Master Bedroom Inlayed Ceiling

I did a very dangerous thing this past month when pouring the ceiling for the master bedroom. No, it wasn’t that I poured 1,440 pounds of concrete over our bed. The danger wasn’t physical. Rather the risk was artistic. I inlayed, in concrete, on the bottom of the pour, where I could not see my results, a series of stones. If I got it wrong I would be living with the mistake for a long time to come – it’s set in concrete.

This past week we pulled the form work after having let the concrete cure for a bit over a month. That whole time I had the fear that it had not worked. Perhaps the stones had shifted in the wet concrete matrix. Maybe it was filled with gaps. Perhaps cement cream had slipped under my stones. Who knows what could have gone wrong. Maybe it even cracked – thus the long wait for curing.

When we finally pulled the last layer of form work off the results were spectacular! It worked! It was beautiful! Ooo-Ah! Our kids Ben, Will and Hope were very impressed. They had all helped with the ceiling pour but had not known that I was decorating the underside of the ceiling with inlaid stones.

Admittedly, I did practice about a dozen times on test tiles and a sink design before I tackled the real thing. I was pretty sure it would work but it was a bit of a nervous month…!

Master Bedroom Ceiling

As an extra bonus surprise the flush inlaid stones across the ceiling have meaning. Look closely and see if you can see the forms in the stone. Down at the bottom of this post I’ll list them. There are hints in the text below. The view above is looking up from next to our bed. On the right side of the photo is the brick archway to the commons room.

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So why take this chance just for the sake of art? Well, I confess there was an ulterior problem motivating me. When designing the form work for the ceiling pour I ran into a little issue. The foam sheets, and every other material I could find, were too small to make a one piece form. This meant there would be a joint. I came up with all sorts of schemes such as stepping the ceiling, using a thick shrink wrap plastic sheet, etc to get a smooth form. All had problems. Finally, while sketching future stencil work for the front room I realize there was the solution! Stencil the joints. With a little more thought I realized I could take it one more step and inlay stones during the pour to hide the ceiling joint and thus the parade began. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

Going through my thinner pieces of salvaged granite and collected field stone I picked out potential ceiling pieces and sorted them by color and form. I narrowed the collection down to eight boxes of granite and quartz. Black, burgundy, purple, green, white, tan, red and field stones. Then I laid out a line on a 2×8 to represent the seam in the form work.

Patterns Emerging

I began by simply making color patterns that waved back and forth, covering the seam line. Pretty soon the color groups evolved to patterns of shapes. Then I saw the dragonfly. One thing leads to another.

Glued Natural Stone

Once I had the design I wanted I photographed it and printed a copy to use as a reference while laying out the ceiling upside down and backwards along the real seam of the foam form work. Holly picked up each piece of stone in order, applied a very thin film of silicone glue to it and passed it up to me on the scaffolding. I then placed the stones in order following the design.

Gluing Stones on Foam Form

To make sure the stones sealed tightly to the foam I placed rocks and bricks on them to get good pressure.

Weighted Stones

I cleaned around the edges and inspected all the rocks. After allowing the silicone to cure overnight we poured the bedroom ceiling. The stones project up into the concrete matrix with their polished surfaces flush to the resulting ceiling below.

In the four corners of the room I placed chunks of black granite for accents.

Inlaid Ceiling Parade Revealed

Have you figured out the animals in the parade yet? Here’s looking from the commons room up through the bedroom arch at the ceiling. As Hope, in the picture above will tell you:

Of Tourse! It is…
a turtle chasing…
an alligator chasing…
a chicken chasing…
a dragonfly chasing…
a blackfly!

And that is the view of our bedroom ceiling. As you may notice, the ceiling has a curve to it. The cottage is a house of many arches.

Outdoors: 35°F/12°F Mostly Sunny
Farm House: 65°F/51°F
Tiny Cottage: 55°F/52°F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor…

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14 Responses to Master Bedroom Inlayed Ceiling

  1. That’s gorgeous- what a neat idea! And thanks for sharing that photo of you all in the new cottage with the tree. I hope you get a chance to rest a little after all the work you guys have been doing!

  2. Keri says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! This ceiling art is really beautiful! I imagine you and your family are thinking of ideas for decorations of the other ceilings you will be pouring…? ;) Enjoy living in your cottage!

  3. Granny Gardner says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your many talents. The ceiling inlay looks great. Glad you’re warm and snug in your little cottage.

  4. Bill says:

    A Chicken & A Turtle??? Where Is The PIG??? With All Your Attention To Detail, I Can Not Believe There Is No Pig On The Ceiling!! :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Merry Christmas! The cottage looks beautiful. Congrats on getting in by Christmas!… Mia

  6. LJB says:

    I guessed the turtle and the fowl (thought turkey not chicken but hey, that’s close) and flying bug… How exciting you have moved! Let’s stay in touch — we may have leftover PEX tubing that would be the right size for your radiant heat needs. Happy Holidays.

  7. LJB, I would be very interested to hear your experiences with PEX. I’m very strongly leaning towards it.

    Bill, I could only do the animals as they revealed themselves to me in the sacred stones… :) There was no pig, no wolf, no cat, no raven. I am sure that when I cast the stones again for the bathroom ceiling and the front room I will see new patterns. Can I call it art if I only follow the stones? :)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Years everyone!

    -WalterJ

  8. Anonymous says:

    I thought the alligator was a pig. A stylized pig, but a pig none the less

  9. Erica says:

    Its definitely art! Love that ceiling. I never woud of thought ot do that! Beautyful. Ididnt get the aligator eithor altho I see it now.

    by the way. When are you going to do a sugar mountain farm calendar???????? I love the recent photo of the mountain.

  10. LJB says:

    We definitely like the radiant heat and the PEX is pretty easy to install. I’ll let you know when I get pictures up on our farm blog. We put the PEX into grooves pre-made in the Warmboard flooring which has aluminum which spreads the heat quickly and quite uniformly. More high tech than a fellow like you would tolerate *g* but the PEX itself puts out heat when called for. I saw your Letter to the Editor in the Valley News so feel ashamed for our housing project. I suppose we are experimenting with a sustainable energy home, not incorporating the footprint responsibility as much as one might. I wonder if you would call it a “mansion” comparable to someone else’s “mansion”. I agree with Erica — following the flow of the stones is definitely art!

  11. LBJ, that letter to the editor wasn’t meant to make you, or any, feel guilty about high tech, building or petrol use, except for Al Gore and his hypocritical types who jet around the world telling the rest of us we should conserve. I find his examples don’t match his rhetoric. Here’s the letter for those who missed it’s pithy words:

    Walk the Walk
    Am I the only one who is bothered that the likes of Al Gore jet around the world telling us how to stop global warming when they waste more petroleum in one airplane flight than I’ll use in my entire lifetime? His mansion isn’t all that inspiring either. As ‘inventor’ of the Internet I would think he would have figured out how to tele-conference. I would like to see his ilk walk the walk.

    I agree with reducing pollution – very important. Carbon credits is a slight of hand although I’ll admit that I would certainly take the money if someone handed me cash for the 1,500 tons or more of carbon our forests soak up each year.

    I’m dubious about global warming – they were warning us of global cooling and a new ice age back in the 1970’s and that is far more devastating than a little global warming, besides, warming is a distraction from the real issue of pollution.

    As to high tech, I love technology, appropriately and sustainably used. Otherwise it is a luxury that I want to be careful not to lean on too hard. It can be good or bad as well – Like atomics, it’s all in how you use it. :)

    On the PEX, I’ll be very interested to know how it goes. My brother used it in his house. We’re considering it for ours.

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  13. Maynard says:

    You all do amazing stuff! Keep it up!

  14. DEBRINA says:

    I love it. Love yall’s home and your art work with the rocks and cement. Very unique and wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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