue for a more modern or farmhouse feel.
- Choose walnut or espresso staining for darker, more dramatic beams.
- Paint the ceiling a light color to make beams pop.
- Add pendant lights or sconces to draw attention upward.
- Incorporate natural textures like wood, wicker, leather, and linen to complement.
- Throw a cozy blanket over a leather chair underneath to create an enticing seating area.
The addition of wood beams can completely transform a living room from standard to spectacular. With the right planning and positioning, wood beams provide natural warmth and texture. Faux wood options make achieving the rustic beam look accessible and affordable. Whether your style leans modern, industrial, or farmhouse, wood beams deliver on coziness and wow-factor.
Follow the tips in this guide to determine if your space is right for beams. Take care to choose beam materials, sizes, and placement complementary to your living room’s current layout and decor. With the right know-how, you can install living room beams that lend show-stopping, on-trend style with cozy cabin vibes.
While traditional wooden beams can be a beautiful addition to a living room, they may not be the most energy-efficient option. Consider installing insulated metal beams, which can help reduce heating and cooling costs.
Wooden beams can also serve as a great soundproofing solution. By adding mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) to the backside of the beams, you can significantly reduce noise levels in the room.
In addition to using beams to mount lighting, consider adding LED strip lights underneath the beams for an additional layer of illumination. This can be especially effective in larger living rooms where additional light sources are needed.
Molding and Trim
To further enhance the rustic look of the wooden beams, consider adding molding and trim around the perimeter of the room. This can help create a cohesive and polished look that complements the natural beauty of the beams.
To make the most of the wooden beams, consider pairing them with other rustic design elements such as exposed brick walls, distressed wood furniture, woven rugs, and wrought iron accents.